You hear news that makes you cancel the mechanical bull upgrade you wanted for the company picnic. That huge sale didn’t happen and yet you were so certain you had it in the bag.
Our view is that it’s best to disqualify yourself from a situation before you are too far “in it” which means to keep asking strategic qualifying questions to understand the true pain such that you can map the solution to the pain. We’ve outlined some signs for you to look for in the next go around.
“Getting to Know You”
1) Let me think it over.
This is not really a desire to think it over. It’s a desire to back out politely without hurting your feelings. It often happens when you are not connecting with the true driver of this meeting: the customer’s pain. If you can’t demonstrate that you can understand, let alone articulate their pain, but you’re eloquent at pitching, then you’re not adding value or helping the customer identify the solution.
2) I will get back to you in a few weeks or months.
The good news is that it’s better than #1. The bad news is that while you may have connected nominally with their pain, someone in their gut says that your competitor just may be a better option. If they tell you they will get back to you in 6 months, delete their number or contact details. Disqualify yourself as soon as you can from situations like this.
3) Lets talk again in a few months.
Better than #1 and somewhat better than #2 as there may be interest in speaking again because you’ve uncovered some of their pain. The trouble is that there is no clear understanding of who is calling whom and for what reason. This is vague and not a good sign. You could certainly display initiative and “go for it” in a few months but be careful not to be too pitchy. Our advice here is again to disqualify yourself.
4) Wow, that sounds really expensive.
Contrary to popular belief, price is never the issue especially if you can demonstrate that you are capable of solving the right business problems. It’s a stalling tactic and it’s an effective one because it distracts from the point of solving their business problem. A similar comment is “I have also heard your competition is 30% cheaper.”
5) This was a great meeting – I want to make sure that I keep you in my list of contacts as we have many projects coming up. Please send your product information to me.
Doh! This means absolutely nothing. We recommend saving rainforests and not sending any follow up brochures. To be polite, send them to your site or LinkedIn profile instead.
6) Tell me about your company’s history.
This is not a capabilities request. It likely comes up when they are not certain why they should be meeting with you and so ask for background. If the question of why is in their mind and (or because) you can’t demonstrate you understand their pain and offer a direct solution, it’s advisable to “cut your losses” and move on to people who are a better fit for you and vice versa.
7) Send me the proposal so I can present it.
Oh dear. As in branding, you own your message. It’s not in your interest to let them state your case for you. This is likely shopping for information to compare with their favorite vendor or to perhaps maneuver you into a negotiating situation that isn’t tenable. Even worse, you’re not able to demonstrate your superior understanding of their business problem vis a vis the competition.
8) How is it that you are different to your competition?
Hmm. When asked this question, it’s because it’s hard to tell the difference in offerings/value proposition/likelihood of delivering best product. You’ve not successfully connected with their pain/emotional drivers nor have you presented in a way that it’s clear to them that your solution solves their pain. This is not a capabilities question because in their mind you are equal to your competitor. They are looking for an emotional reason to connect with you and you’re missing the mark.
9) No need for my boss to be here since I can sign off on the project.
When you hear this, you don't have the right decision maker in front of you. It may be a technically true statement but a boss can slash a budget just as quickly as a boss can make one. You want to make sure you’ve connected with the budget owner as well so that your project is saved and another’s is slashed or cancelled altogether.
10) Can we have a product demonstration?
We think this is a cart before the horse problem and a rather direct technique they use to get information so that they can negotiate with others or create an unhealthy negotiation session with you. To be clear, we don’t think it’s a bad thing to do so much as it’s better to ask and learn about their business first. You may learn that you’re not a fit and disqualify yourself before you give the demonstration thereby protecting your information.
11) We want to change our vendor.
We find this one troubling because there can be inertia in changing a vendor. Your success depends on so many variables like how long have they known the vendor, who else in the company does business with this vendor, if the vendor’s President has a social relationship with the prospect’s President, etc. Once you’ve been fleeced of all relevant information, they will go back to their vendor asking for a discount or something else. And, the current vendor may fight dirty to keep the business.
12) We currently work with Schoolmate/Family Friend but we feel we’ve outgrown them.
This is like #11. Though they may have proof that the schoolmate or family friend is doing an awful job, it’s a sticky wicket trying to “fire” them. Unless you can demonstrate Olympic style feats in your understanding of their business and the solution you offer, it’s best to move on.
What would you add or change about this list? We’d love to get a vibrant conversation going!