April 12th, 2016
If it is too good to be true, it is!
KEN: Today I want to introduce John Moroney to you! He is more than a guest blogger, John has worked for Acumen Management Group for many years and is re-joining our organization after a long permanent engagement with a former client. He provides great insights into the challenges all sales organizations face.
Do you remember early on in your career getting really excited when you got a call that went something like this, “Hey John, we are on a fast track to select a vendor this week for our mega project and we hear your company is really good. We need your best proposal by tomorrow so we can present to our CEO to make a decision Friday. Call me right away!”.
Oh boy, were you drooling or what! This would be the quickest sale in your life – you already were thinking about what that commission check would buy. Except – it was too good to be true.
What was happening here and what should our starry eyed sales person have done?
There are at least three possibilities:
- The prospect is really going to make a decision and you have a real opportunity
- The person who contacted you thinks they are going to make a decision
- The prospect is really going to make a decision and you have no opportunity
Let’s take these possibilities in order and explore.
Situation #1 is extremely rare and is almost certainly because the person contacting you has a previous relationship with your company or someone else has directed them to contact you. There may be a real opportunity but before you jump and send the requested sales proposal, why not back up the prospect a bit and schedule a call or visit with the key people? You may be able to give them a more intelligent response including some options. Just to stay realistic, this situation occurs less than 5% of the time.
Situation #2 is a fairly common and often is prompted by a change in the organization. For example, a new VP or Director has joined the prospect company and quickly realizes there is a need for your product or service. The subordinate who is given the task to get the proposals may think there is a decision about to be made, but an experienced sales person will know that is unlikely. The good news – there may be a real opportunity for your company but the somewhat bad news – it Is not happening in the next week. Treat this as a qualified sales prospect and stop salivating. One approach would be to trade the proposal for a meeting with the requester or better to schedule a call with the boss before going too far. Of the three situations, this is by far the most common.
Situation #3 is sometimes known as “becoming column fodder”. The team tasked with selecting a vendor has already decided on who they want (see #1 above) but the executive committee/CEO pushed back on the team. The committee/CEO were expecting to see three choices (i.e. three columns A, B & C), particularly for cost comparison purposes. Hence, the panicked need for your proposal by Friday. There is almost no chance you will ever hear from the prospect again after sending the proposal. You will need to change the game to have any opportunity to win this business. In this situation, you do have some leverage. The prospect needs something from you but you need access and opportunity to extend the decision process. There are two tactics you must employ: (1) Make your offering comparable in price to the competitor and (2) uncover what the prospect is uncomfortable about the preferred choice. Get agreement to make a presentation to the team as the “cost” of the proposal. Go above and around the team if necessary – remember, you have very little to lose. Focus your presentation intensely upon how your company is superior to the competitor in the area of discomfort but equal in every other way. Typically, the anxiety the prospect has for the competitor is not about the product or deliverables but more about reliability, quality, responsiveness, etc. Avoidance of risk is the predominant concern at this point in the sales cycle, so a calm, smooth, confident approach is vital. This situation is fairly rare, less than 10% of all sales opportunities fall into this category.
For many of us, experiencing these sales opportunities has taught us to slow down and step back. So although, we may recognize something is too good to be true, it still takes skill and patience to work the opportunity particularly when the prospect could be inexperienced and reluctant to engage. Good selling!
What are your thoughts?
John Moroney is an energetic operations and sales leadership executive with over 30 years of experience in high technology products and services with a particular passion for sales process design, deployment and improvement. You can reach him directly at: JohnM@AcumenMgmt.com
Acumen Management Group, www.AcumenManagement.com