The Risk (and Opportunity) in Stealing Customers

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Picture it, São Paulo, Brazil, October 2015.

After one of the sales and customer success workshops I did, a few of us went out for a snack – fried polenta sticks – and to talk shop… and the idea of Success Gaps came up.

In particular, we talked about prospects that experienced Success Gaps with your competitor’s product because “it didn’t do what they needed it to do” and are interested in your product, but your product is – if you’re honest – fairly similar to the other guys.

So is it awesome that they want to switch and you should celebrate that you’re stealing your competitor’s customers… or is it a huge red flag?

The consensus was that it should start as the latter, but done correctly could turn into the former.

If a prospect didn’t achieve their Desired Outcome with the last product, and, therefore, blamed the product (and the company behind it), it’s fairly likely that they’ll blame you when they don’t achieve their Desired Outcome while using your product.

If the competitor did nothing to set them up for success – to bridge the success gaps – and you don’t do anything either (or will even acquire them knowing they don’t have success potential with your product), then you’ll have the same fate as the competitor who’s losing that customer.

Only they might not even stay as long with you as they did with the other guys; they’re coming to you with one foot out the door already.

As soon as they feel like they’re experiencing the same thing as before, they’ll leave you and go onto the next competitor… and keep doing that – faster and faster each time – until they find a company that – through a better product, training, outside experts, webinars, courses, consultants, office hours, communities, videos, ebooks, etc. – helps them both bridge the Success Gaps that exist and holds them accountable for the things they need to do to be successful.

You need to understand this context, ask questions about their goals and experiences to date, manage expectations with them pre-sales and immediately after they buy, show them the path of Success Milestones to achieving their Desired Outcome (again, even pre-sales), what part the product will play, what part they’ll play, and what part partners or others from your company (prof services, implementation, etc.) will play in helping them achieve their Desired Outcome.

You need to recognize that when a customer is switching because the competitor’s product didn’t help them do what they needed to do, it’s both a great opportunity and a potential problem.

If you handle it right and do what’s necessary to get them on track to achieving their Desired Outcome, or at least get them to realize they have to do certain things (or pay you to do those things for them) to reach their goals, you’ll be setting them up for success and a long lifetime as a customer.

The good news is, even if they don’t do what’s necessary to achieve their Desired Outcome – since you managed expectations from the beginning – if they don’t achieve success will be less likely to blame you since they knew hat they needed to do.

And, of course, if you do everything wrong and just think it’s a great opportunity while ignoring the red flags, they might not even stay long enough to pay back what it cost to acquire them and – for good measure – tell everyone how much you suck on the way out.

Be careful out there.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success-driven Growth Consultant. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help growing your SaaS, request at least a 15-minute call with me via Clarity. Be sure to join my mailing list - I send awesome stuff to the list every week or so. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

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