Problem: “I’m afraid that I’m not going to get a decision when I make my presentation to the fitness store owners next Monday,” Kelly lamented. “I’ve put together a great proposal. I think I’ve covered all the bases and have given them three terrific options for advertising in our newspaper. Surely one will work for them. But something tells me they won’t make a decision, and I don’t know why.” Kelly was on target about one thing. She didn’t get a decision. The fitness storeowners thanked her for the proposal and told her they needed some time to “think it over.”
Analysis: After some investigation, it turned out that Kelly didn’t really understand what the store owners were trying to accomplish by investing in print advertising, other than to increase the store’s sales. This is a common mistake. Too often salespeople hear a very ambiguous objective (“I’d like to increase sales”), think they’ve really zeroed in on the problem and believe they’re ready to make a presentation and get a quick sale. But something in Kelly’s gut told her she was wrong about this one. And although she was right, she just couldn’t put her finger on the problem.
It’s pretty hard to hit the bull’s eye if you don’t know where it is. Kelly didn’t find out exactly what the prospect wanted to accomplish by buying advertising space; what the home run was from the prospect’s viewpoint. As a result, she wasn’t able to provide a specific, tailored solution for the prospect to consider. Instead, she felt compelled to offer several solutions, which nearly always causes a delay in the decision since the prospect needs time to “analyze” the options. And when all was said and done, Kelly stood little chance of getting one of the options accepted, since none was tailored to a specific objective.
Solution: Kelly needed to get a handle on a few things. We suggested Kelly go back to the prospect and tell them she was having some trouble with the proposal. Specifically, that she didn’t feel she understood exactly what they were trying to accomplish with the advertising program, and because of that she was finding it difficult to put the proposal together. She needed to find out if the objective was to increase store traffic, sales, phone inquiries, website hits, or if it was something else. Assuming it was one of these challenges, she needed to know how much of an increase they wanted, and over what period of time. Armed with this information, she would be able to show the prospect exactly how she was planning to achieve their specific objective. Then it’s easier for the prospect to make a yes or no decision.
By taking this approach, Kelly would be able to deliver value (a specific solution to a specific problem) instead of just another proposal. The bottom line in selling is that if you don’t bring value to the prospect, you’re just part of the overhead.