This statement is the knee-jerk response that most competitive users have to your initial inquiry about the existing relationship.
The truth inherent in this statement varies from one prospect to another; the important issue here is to understand why the truthfulness of the statement really doesn’t matter.
Unless this user of your competitor’s products or services is having major problems, at this exact moment, with their existing supplier, they will react negatively to any overture seeking to change that relationship.
In fact, any suggestion that you “replace” an existing supplier not currently in trouble will be met with immediate resistance, and, from the user’s perception, there are several practical reasons for this.
The issue of familiarity
The first is that most inquiries of this nature are initially viewed as a threat, because of the issue of familiarity. Your competitor is a “known” entity to the competitive user, while you are not.
Therefore, there is a significant level of perceived risk in leaving the safety of an established relationship for a new one. What if you don’t match the service of the current supplier?
What if you don’t keep your promises? What if this turns out to be a mistake? The safest decision therefore is to stay put, irrespective of what your firm claims to offer.
The issue of loyalty
As a business owner, I can tell you that ending a relationship with an established supplier is not really that different from firing an employee – it can be a stressful, unpleasant task that most people, given a choice, would prefer to avoid.
In cases where the existing supplier is providing a satisfactory level of service, this point alone is enough to warrant dismissing your efforts out-of-hand.
The issue of inconvenience
Your prospect is considering everything that is involved in starting over with a new supplier. New people. New processes. New procedures. Major headache!
Your competitive user needs to have a good reason to go through the grind of changing suppliers. Have you given them one?
If you are in a service-based business, the best short-term strategy is to approach the account with the ability to act as a supplemental, or secondary, provider. This means that your immediate goal is to first establish a relationship that supplements, but does not replace, the existing one with your competitor.
While this tactic may not provide the immediate pay-off that you get from replacing a competitor outright, it does provide you with a way to get you in the door – and allows you the opportunity that you need, in time, to prove your superiority so that you can replace the competitor later.
Most importantly, the account will be much more receptive to the idea of working with you in this way, because you do not threaten the existing relationship by doing so.