I’m happy with my supplier

Posted: 13th April, 2023 in Case Studies, Communications, Motivation, Personal effectiveness, Sales , Tips & Tricks, Training and mentoring

When prospecting, many sales people will get the line “we’re happy with our supplier”. It’s commonly said; yet it can still trigger a negative reaction. They see it as huge obstacle to overcome. They dread it, they freeze and sometimes take it personally. 

We need to realise we are going to hear it over and over again. More importantly, we should expect it. If we think about it rationally, when we prospect, we are the ones reaching out the customer. Surely, if they were unhappy, they would have contacted us in the first place?

Now, there might be instances when a prospect says it to get rid of us. Perhaps they were too busy when we called – but did we check? Or maybe we were too pushy?

I also notice on occasion a salesperson will proactively ask the question “Are you happy with your supplier?” at this early stage. In these cases, I really feel we are setting ourselves up for a fall.

Yet, I wonder, why do people ask the question at this early stage? Is it the lack of focus or skills? Perhaps more preparation is needed?  Is it curiosity? Or is it our ego getting in the way because we think we’re better?

I am sure there are also times when the sales person believes in cutting to the chase. So, if the prospect answers “YES”, they just move on. Personally, I don’t recommend this style as there is no basis for building a real opportunity or developing the relationship.

So, what can we do to prepare?

  1. The first step is to learn to accept you will get this response quite often. It’s part of the process.
  2. Learn about the competition. Find out what they do well, their gaps and be clear about what your company does better.
  3. Find out more about your potential customer before you call. And I’m not just talking about their products or services or target market. Dig deeper and you'll be surprised how much you can find out their culture, their values, who’s who in the organisation etc
  4. Get into the mindset of building a connection with the customer – ask lots of questions and show interest in the company.

When it comes to the conversation?

The key is to never argue or get defensive with the customer. Otherwise, you may come across as petty or undermining their decisions and opinions.

Take a deep breath, smile and kindly acknowledge their response in a positive way. Then ask questions showing genuine interest. An example might be:

“I understand / That’s great / Thanks for your honesty…tell me, as I’m curious…what is it that is working so well for you?” AND

"If there is something you don’t have but would like to have, what is it?”

As the conversation develops, ask further questions around the business, their needs, priorities and opinions. You can add in supplier related questions such as:

“What’s the one thing that is important to you in a supplier relationship?” OR “What do you look for from a supplier?” OR “What was the reason you initially decided to go with company X?”

If the call is going well, you can suggest being a back-up supplier. However, bear in mind they may have a very strong long-term relationship with their existing supplier. This can be hard to crack, especially if it’s a family or friend connection. Respect their decision and be patient. Consider some of your customers are loyal to you too – it goes both ways.

That said, if you want to stand a chance - play the long game. Take one step at a time and focus on building the relationship. Maybe over time you will get in with them. If not, remember you can’t win them all and move on to the next prospect.

Share this article:

< back to blog