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When a client removes you as a partner and replaces you with a competitor, it’s because they believe you are not providing the outcomes they need. Sometimes, your now-ex client finds that their new supplier does no better than you did—solid evidence that something on the client’s end caused you and your competitor to "fail" them.

Some salespeople believe that the only change any client needs to make to improve their result is to change their partner and their "solution," a relic of the legacy approaches to B2B sales. While suppliers and their solutions can certainly hamper results, there is an equal chance that the inadequate legacy discovery call— designed to have the client disclose a problem—also prevented them from gaining access to what the client needed to change internally.

businessman with fingers crossed behind back

What Your Client Is Hiding

How pleased are you when you sit down across from your contact and learn that they have the exact problem your company’s products and services address? Your contact even spends a good part of your time together confessing your competitor's many and unforgivable sins, explaining what they need and how important it is that they find a partner who can deliver better results. This conversation seemingly checks all the boxes: a problem, some pain, and a motivated contact who wants to buy from you.

The contact in the scenario is telling the truth, but not the whole truth. It's true that their existing partner is failing them, but not because your competitor isn't doing their best to deliver and not because their solution is no good. They're failing the client because of something the client refuses to change inside their own company. Chances are their existing supplier could tell you exactly why the contact and their company cannot seem to find a partner that pleases them.

The client in this scenario wants to find someone who can help them without making them change anything inside their own company. Instead of fixing what's broken, they move from one supplier to the next, telling every salesperson that sits across from them that their competitors are awful and that when it comes to finding a really capable partner, the nth time is the charm.

Any client exhibiting this pattern has hidden the real cause of their problems. The more often they change, the less likely it is that a new partner will address that root cause.

illustration of shining light a on truth

Finding the Truth

It took me several years to learn that the reason so many of my clients struggled to get the results they needed was because they believed in cure-all solutions. A single client taught me how easy it is to be the greatest obstacle to your own success.

After winning this client's business, I noticed that the way they did things made it impossible for me to take care of their needs. Because I had a good relationship with the leaders, I explained that much of what they did would cause any company in my industry to fail, and recommended that we review their procedures. As we analyzed and revamped each antiquated process, their results improved.

My sales process back then was the same process most salespeople still practice, one that doesn't do enough to address the real source of the client's inability to improve their outcomes. Like most salespeople, my advice began and ended with my "solution." Rather than being fired and replaced by a competitor in the client’s chain of fools, I helped them understand the statement, "we have met the enemy, and he is us." Not every client is mature enough to recognize their own need to change for better performance, but in this case, our hard work paid off.

The Truth at Any Cost

The legacy approach to discovery isn't designed to help you address the internal challenges that prevent your client from improving their results. Look over your last five or ten won opportunities and list what your client changed inside their company as the result of your advice. If those changes weren’t significant, especially among your new clients, you have found the limit of your approach and the source of some large part of your churn.

When your client fails because they didn't do what they needed to do to succeed, they will still blame you for the failure, potentially telling their peers (and your competitors), "Yeah, we used them. They didn't deliver for us." You can avoid this by being honest about the things your clients do that prevent them from getting the results they want. Tell truth at any cost, even the cost of your deal. And when a prospective client is unwilling to change anything beyond their partner and solution, think carefully about whether you’d be better off without them.

Not every client will appreciate being told that what they do or how they do it is the root cause of their bad results. The more mature the client, the more they will want to learn the truth and engage in making change, but only if you can help them with the paradigm shift that provides them that new potential. Solutions don’t shift paradigms, no matter how well they help your client sleep.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 26, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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