It’s important to see things through your client’s eyes. There are some things that we should be more aware of that we rarely even consider. One of these things is how difficult it can be for them to change partners. Even though they are dissatisfied with their current provider, even though they have urgent business needs that must be met, and even though you can produce a better outcome, changing isn’t easy.
Changing means that your dream client has to fire your competitor.
Unless they are beyond the breaking point, this isn’t easy. And because it is easy for some of the stakeholders to consider firing you competitor doesn’t mean it’s easy for all of them. There is more to consider.
If your competitor has been providing services for any significant amount of time, it is likely that they have deep relationships within your dream client company.
You may be working with a stakeholder that is dissatisfied enough to move, and she may even have the power to move the business. This doesn’t mean the rest of the organization is going to humbly submit to losing their relationships.
Your competitor’s relationships with some of these contacts can easily cause them to become obstacles to you and your solution. They may resent that you ignored them, their needs, and their existing relationships. They may want to keep their relationships. They may have personal friendships that feel will be lost along with the business relationships.
These deep relationships can make it more difficult to move the business and fire your competitor.
There Was a Time
It’s also important to remember that, at some point in time, your competitor was probably producing the right outcomes. Regardless of the fact that they are off track now and that forces are working against them and their interests, their history may command that be given a chance to make improvements.
Most people want to treat other people fairly. Many of your clients are mature enough to want to treat others like they would want to be treated were they in the same position. This means that, if they haven’t been already, they are likely to receive an opportunity to make improvements (and their deep relationships may lobby for this on their behalf).
Their history may make some feel they are entitled to a chance to recover.
Change Means Risks
The devil you know seems less risky than the devil you don’t know. Many of the stakeholders within your dream client have adjusted to your competitor’s lack of results. Some of them have over time come to believe that improvement is possible; they believe the results are what they are and no one can or will perform better than your competitor is now. You look like a risk.
There are some who find it difficult to remove their present provider because they are stepping into the unknown. When there is much at stake, it is easy to retreat from taking chances—even if those chances might result in massive gains.
Change looks like risk.
How You Help
You help make it is easier to let go of their existing relationships by honoring that those relationships exist. You make sure that the people who are going to be affected by a decision to change know who you are, that they know that you understand their needs, and that they know that you can and will make a difference. You acknowledge them.
You help make it easier for your client to move on with a new relationship by helping them to understand the costs associated with not changing. In most cases, your competitor has been given ample time and notice that that they needed to make improvements. You help by giving them the rationale that they need to explain the change to your competitor and to their people. Remember, it often isn’t easy.
You help make it easier to remove your competitor by helping your client make a confident decision that they are moving away from risk, not towards it. They are going from a known to an unknown, and the more you can do to shift from being an unknown the easier time your client will have making a change.
By acknowledging and paying attention to how difficult it can be to remove a partner, you can make it easier for your client and you can prevent the mistakes that might be made were you insensitive.
Would your best dream client find it easy to release you, or would your relationships make it more difficult?
Have you ever had periods when your performance wasn’t what it should have been and when your client gave you an opportunity to make corrections? Have you ever successfully bridged that gap?
What risks would your client contend with were they to choose to move to another supplier?
These questions help you to see the view from the other side. Now consider these questions.
How do you acknowledge how difficult it is to fire your competitor and replace them with you and your offering while still pushing to move forward?