Selling high ticket items? Had an initial meeting with a prospect? Been asked to submit a proposal or tender?
You may think this is a hot prospect. But before you rush in and comply, consider the following:
- You could be just one of many potential suppliers and your prospect could well play one against the other.
- They’ve already decided to go with the competition, but want to validate their choice and/or pricing.
- And finally, they’re just fishing for information on how an issue could be solved. Then they do it themselves.
In short, you risk wasting a lot of time and money putting a response together which could ultimately go nowhere.
Alan Weiss, author of 46 books on consulting puts it best. “A proposal is not an exploration, it is a summation.”
Here are three rules we inculcate into our clients:
You must be in at the ground floor, working collaboratively with your prospect to determine outcomes, value and measures of success. Only then can you ensure you’re the only game in town.
You must deal with the “Economic buyer” – the person who actually signs the cheque.
This isn’t always obvious when dealing in the corporate market. Often prospects will portray themselves as the ultimate decision maker. They’re not. And trust me, if you can’t find the real buyer, demonstrate value and a return on their investment, you’ll suddenly find there’s no money to be had.
Never create “proposals” without first getting conceptual agreement that they’ll work with you.
You must elicit your prospect’s objectives, the value to them of achieving them and measures of success. i.e. How they will recognise value and what they’ll pay to achieve it.
This is especially true with private individuals who often have no idea what something would cost. Given their requirements they think $X. But you know it’ll be a much higher $Y.
Get this out in the open now so you can handle their expectations or walk away before you waste more time.
This is especially prevalent in the building game where you might spend $10K working on a submission only to find you’re way out of the client’s budget ballpark. Then it’s too late.
Only now do you work with your prospect to create a “statement of work” as to what you’ll deliver. Notice I said “what”, not “how”. You’re not giving away the farm here.
By becoming a joint undertaking you achieve the following:
- Your prospect buys into the solution as they’ve co-created it.
- There are no budget or scope surprises.
- They view you as a partner in the solution, which elevates you above being a mere supplier.
- You lock out the competition because your prospect knows you fully understand their objectives and can deliver value.
Now I know some of you are thinking, “I can’t do all that. My industry doesn’t work that way and I’m always called in as a sub-contractor. Or I need the money and can’t afford to alienate a prospect”.
Over 32 years I have watched both large corporates and small businesses alike lose deals because they broke these rules.
I’ve witnessed incumbents who thought they were on a sure bet lose multi-million dollar deals because they didn’t know who the true decision maker was and weren’t in on the ground floor.
Always remember, sales is a collaborative game. You and your prospects are equals. Treat them with respect and require the same in return.
Ultimately, your success will always come down to how you position yourself as the authority figure in your marketplace.
The number one player will get most of the business. The rest will fight for the crumbs.
And finally, here are two illustrative examples which were burned into my psyche years ago.
Up till the 1990’s IBM was the world’s most successful supplier of computer hardware to the fortune 100. IBM positioned themselves at the top and only dealt with boards and MD’s.
It was an open secret in our industry IBM was years behind in technology. But it didn’t matter. “No one was ever fired for buying IBM”. I personally know of IT Managers who were removed because they didn’t. That’s market and positioning power.
In the late 1980’s I was in Canberra meeting with mid-level managers in Defence. I vividly remember meeting an IBM salesman at the Airport who was incredulous I wasn’t meeting with the Department Secretary or his next in line. His attitude? “Why would you bother otherwise?”
While none of us are likely to get to that position of dominance globally, you can dominate your narrow niche through effective marketing and positioning.
How? Call us on (02) 9499-7958 and we’ll put a plan together.