but winning friends has meant the most.”
-Babe Didrikson Zaharias, American Golf Champion
In sales, it can be hard to get your foot in the door with new customers. Too often, we hear “I’m happy with my current supplier,” as the door slowly starts to close on us.
My colleague Mary Mullenhoff has an excellent strategy for keeping your foot in that door long enough to get some business. Mary coaches people to be the “second-best friend”, the alternate supplier who can fill the gaps that the lead supplier leaves open.
When a prospect raves about the current provider, simply say, “That’s great! I’ve heard of XYZ Company, and I’m glad they’re doing a good job for you. Are there any items that XYZ doesn’t provide you that I could offer? I’d like the opportunity to be your second source for some products. That way, you’re protected in case XYZ has a shortage.”
There’s nothing wrong with being a second source. In fact it’s a great position to be in. It’s a way to show good customer service, and grow relationships within companies that are in your target market. Chances are there’s something your competition can’t provide that your prospect wants. Do your research and be ready to offer some options that might complete your prospect’s inventory. Maybe you have some shipping or service options on certain things that your client might need in specific situations.
Whatever you can do to be a supplier, do it! Then build on that relationship with good service and a quality product. If you are a service provider, offer to be a second opinion on their current service. Offer to update them on current trends through your newsletter. Be clear that you’re not trying to upset the apple cart if they are happy with their primary supplier, you are giving them additional options.
One can never have too many friends. When you make inroads as a second-best friend, you’re putting yourself in a position to win more sales and more clients for the long term.
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