Prospecting problems: supplier already in place? here’s how to buy yourself some elbow room

Posted on: May 28, 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Category: Prospecting

Prospecting problems: Supplier already in place? Here’s how to buy yourself some elbow room

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Post #2: In which the prospect already has a supplier or solution in place

For many potential providers the prospecting plain that stretches out ahead is far from an unpopulated, open field. In fact, more often than not, the space they seek to fill is already occupied by another supplier or solution.

This is not just the case for, say, a facility management provider looking to replace an existing contractor. It also affects anyone offering a product that is the next gen model of a solution already in place.

It is incredibly rare to pitch something entirely new: most pitches are made to replace or upgrade something already in place.

And that can be a massive barrier to success.

But, it’s far from insurmountable.

Let’s review some approaches to prospecting that can avoid a slurry of ‘supplier/solution in place’ responses and kickstart some meaningful conversations.

Address the situation directly

The first thing to do is to directly address the situation: this can work wonders for preventing that slew of knee-jerk polite declines informing you that there is already a supplier/solution in place.

‘I recognise that you may already have a supplier in place but…’

And it’s how you handle what follows the ‘but’ that can make or break your prospecting mail.

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When you stop to consider exactly why your prospect may be considering changing suppliers or upgrading/replacing their existing solution, you arrive at what should be the crux of your proposition.

With this in mind it may well alter not only how you write your pitch but also the prospects you actually select to pitch to.

Without even scratching the surface of the potential reasons for changing, let’s just try and list out a few that should help you review exactly how to position yourself.

  • Has something externally changed (supplier gone bust/merged, legal change or availability of new features) that would create conditions that are right for changing?
  • Do you specialise in or have an excellent track record in supporting a specific sector/department?
  • Are there specific cost savings that are instrumental in swinging decisions at play?
  • Will a reputation for innovation sway minds?
  • Is customer service being regularly flagged as poor for existing suppliers/solutions?

It is important that you carefully select prospects who are experiencing (or, at least, likely to be experiencing) the same pain points with their existing arrangement. And, should there be a variety of reasons, you should group each into its own campaign.

And, now, it is essential that you hone in on exactly how you can solve this issue.

The power of one

Unfortunately, there is a natural tendency to throw everything – including the kitchen sink – into your pitch.


People are more likely to be persuaded by one strong, powerful, on-point reason to switch than a catalogue of reasons why your offering is superior.

So, when you have isolated the pain point and pinpointed those it touches, try to stick to simply enforcing this message. Your goal here is to get a phone call or arrange a meet and there will be plenty of time at these to introduce other reasons to switch.

Right now, you just want the opportunity to enumerate these.

And your best shot is to leverage the power of one.

Treating polite declines as invitations

We may have been a little dismissive about polite declines, before.

If you consider what a polite decline means, rather than what it says, you should realise that it represents a golden hello rather than a bye-bye boot.

A polite decline is:

  • Recognition that your prospecting came from a person rather than being part of a mail shot
  • An indication that your mail has been read and considered
  • Confirmation that the recipient has the humanity to grace it with a reply rather than hit delete

The more that you consider it, a polite decline is, in many ways, an expression of interest.

What’s more in rapidly replying to a polite decline you achieve what was initially your goal: you start a conversation. By getting back quickly you confirm how important this response is to you. And by directly addressing any points made in the note you received you show that you are responsive.

The true beauty of a polite decline is that it is actually an invitation to be more expansive. If your original prospecting mail was around 150 words – you can now spell out your proposition more carefully. You already have someone’s attention and you are replying to them, rather than cold mailing them.

If you do not reply to polite declines in these types of prospecting mails (in fact, in any type of prospecting mail) you are missing out.

Big time.

Never turn down an open invitation.

In our next ‘prospecting problems’ posts we’ll be looking at other ways you can handle your prospecting when things get tough.

Successful prospecting!

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