How to Change Your Customer’s Buying Criteria and Win More Late Stage Sales

In our previous post, we discussed how to see the warning signs that your prospective client is in talks with your competitors.

This post is going to focus on changing their minds and swaying their decision towards your solutions.

reverseWe call it running a reverse play. Every football fan will know a reserve play when they see it, the old switcheroo. You want your opponent to think you are heading one way but then at the last second switch it up and score that touchdown.

In a sales situation, running a reverse play entails getting the customer to think you are following along with their idea for a solution (remember this is the client who has already made up their mind and is leaning towards your competitor), but then getting them to suddenly change direction towards your company. Effectively changing their vision of the solution altogether.

For example, that you’re selling corporate jets. You work for Brand A, which has a higher price than Brands B or C. If a customer perceives the options as equal except for your higher price (because they don’t value your other strengths), you need to develop a new scenario. Perhaps you have an alternative to offer customers: the potential to purchase a share in multiple jets from your company, and then pay a monthly fee and hourly operation costs. On as little as four hours notice, your company can send out whichever size jet your customer needs that is most conveniently located. Need a twelve-seat jet next week in Paris? No problem. Need three jets the week after that in Rio? No problem.

Now the situation is flipped on it’s head. Why would the customer spend 10x the upfront cost one just one jet from Brand B or C, plus costs of fuel, pilots, etc, when they could have access to a fleet of jets for a small fraction of the upfront costs?

When you add new criteria and shift their perception onto other areas of importance, you are running that reverse sales play.

Brand A seller’s strategy gets the customer to shift thinking away from “jet ownership” as being the utmost priority in exchange for new criteria (that happens to be where they excel): flexibility in the size and location of the jets they have access to.

Two ways to change customer criteria when you’re coming into their buying process late.

1. Get them to see the possibility for better results than their current outlook (aka your competitors offering)

  • Consider your existing customer who have implemented your solutions in different ways that have seen the best results. What are they doing differently? Why is it working? These types of tips/stories given in the sales process can open up a world of possibilities to that potential client they have never dreamt about. It’s your job to share that vision.
  • Have a list of novel and interesting implementations of your solution and have it at the ready. Try and find similarities between companies and share those success stories. Use caution not to ‘over assume’ anything though.

2. Open their eyes to additional needs they have not considered yet.

  • It’s paramount to figure out how this potential customer is defining their needs. If you have the full picture of their perception of the problem it will be much easier to point out area they may have overlooked. Plant some additional needs and offer suggestions on how your company solves those problems. A good way to bring this up is simply stating “Some of our other clients have mentioned they have an issue with ______. Is that something you guys are also running into?”

Running the reverse

How often should you use the reverse? That’s really up to your sales style.

We typically tend to use it almost everytime we are not the first one in the door on an RFP. When coming into the sales process later you have to make the assumption that a competitor might have already set the ‘standard’ of the solution in the customers mind and you need to account for this.

Sometimes the only way to win the deal is to illuminate those other alternatives or needs that the prospective customer has yet to consider and repaint what the real solution looks like.

A note of caution: Reverse plays can be risky. If executed incorrectly, the potential client might think you are ignoring their immediate needs and offering solutions they don’t need. If you are going to run the reverse you want to do so as quickly as possible. Once you see the vision of the solution that was most likely given to them by your competitor, its time to hike the ball. The longer you wait, the lower the chances you are going to shift their thinking away from that pretty picture a competitor has drilled into their heads.

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.