11 17Header blog

Your Customer Tells You She Wants to Replace You!

The Situation:  How to Avoid Losing a Customer?

It’s not a good day for Craig, who sells electronic instruments to various industries. Today he’s meeting with Sonia, one of his customers, to discuss a regular monthly purchase.  Craig is about to learn that he is on the verge of losing a customer.

Sonia reveals that her company is thinking of changing suppliers.  It leads to this exchange:

Sonia I’m interested in MadeRite Electronics because we need to tighten our budget. Their prices are better across the board.
Craig Ohh, Sonia. I’ve seen this over and over. MadeRite signs up new customers with lower prices, and within a year, the people who were taken in by them are so sorry.
Sonia Well, I wouldn’t say I’m being “taken in.” We’ve had good discussions. I’m still checking them out.
Craig Did you discover that their promises don’t hold up? I just don’t want to see you burned by late shipments, price hikes, significant product failure . . . I could go on.
Sonia I don’t know about that. Look, I’ve talked with my boss, and he feels good about them, too.

What’s a More Constructive Response to Avoid Losing a Good Client?

You probably wonder how Craig didn’t see this coming — that Sonia would even be talking with another supplier. However, let’s put that problem aside to focus on Craig’s reaction. Even if everything Craig says about MadeRite is true, how would a Q4 response have been more productive in retaining this good customer?

Resist Temptation to Attack

First, it’s a weak, kneejerk reaction to tear down a competitor to avoid losing a piece of business. It sounds like sour grapes. It doesn’t speak directly to the value of the salesperson’s own firm, and it doesn’t address the needs of the customer.


Craig has abandoned the principles of needs-based, value-added selling. In practice, he has also turned to telling instead of listening. When Sonia says she is looking to change vendors, in effect, she’s stating an objection. Not only is she trying to meet her company’s budget pressures, she may also feel a personal pragmatic need to solve this cost problem, take initiative, and get results.


However, if Craig reverts to pushy Q1 selling behavior, it could drive her to become Q1 herself — responding to an attack on her judgment by turning combative and digging in her heels. It’s insulting to characterize Sonia’s interest in a rival company as being “taken in,” and Sonia pushes back.


React by Probing

The way to respond to Sonia’s revelation is to probe!


Instead of teeing off on the competition, it’s more critical that Craig concentrate on his customer. Find out what’s behind her company’s new cost-consciousness. Get the specifics on what she is looking for in a price break. Craig may be able to meet that price.


More important, though, once he learns about her tangible and intangible needs, he can review the value-added qualities of doing business together that are meaningful to Sonia — Craig’s reliability, high quality, flexibility, problem-solving, and going the extra mile.


Find the Need and Satisfy It

By questioning, he may coax from Sonia any additional, hidden dissatisfactions she has been harboring about his company. At least he gives himself a better chance of salvaging this customer by not belittling her judgment.


Plus, by responding the Q4 way, Craig puts himself in a better position to win back her business down the road, if it comes to that. Never burn your bridges with resentment.