Don’t you just hate these words? “No thanks, we are happy with our current suppliers”

Not too long ago, I was talking to a client about a sales challenge they’re facing – dislodging long-standing, entrenched competitors who “own” the current account.

My client definately has a better solution, that does more for less. Plus, it is easier to use. You’d think it would be a no-brainer to go with them.

It’s not. In fact, it’s downright tough for them to wrestle the business away from that incumbent. In many cases, they get dismissed right away on their initial connection with statements like, “We’re happy with our current provider” or “We’re not planning on making any changes.”

And, if they do get in the game, they consistently lose head-to-head battles. How could that possibly be – especially when they’re better and cheaper?

Here’s the deal.


First off, no one in the company is making a big fuzz about the incumbent – even though it’s not perfect. They’ve learned its weaknesses and worked around them.

Plus, switching is risky. It’s liable to get people uncomfortable because their old ways, their autopilot, isn’t working.

Plus, they have learning curves to go through – which are never fun. And, they’re extremely busy. With everything else on their plates, prospects are hesitant to take on more.

That’s the Incumbent Advantage.

Even in politics, as high as 90% of incumbents get re-elected, even if they’re lousy. So that’s what you’re fighting. Dislodging long-standing incumbents requires a different strategy. You can’t win going head-to-head with them. You have to sneak in under their radar screen – using what I call the Augmentation Strategy.

To do that, you need to take a good hard look at your competitors. Everyone has some weaknesses. Also, there may be some missing links in their offering that you can exploit.

Figure Out Your Sales Strategy


When I started as performance coach, rather than go head-to-head against the big sales training firm’s, I identified a gap. They didn’t offer real time sales coaching and a step by step guide for younger sales executives of entering the business or corporate markets.

For me, however, it was a gold mine. It was also a foot in the door. Once I’d established my credibility, I started picking away at my competitors. Little by little, I became the resource of choice.

The Augmentation Strategy works so much better than a head-to-head confrontation with an incumbent. You start with a little win and then expand.

Give it a shot.


About the author


Over the past 20 years, Riaan has been working with leading Sales Organisations, Sales Managers and select Individuals who want to improve sales performance, design and implement winning strategies and sales cultures that leads to more deals.

Since 1985, Riaan has been in Corporate | B2B | High-level Sales and led teams to maximise performance. He provides strategic oversight and serves as executive sales coach and advisor to clients ranging from small, rapidly growing start-ups to well-established, large corporations.

His experience has allowed him to work with organizations and executives within entities such as Old Mutual, the Telecoms Industry, Siemens, Capgemini, Accenture, BWI in Hong Kong and many others, to help them improve sales performance

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