The Challenge

A common prospecting challenge many sales people run into is the company they are targeting is already using a competitor and they report that they’re “happy” or “all set” with who they are using.


It seems that about 60% to 70% of companies that you run into already have a vendor or supplier they are working with.  We know from our own experience that humans don’t like change.  We like the same routines, patterns, schedules and behaviors.  We are creatures of habit.  There is no question that getting a prospect to make a change and switch, once they are working with a supplier, is an uphill battle.



The Wrong Battle to Fight

Most sales people try and fight this battle by asking the prospect for a small project to complete in order to prove and demonstrate how superior their quality or their service really is.  They do this in hopes that the prospect will see the light, recognize the error of their ways and permanently make the switch.  The challenge with this approach is threefold:

  • Every other sales person out there does the same thing and doing this makes you look like everyone else. Forget standing out from your competitors.
  • Prospects get approached this way all the time and hate feeling manipulated and pressured into “trying it just once” with a promise “they will like it”. Drug dealers use the same line.
  • This approach typically results in a “NO THANK YOU” because it focuses on things that do not motivate buying behavior in a prospect.



Ask Yourself This Question:

What would cause a prospect, which is pretty happy with their current vendors, to switch to my company?


Most sales people will answer this question by defaulting to one of their company’s many value propositions (fastest, best, highest quality, widest selection, most advanced whatever…).  As tempting as it is to default to this type of an answer it is the wrong answer and is the reason why many sales people struggle to “get a foot in the door” with these types of prospects.


The Power of Unmet Needs

The right answer to this question always revolves around an unmet need that the prospect has.  The only reason why a prospect will make the uphill journey of switching and changing their routines and patterns is because they have an unmet need and they are tired of not having that need met.  They recognize the short term cost or inconvenience of switching is LESS THAN the negative impact of not having that need met.  The important take away is that the real reason to switch comes from the prospect, not the 10 items listed on your company’s well designed brochure.



Follow Up Question:

Do you know the REAL REASONS WHY your customers switch to your company?



A Research Question

If you don’t know (and many sales people do not – especially if you new to your company) than your first assignment is to find out.  How do you learn that sort of thing?  Ask other experienced sales professionals in your company or, better yet, ask you best customers.  Tell them you are doing a bit of research and ask them if you can ask them a research question.  Tell them you are always working to try and improve what you do.  Ask them why they decided to start using your company instead of other suppliers out there.  Be sincere and honest and listen to what they say.  Ask questions and be curious.  See if you can spot the trends and commonalities in the answers you get.  You might discover what unmet needs your customers had and why they switched.  You can then, by extension, make the safe assumption that other businesses might have similar unmet needs.  Knowing this will give you a solid leg to stand on when you approach the next prospect who says they are “happy with who they are working with”.



Prospects Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

If a prospect is motivated to switch to your company by finally meeting an unmet need they have, what happens when they don’t exactly know what needs they have? Then what do you do?


Most prospects are busy running their businesses and simply don’t know what they don’t know.  Hence, it becomes your job to teach and educate them about a need they have, but don’t realize they have.  Yes, people can have needs for things that they are not aware of.  Once they become aware of it, chances are good that they will decide that need it.  An example of this is iPad.  Prior to the iPad everyone was happy with their laptop and cell phone.  The iPad was new and changed the way people thought about their needs.  Once we learned the benefits of an iPad we determined that we had an unmet need that needed to be filled.  In many cases consumers and prospect alike need to be taught about what their needs are.


The Facts of Pitching To New Sales Prospects

When introducing yourself to a new prospect, remember these facts:

  • They are probably already using a competitor and are happy with them.
  • They will not be interesting in switch unless they discover an unmet need that they have.
  • They probably are not aware of any unmet needs they have.
  • Your job as a sales person is to help them discover this unmet need (if it exists) during your initial introduction with them.
  • Spending your time talking about anything else increases the chances of being shot down.


Seven Unmet Needs Prospects Probably Have

A few years ago and through massive research, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of CEB, discovered the real reasons why customers buy and stay loyal to a supplier.  By extension we can also assume these seven reasons are valid unmet needs that may cause of prospect to switch to your company.  Here are those seven reasons:


  • The sales rep offers a unique or valuable perspective on the market
  • The sales rep helps the customer navigate alternatives
  • The sales rep provides ongoing advice and consultation
  • The sales rep helps the customer avoid potential land mines
  • The sales rep educates the customer on new issues and outcomes
  • The supplier is easy to buy from
  • The supplier has widespread support from other decision makers within the customer’s organization.


Sales people can leverage these seven reasons in their 30 second introduction or elevator pitch to a new prospect.  Doing so will teach the prospect something new about a new they probably don’t know they need, but want.  It will set up the sales person apart from the competition and make them sound much more consultative and less sales clerk-like.  Sales people who make assumptions about the unmet needs of their prospects, share those assumptions during their 30 second introduction and then ask the prospect questions to verify if those assumptions are accurate, are typically more successful at “getting a foot in the door” with prospects who are already being serviced by a competitor.

foot-in-door1 Terry L Hansen

You Make the Switch First

The next assignment that you might have is to switch your elevator pitch from being “me focused” (We offer the fastest…blah, blah, blah) to a pitch that is “prospect focused” (Our clients struggle with issues like…).  It is critical to try and incorporate some of these seven potentially unmet needs into your speech.  For example, you might say something like,


“John, the kind of companies we seem to be the best fit for are ones who, in addition to wanting great software, want unique and valuable insights into their marketplace and help avoiding many of the potential land mines out there.  Do any of those characteristics describe your company at all?”


Wrap the real reasons why your customers switched over to your company into your 30 second introduction.  Do it in a way that teaches the prospect about a need they have, but are probably unaware of.  You are making an assumption or hypothesis and sharing it with your prospect.  Always follow it up with a question to verify if your assumption is correct.  If the prospect says YES or agrees with you, ask more questions to get them talking about how important that unmet need is for them.  Doing this will emotionally engage them and motivate them to set up an appointment with you.



Practice Makes Permanent

Part of being a great sales person is developing superior communication skills.  As with anything, skills must be practiced and refined.  Unfortunately, many sales people do not intentionally practice things like their 30 second introduction frequently enough.  Make the switch and change up your elevator pitch so that it is prospect focused and includes the unmet needs they probably have (the real reasons to switch from their current supplier to you).  Practice this type of conversation in private with other sales people or an accountability partner.  Get comfortable with the new approach.  When you are ready give it a try on some new prospects. Do not get discouraged if it doesn’t create magic on the first go around.  Keep trying.  What you will find is what many other sales professionals have found. That is people buy (switch suppliers) for their own reasons (unmet needs), not for the sales person’s (the 10 value propositions on the brochure).


Would your sales team benefit from a refresher on “Strategies to Get-Your-Foot-In-The-Door” with new prospects?  Email Terry L. Hansen ( with value code: “VALU2016” to receive a complimentary 1 hour training for your sales team.  Offer good through March 31st, 2016. 


Terry L. Hansen is a popular speaker, consultant, trainer, and author on helping sales and customer service teams improve their ability to create value for their prospects and clients. He is regularly asked to train organizations on strategies to find more prospects, close more sales, and increase customer loyalty. You can follow or connect with Terry on Twitter (@TerryLHansen) or on LinkedIn ( To contact Terry please email or by calling 844-205-5054.