Featured Sales Tips

What to Do When a Sales Client Wants to Choose a Competitor

It’s the news no medical sales rep wants to hear: one of your trusted clients announces they’re about to sign with your competitor. 

When a client wants to choose a competitor, it’s key to engage them with natural, easygoing dialogue right away. By speaking positively of the competition, asking your client why they’ve made their choice, and getting them to second-guess their decision, you may be able to save your sale. 

Like with any crisis, preparation can help you avoid disaster. Consider that are approximately 60,000i medical sales reps active in the US right now. That means there’s roughly eight sales reps for every doctor. ii Which means you should always be ready to woo your clients back. By staying calm, collected and on your toes, you can successfully bring your client back into the fold. 

Why Doctors Choose New Suppliers 

This isn’t an easy question to answer, and for one major reason. It’s becoming more difficult for sales reps to interact with doctors overall.   

The number of accessible physicians has dwindled from 65% in 2012, down to just 44% in 2016iii.  The likely culprit is one familiar to sales reps in every industry: the internet.  With information readily available at physicians’ fingertips, they’re less likely to get in touch with questions or concerns.   

All this means is that medical sales reps need to be more proactive if they want to keep their clients happy.  Keep in touch by email, send regular industry and product news in digital format, and never take a client relationship for granted. 

Four Key Tips To Keep Your Clients From Competitors 

  1. Speak Positively About The Competition 

So how do you respond to a client who chose someone else?  Though it might make you inwardly cringe, speak positively about their decision.  That means speaking positively about the competition as well. 

So the moment your client tells you they’re about to sign with a competitor, begin a positive, upbeat dialogue. Something like “They’re doing great work over there.  I’ve always thought their product X is a good compliment to our product Y.”  This shows that you’re well informed about your industry, and subtly differentiates your product from theirs. 

More importantly, it shows you have respect for your client and their decisions.  There’s no faster way to sour a client relationship than to imply that they don’t know what they’re doing. Subtle praise for their decision will keep your relationship strong. 

Nevertheless: your goal is to ultimately get them to reconsider before they sign. So here’s where you ask the important question: “Can I ask what made you choose ABC company?” This pushes the conversation forward and opens opportunities to save the sale. 

  1. Have An Honest Conversation 

Ideally, at this point, your client should be in a conversation with you. They should also be opening up about why they want to make a change. This is a chance for you to show your knowledge about your industry. Be warned, though: it’s also when you might find out things you need to hear, but not what you want to hear. 

If your client is being vague or giving one-line answers, keep gently encouraging them to continue. Be as direct as possible, though: if your client thinks their mind is made up, they’re going to lose interest in your call with every passing second.  Keep them engaged and more importantly, keep them thinking of how they already have a relationship with you. 

Most importantly, though, be ready to accept any criticism about your company’s products.  You also need to be ready to accept any criticism about yourself. 

  1. Plant Seeds of Doubt 

Never underestimate the power of listening…or the power of a long pause. Sometimes, just by encouraging your client to keep talking, they might begin to second-guess their decision. All you need to do is take your time with your replies. 

After you’ve asked your client why they’ve chosen your competitor, they should begin listing off their reasons one by one. A pregnant pause from you, of five or six seconds, can make your client consider what they’ve just told you. It can also make them wonder if that’s a valid reason to switch providers.   

This method is one of the best ways to keep customers from competitors.  A conversation does more than remind them that they have an existing relationship with you already.  It allows you to act as if you’re giving a second opinion, and without questioning their judgement.  

From here, you can ask “And does that decision align with your objectives for the future?”. You can also bring up similar products your company makes. Reinforcing your existing relationship can compel a client to stick with you. 

  1. Get The Follow-Up Meeting 

Remember, it’s your job as a sales rep to add value and trust to your client relationship.  Doctors are busy and it’s unlikely they’ll commit to saying with you in just one phone call. You need to offer them value and you can do that by scheduling a better time for them to speak with you. 

Once your client has given you their reasons for switching, you need to remind them of: 

  • The effectiveness of your products 
  • The value of your prices  
  • The quality of your relationship 

Say something like “I’ve always found that product X often works as a great solution to that problem. I don’t believe that’s something you’ve tried yet. When can we schedule a follow-up call to see if that’s a solution for your patients?” 

If you’ve maintained a good relationship with them until this point, your client should agree to a follow-up meeting. Be prepared to offer extra value and focus on the intangibles that your competition can’t provide.  

It’s worth noting your client may have even been hoping you’d fight for their business.  This might be the only reason they haven’t formally signed with your competition yet. If so, it matters more than ever to show what value you can bring. 

If all else fails and your client still walks, they’ll remember you ended things on a positive note.  They’ll also remember you left the door open for them to return. 

Final Thoughts 

There’s few things medical sales reps dread more than hearing they’re about to lose a client to the competition. If you act on your feet and use a few key phrases,  though,  you can remind your client about why they chose you in the first place. 

Speak positively of your competition, subtly encourage your client to rethink their decision, and have a follow-up meeting, and you should be able to save the sale.   If you react quickly, your client will remember the value you’ve brought them. Most importantly, you’ll keep your client from going to the competition.