Problem: Recently a sales engineer called for some coaching. He had been having a dialogue with his prospect for several months and had offered several proposals for the business, all of which had been rejected as “just not compelling enough” for them to change. He complained he was getting a little frustrated especially since the prospect had said to him on several occasions that they “liked him the best.” When I heard that, I knew he was in trouble.
When I asked him what the prospect’s pain was, he replied that they felt their current supplier had not supported them at the level they had expected over some warranty claims. That’s a start, but not very specific. I asked what else there was and was told that was all he could find out. I wanted to know if the lack of support impacted their business or the people they were talking to. This was an important piece to the puzzle, and it was missing.
Analysis: How many times have you heard “we like you the best” but you didn’t get the business? There always seems to be a “but” that follows that nice compliment. “We like you the best, but it’s a hassle to switch.” “We like you the best, but your deal just isn’t quite good enough to get us to move our business.” “We really like you guys, but can’t you sweeten the deal a little?”
It’s all BS. When a prospect says they like you the best, they’re giving you compliments instead of business. It’s their way of keeping you in the game so they can play you off against another vendor or get you to keep lowering your price until they have you where they want you.
There are three main reasons salespeople somehow are oblivious to this tactic.
- The comment makes them feel good, and they don’t want to lose that warm, fuzzy feeling that the prospect has given them. (Are we all so hungry for compliments that we’ll lap this up without even wondering how we can be the favorite but not be given the business?)
- They are confusing “pain” with compelling reasons. A person can be in “pain” and at the same time, have no compelling reasons to do anything about it.
- Their sales pipeline of opportunities is so anemic that they need this deal to close because they have no good ones in the works. This is most likely because they ignore the complacency signals their prospects are sending them.
Solution: When you hear “we like you the best, but…” you’d better be thinking, “Oh s—, I’m in trouble,” because you are. Bad news is just a couple of words away. Trouble is coming at you like a freight train because you have failed to address the prospect’s critical business issue adequately–you have done a lousy job in the pain step. When you keep getting beat up on price, this is a clear signal that you haven’t qualified well. The prospect doesn’t see the value you bring and the focus stays on price. It’s that simple.
I’ll say it one more time. You must get past the surface pain. The mere fact that someone didn’t support them during a tough period is NOT enough pain. Dig down by asking some more questions like:
- Tell me more about that.
- What kind of problems did that cause for you?
- What else is there?
- What else should I know about how that impacted your company and you on a personal basis?
- Is it a serious enough issue to consider going through the hassle of changing suppliers?
- How long can you tolerate similar issues from them?
If you’re not drilling down and getting this type of information, you probably don’t deserve the business.