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How to Steal Your Competitors’ Best Customers

Most of the time, when you steal customers from your competitors, they are one of two types: extremely unhappy with the product or service (which could also mean they’re high-maintenance), or loss leaders that your competitors don’t really want. The customers you really want to steal are the ones that are profitable and low maintenance. Impossible, you say? Your competitors’ loyal clients may be less secure than you think. They may have problems they don’t even realize, or may be missing opportunities they are unaware of, but in either case, their desired outcomes may be at risk if they continue to take a “status quo approach.”   What they don’t know can hurt them!

If your competitors’ salespeople are like most, their intuition tells them that their job is to always keep the client happy. They think a successful client relationship is one in which everyone is always smiling. They spend a lot of time and energy trying to maintain a positive equilibrium, as if the client relationship, and whether they are liked, is the endgame.

Incumbents also don’t like to introduce change for fear that it may open up the customer to consider alternatives. When you are the status quo, maintaining it is job #1. It’s a dangerous belief—and a little naïve.  It also makes for a great opportunity for you to steal some business.

What the competitors’ customers don’t know can hurt them. And as the outsider, it’s your job to break the “bad news.”

You need to get their senior executives’ attention by telling them something they don’t know, about a risk or missed opportunity they don’t know they have.  You need to challenge their status quo approach (which includes your competitor).

Here’s what you need to do:

  • You must be willing to push your competitors’ customers out of their comfort zone.
  • You need to help your competitors’ customers see their challenges in a new light.
  • You have to highlight specific, painful situations and make them unmistakably urgent.
  • You need to create constructive tension and use it to your advantage.

This is counterintuitive to many companies and salespeople who are afraid that the customer will shoot the messenger… but it’s what it takes to make an impact. You need to deliver a distinct point of view that adds value to these prospects by getting them to consider why their status quo is no longer safe, and see the opportunity in doing something different.

To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar: Distinct Point of View: Bring Them the Bad News.


Comments: 2

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  • This is spot on. I’m in a rather strange situation in that I have recently experienced this first hand. My former employer recently went into administration, but then restarted with 75% of the same staff. A core team decided to start up a new company in direct competition however, and it has been very interesting to hear the issues that most ‘loyal’ clients of the former company have faced. What was more surprising was how excited these customers were at the prospect of new services that really innovated and made use of new technologies and ideas e.g. iPad, web-based marketing/sales, and of course a more conversational approach to sales. Having the courage to go out and fight over clients by challenging them was tough at first, but has certainly been interesting and rewarding. Just a note of caution though, that your efforts need to be focused on the needs of your prospects/clients, and not just all of your competitor’s failings or your strengths in a random information dump. We’ve not yet had a negative reaction to telling prospects that what they have had in the past is wrong, or what they are doing is less effective. In tough times, tough messages are going down fine, as everyone is striving to be more competitive and get greater value.

  • Corporate Visions

    Richard, thank you for sharing this story. It’s a great illustration of how this works in real life.
    You are correct to point out that the message you tell must be focused on the customer’s objectives and challenges. Your job is to help the customer, not to point fingers. Your ideal message comes from the intersection of what your prospect cares about or needs to overcome, and how you can solve that in a differentiated way.
    Wishing you best of luck, and messaging success!

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