Problem: Casey had made a presentation to a large shipyard that had been awarded the contract to build one of the Navy’s newest amphibious ships. This was an important deal for his company, a seven-figure sale over the next two years. Casey knew that he was the front-runner and, if the company did not accept his proposal, another six months would be wasted because the engineering drawings would have to be revised. He knew that this presented an unacceptable situation for the shipyard. Nevertheless, the buyer was stalling him on making a decision. Casey had tried everything to get them to make a move, but to no avail. And to make matters worse, he was getting the feeling that if he continued to be assertive in pushing for a decision, he might hurt the rapport that he’d worked so hard to establish. Have you ever been in this position?
Analysis: Why decisions aren’t made more quickly is anybody’s guess. The circumstances can certainly vary in every situation. This much is known: buyers have their own timetable and it isn’t always in sync with the seller’s. Perhaps the buyer had misled Casey about when a decision would be made or maybe some internal issues had delayed their ability to make a decision. But in this case, Casey felt his buyer was simply playing games.
Solution: At our suggestion, Casey went to the buyer and said the following: “Paul, I’ve got a problem and I need your help. As you know, you and I have worked very hard on this proposal over the last six months. But for whatever reason, we’re apparently not close to getting a decision. I’m getting an unbelievable amount of pressure from my company president to get this deal closed. In fact, he said that I can’t afford to spend any more time on this project and has asked me to pull the proposal off the table if we can’t get a decision in a week. I don’t know what problems that might cause for you, but I thought you should know my limitations.”
Casey got his buyer to move.
Sound familiar? “Good cop, bad cop” is a tactic you’ve seen used in every police television show when they’re interrogating a suspect. Why? Because real police use it and it works.
It is a way for you to raise an unpleasant issue without hurting rapport between you and your prospect. If the deal is real, they will make a move to keep it going. If it is not, they will let you kill your proposal which in turn gives you an opportunity to figure out why it died. Can you think of any situations when you could use “good cop, bad cop”?