One of the reasons prospecting is so difficult is because most of us swim in Red Oceans, crowded markets with fierce competition (read my new column on Forbes for more on Red Ocean strategy). In the Red Ocean, success requires that you displace your competitor, taking their clients from them while working to protect yours from being taken from you. When your dream client already has a partner, they often believe there is little cause to meet with another salesperson.
Even if you have clear and compelling differentiation, unless your dream client believes that is true—or that it is even a possibility—gaining the Commitment for Time is difficult. Unless you know something that will benefit your dream client, it’s can be a real challenge to move your dream client to meet with you. To trade enough value in exchange for the time you are asking your prospective client to give you, you need to have some theory as to why they should change, even if you are less direct in your approach.
At some point in the past, your dream client changed from one partner to another partner. They didn’t go to the trouble to change for no reason. They changed partners because they were compelled by something—and someone—to do something to produce a better result. If your prospect is not already engaged in the process of changing, you have to provide the reason they should change for them. One of the places you might start this conversation is what has changed since they started working with their current partner.
- What has changed in your dream client’s industry that may be challenging them or providing them with opportunities?
- What has changed in your industry that has caused you to make changes to better serve your clients?
- When you look at the clients you have won this year, what were the factors that influenced their decision to do something different—and with you as their new partner?
What you know here provides you with a potential theory why your dream client should change what they are doing—and who they have as a partner in those results.
What Is Changing and Why?
The truth about competitive displacements is that they take a lot of time and effort, both of which tend to be worthwhile investments because the clients you win tend to be large, strategic, and partner-oriented, all of which allows you to do your best work. When this is true, the time you spend working on being known as someone with ideas worth pursuing allows you to get way out in front of any opportunity for a displacement by nurturing the relationships you need. The time it takes provides you with an opportunity to share what is changing and why, building the case for change.
- What are the changes that are just visible now but with implications for your client’s future results?
- Why are these changes going to have a negative impact on what your dream client is doing now or how will they provide a new opportunity?
Answering these questions provides you with a theory as to why your dream client needs to change now—or soon will. If you are calling them with the intention of displacing your competitor, your product, services, or solution isn’t likely to be enough to cause them to fire their longtime partner. If you don’t have a better reason for your prospective client to change, they aren’t likely to have one either.