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"In the high-stakes game of displacement sales, learn how to flip the board in your favor and make the competition irrelevant."

In some industries, you must displace your competitor to win a client’s business, otherwise there is no place for you. But displacing your competitor is rarely easy unless they are failing the client in some meaningful way. If you are facing a displacement sale, there are several strategies you must execute to win the client’s business.

My experience in displacement provided me with an education on how to displace a client and how to be displaced. What follows here are outcomes necessary to displace your competitor and run off with your dream client.

Getting In

At one time long ago, you would have been taught to pursue a meeting with the person with the greatest authority. In small and medium-size businesses, you could sit down with the CEO. In larger enterprise pursuits, you might meet with a director or a vice president. This was a good strategy, until it wasn’t.

When pursuing a displacement sale, it doesn’t always make sense to start high on the organizational chart. It’s often easier to acquire a first meeting with a person who is a couple of levels lower and is unhappy with the existing supplier. When you end up sitting down with the powers that be, it is helpful to know the problems the company is experiencing, even if they aren’t ready to address them.

It is easier and faster to displace your competitor when the leadership team needs a change. In one displacement sale, the senior leaders charged to make a change by their parent company might ensure the change is certain and relatively fast. Others take more time.

At some point, you must acquire a meeting with someone with the authority to remove their supplier and replace them with you and your team.

Capturing Mindshare

Your wallet share will never exceed your mindshare. In a displacement, you are endeavoring to take one hundred percent of the company’s wallet share, removing it from your competitor. To take the wallet share, you must capture your contact’s mindshare. They need to believe they are safer with you than they are with the incumbent or another salesperson attempting to steal their business.

One reason salespeople struggle to displace their competitor is that they can’t capture the client’s mindshare. The reason salespeople fail to capture mindshare is that they lack business acumen. This makes it impossible to convince their contacts that the salesperson has the experience and insights to provide the decision makers with the confidence and certainty they need to make a change.

You might have been taught to ask your clients a great many questions. But when you ask your contacts questions you should already know the answers to, you cause them to look elsewhere for help. If they know more than you do about the decision they are facing, you cannot help them improve the outcomes they need.

You cannot capture mindshare when the way you sell prevents you from proving you can lead the client to better results. Those who don’t do the reading and research to become an expert and authority will lack the ability to capture mindshare.

The Problem of the Opposition

When displacing your competitor, you will draw the attention of stakeholders who have relationships with your competitor’s team. Those who believe relationships no longer matter may be surprised by how durable relationships are when threatened by a displacement. When the opposition is unhappy with the impending loss of their contacts, who may also be friends, they will push back and attempt to retain their existing partners.

Most of the time, the resistance will only last until a leader communicates that the client is making the change. With that said, you should have the courtesy to sit down with the unhappy stakeholders and do your best to mitigate any challenges that might cause them to complain. Occasionally, you may have some period where the opposition sabotages you at the start, but it is rare that a leader willing to remove your competitor will bring back the group they removed.

Displacements make some people happy and other people unhappy. This too is the nature of a displacement sale. Over time, people tend to fall in line. If you are interested in developing your relationships with your stakeholders, including those who opposed you, it will help you succeed.

On the Nature of Mindshare and Displacement

The essence of a displacement sale requires a strategic action, including building relationships and capturing mindshare. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. If you have a displacement sale, it’s certain your competitor does too. Sometimes you are the displacer and other times you are displaced. You can learn much about what causes clients to change their strategic partners by being displaced.

To start a displacement, you need knowledge about the client’s dissatisfaction with their existing provider. No matter how many contacts you have, you will need a leader to remove the incumbent.

When you displace your competitor, you need to build the relationships that will retain your client by ensuring they succeed. You want to keep your competitors locked out for decades. Know that you will have opposition that you will need to win over.

Once you win your client’s business, you want to build a firewall around them, preventing the wolves from threatening to steal them from you. Your obligation after displacing a competitor is to continue to capture mindshare that will allow you to improve your client’s results. You may be displaced through negligence, taking your client for granted, failing to create new value, or not paying attention to what is going on in your client’s business and what comes next.

Most of the times I have been displaced it has been at the hand of a large competitor with the ability to roll up all the client’s locations. Other times, I have poached clients when the large competitor believes they couldn’t be displaced due to their contract.

Most of the time I have been displaced it has been at the hand of a large competitor with the ability to roll up all the client’s locations. Other times, I poached clients when the large competitor believed they couldn’t be displaced due to their contract. If you need more help, pick up Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.


Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 8, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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