Part of successful selling involves knowing what battles not to fight.  

This includes not only knowing your prospects, but also your competitor’s strengths compared to your own and understanding your weaknesses as well as those of your competitors.  In every sales situation you have a choice.  You can walk away with nothing, or with a sale.  Instead of walking away with nothing, have you ever considered selling yourself as the number two supplier?  The prospect may agree to allowing you to be number two and at the same time tell you that you probably won’t get any business from them because they are totally happy with number one.  That’s okay; things have a way of changing over time.

If I were a quarterback on a college football team I would have no problem sitting in the number two position.  I know I’m going to see plenty of action and may possibly become number one.  When you are number two you have a lot of positive things working in your favor.  The competition can knock number one out of the game.  Number one might self-destruct.  You can improve your skills and become number one.  If your prospect is totally happy with their number one supplier, don’t waste your time and energy trying to convince them that you should be number one.  It just won’t happen.  Ask to become their number two supplier.  Tell them you realize you may never do any business with them because they are so totally satisfied with number one, but you would still like to be number two.

Being number two carries all of the same privileges and rights, as does number one.  You can have access to their people and facilities, while developing relationships with management.  The only difference is they currently are not buying from you, yet.  Becoming number two creates no threat or obligation to the buyer.  If they are totally satisfied with the performance of their number one supplier they will continue to buy from them.  Take a moment and think about the psychology of the buying situation.  The buyer selects a vendor or maybe even a couple of vendors to supply their particular needs.  When it is time to purchase, they contact their chosen supplier.  If the quality is not satisfactory they may complain, but they continue to purchase because, after all, that is their chosen supplier.  If shipments are late, they may complain, but they continue to purchase because they are the supplier.  Get the picture.   If you have a number one supplier you will tolerate situations that are not completely to your liking because it is easier to deal with a known entity than to go through all the hassle of changing suppliers.

When a buyer has a number two supplier, even though they say they are totally happy with number one, and will probably never buy from you, expect a call when number one doesn’t meet their expectations.  It is easy for the buyer to change suppliers now, because they know you and trust you.  You have been calling on them and selling your ability to meet their needs.  The buyer is not faced with finding another source or dealing with credibility and quality issues.  To use a quote from a local advertising campaign, “After all, you know this guy.”  The customer knows you and trusts you, as you have been meeting with them, learning their operations, building trust and selling them on your ability to provide the right product when the opportunity presents itself.  The time has now come for you to step to the plate of opportunity and take a long hard swing at becoming a regular supplier to your customer.  You have been elevated from number two to their number one supplier.

Pick your battles.  Know your strengths as well as the competitions.  Know what the customer wants.  Be patient and position yourself as number two when the battle for number one is not worth the fight.  Never leave a sales situation empty handed.  You will either be competing for the number one position or you can walk away with number two solidly tucked away just waiting for number one to lose his position.  There is more than one way to win the game of sales, and positioning yourself as number two never fails at eventually landing the sale, it just takes patience.