Move to the Future (Issue 451)

In which we learn to compete in the “future” rather than battling it out in the present. I received a call this week from yet another company cooing that they want Clarity's business. This one was phone services. “We’re from blah blah company, and we can help you reduce your phone charges up to 20%, and let me just make sure I have your information correct…”

I simply said, “I’m very happy with my current provider, thank you very much.” [End of call, curtain, house lights up, we’re done.]

“I’m happy with my current provider” is high on my Dastardly Deceptions and Delays list, accompanied by “this won’t hurt a bit.” Why?

• Because the statement suggests that there’s nothing the listener can do

• Because it (probably) isn’t true.

When we’re calling prospects for appointments, they’re VERY likely to say, “no, thanks, I’m happy with my current provider” or “no, thanks, I really don’t have a need now” because they’re (1) too busy or too focused on other things to think about it now, (2) the cost of making a change seems high, (3) they really are happy with their current provider, (4) they really don’t have a need for an external buy, (4) the point you’re calling about isn’t on the high priority list, or (5) they aren’t inclined to begin developing a relationship with a new provider.

Often, we feel like we have no alternative but to grovel and plead. Begging is also entertaining.

Ah, but there are better days ahead. To spring free from this trap, give your prospects the benefit of the doubt (assume they really are happy) and move the conversation from “here-and-now” to “the future.”

EXAMPLE: I’m happy with my current bank.

RESPONSE: Great. Now tell me, how will your company be evolving over the next 1 – 3 years?

EXAMPLE: I’m happy with my current phone service.

RESPONSE: Great Now, how will your company be evolving over the next 1 – 3 years?

EXAMPLE: I’m happy with my current investment advisor.

RESPONSE: Great. Now, how will your requirements for income change over the next 1 – 3 years?

If your prospect answers your question, you have information with which you can:

1) generate a follow up question immediately to continue discussion 2) spark an idea for a follow up letter to continue developing credibility 3) create a reason to call back in 3 – 6 months (to ask how it’s going, and whether they’re still feeling comfortable with their arrangement)

If your prospect doesn’t answer this question, you can always retreat to the tired, shopworn “what do you like about your current provider” or “is there anything about your current provider that you’re not happy with?”

I say these are tired because (1) everybody uses them and (2) it sets you up for an apples to apples comparison that undermines your efforts to differentiate yourself.

Concede the present. The current provider has already defined the terms of battle. Move to the future, where your odds are better because you can define the terms of engagement.

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