Dear Mr. Bellah,
I’d like to get your opinion on a situation I am currently facing with a potential customer. I’ve been calling on this same prospect for almost four years now and try to see him every few months when I am in his market. He is always courteous and gives me an appointment, but I’m not getting anywhere. He has been with a competitor for close to 20 years, but I know my company is a better fit for him. Getting in front of him is not the problem, I think he likes me, but I can’t seem to close him. Any help is appreciated.
Jason C.-St. Charles, MO
Thanks for taking time to write. Hopefully, I can help a little.
I’m sure you know one of the first rules in repeat calls is to never go back without new information, new programs or new ideas for the prospect. You should always have some reason for them to want to see you. Now, I know in the real world that is not always enough. So, here are a few things I would suggest:
-DON’T ASK FOR THE BUSINESS: Yes, you read that correctly. The next time you go through, make your regular call, show him new programs, ideas or things you are doing successfully with similar clients. But, use almost a “take away” strategy and leave it at that.
-LET HIM KNOW YOU THINK ABOUT HIM AT OTHER TIMES: A few weeks after your visit find an article in a trade magazine or something relating to his business on the internet and either mail it or email to him with a short note: “Saw this and thought about you. Jason.” Again, leave it at that.
-ASK FOR THE BUSINESS: Then the next time you do make a serious push for the business make sure he KNOWS you are asking for it. Believe it or not, but I’ve seen it happen more than once where the prospect and the salesperson got to be so “chummy” that the salesperson “asking” for the business was disguised so much as casual conversation, nobody knew he was asking for the business.
-ASK WHY?: Finally, if you don’t get anywhere ask why. Simply use something like the following:
“Mr. Prospect, I’ve been calling on you for several years now and I know I am a better fit for you than your current supplier. I hope I’ve demonstrated to you a professionalism and willingness to personally handle your account and make sure you are always taken care of. In fact, I feel like we’ve become friends over the years and I have to tell you; it bothers me that I’m not doing business with you—not for my sake, but for yours. Because I know every day we aren’t doing business together is another day I’m not able to put me and my company to work for you. Now, knowing what we know, what have I done wrong? Why don’t I have your business?
You are about to learn something. Because if you have the relationship you think you have you will either 1) get the business or 2) find out the real reason you don’t have it. Either way, you have something you can work with.
Good luck and let me know how it turns out!
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