Problem: Lisa was angry. It had happened too many times. She recalled the old movie, “Network,” where the veteran news anchor said, “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore!”
After submitting yet another proposal, she determined that she was just one of several vendors who were being used to satisfy the prospect’s need to obtain competitive bids. They had already selected a vendor (often the incumbent), and Lisa’s numbers were just needed for comparison and leverage for a better deal with their current supplier.
So that’s exactly how Lisa felt…”mad as hell.” She had no chance of getting the business – none, nada, zero. Although she suspected the worst, she spent hours developing her proposal – unpaid consulting at its highest form. The prospect misled her (again) and she didn’t know what to do.
Analysis: First of all, prospects don’t always play it straight with salespeople. (Big surprise, right?) Basically, they’ll get away with whatever they can. Who can blame them? But, prospects aren’t the problem; salespeople are!
They believe everything that the prospect tells them as gospel. Because of that they play right into the buyers game when an “opportunity” to quote on a piece of business.
When this happens, most salespeople:
- Get so excited about getting to finally quote that they don’t stop to ask why they are being considered.
- Some fear asking tough questions to dig into what is really going on for fear they won’t like the answer.
- Or they simply don’t know how to broach the subject without upsetting the prospect.
- Some figure that it is better to “quote and hope” than not quote at all.
Solution: Most salespeople have a gut feel when they want to question how real an opportunity is, so the first tactic to learn is that if you feel it – ask about it.
Here are some ways you can qualify your gut feel:
“I appreciate the opportunity to quote, when you went to your current supplier and told them you were putting the business out to bid, how did they respond?”
“We have talked for months and I appreciate the opportunity to quote for the business and at the same time what has changed? Why are we being asked to quote now?”
“Are you asking for a quote to confirm the decision you have already made or are you asking for a quote so you can form a decision?”
“Thanks, I will get right on that. So let’s pretend I issue you a quote and it has everything you are looking for, what happens next?”
“Mr. Prospect, I may be off base here, but I get the feeling that you’ve already made the decision to stay with Incumbent, Inc. and my biggest concern is that you may be asking for a proposal just because you need to have several bids, and the bottom line is I have little chance of getting your business. Is that a fair statement?”
Pay close attention to the answer, not just the words, but also the tonality and body language. Was there tacit agreement or did the prospect make a good case for your having a good chance to get the business?
The prospect’s job is to convince you that you do have a chance. If they can’t convince you, you’re just quoting and hoping.
Additional Resources on Winning Sales Opportunities: