Editor’s Note: The following is a Sales Q&A by author and speaker Dave Kahle.
Q. I have many customers who refuse to even consider some of my products because the one they have now is working fine and they don’t want to change something that is working well for them. They feel they are opening themselves to potential dangers, problems and nightmares by fixing something that isn’t broken. Any suggestion for how to deal with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude?
A. This is one that frustrates every salesperson. Let’s start by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. You’ve shown him your product, and it’s noticeably better/cheaper than what they are currently using. Or, they won’t even take the time to look at your latest and greatest solution. Regardless of where you are at in the sales process, the problem is that you have something better, and they won’t budge from using an inferior solution.
Why not? Let’s analyze the situation. As is almost always the case, the solution becomes really obvious when we have done a good job of analyzing the problem. So, let’s consider the reasons why the customer won’t budge. Here are the big three.
1. The perceived benefit from switching the product is not worth the time and effort the customer must invest in the change process.
OK, so your LAGS (latest and greatest solution) will save him 5%. But, he must work off his old inventory, notify the current supplier, switch all the numbers in his purchasing and inventory systems, perhaps rewrite protocols, maybe train staff in the new thing, communicate the change so that everyone internally knows about it, etc. See the problem? It takes time, effort and money to change a product. And most of your customers, if they are like most of the business world these days, have too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. They don’t need another project. So, while your LAGS is an improvement, the improvement just isn’t worth the time and effort.
2. The potential change infringes on a well-established relationship.
It maybe that the current product is being purchased as part of a committed relationship with the competition. And it may be that the competitor performs other services for this customer that would be jeopardized if the customer didn’t buy this product from them. For example, the competitor may invite this customer to an annual outing to his condo on the beach in Florida. If the customer switches this item, he may believe that it jeopardize that. Or, the competitor inventories the product for them, provides special dating, packages it specially, etc.
The issue here is that switching the product harms an existing relationship, and the relationship is more important to the customer than the savings or benefit of your product.
This relationship issue can also extend to the individual. In other words, the customer has a long-standing excellent relationship with the competitive sales person. And the customer doesn’t want to do anything that might be seen as jeopardizing that relationship. In either case, the relationship trumps the benefits of your product.
3. The risk isn’t worth it.
Now, I know that you’re saying none of that will happen because you really do have a great product and you really are a wonderful company, and you won’t let anything bad happen. You may believe that, but your customer doesn’t.
If the customer perceives there to be great risk in the decision, the status quo is always the safer, preferred choice. It’s always safer to maintain the non-painful status quo than it is to take a major risk.
Look for solutions in Part 2.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave’s training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.