Problem: How gullible can we salespeople be! Steve had heard it all before, but every time he heard prospects say they were thinking about changing suppliers or that they had heard good things about his company, Steve breathed a sigh of relief. He wanted to believe that this one would be easier, that this one might be the “bluebird” he needed to give him a respite from the highly competitive selling environment he found himself in. So when Apex Circuits, one of his top prospects, called and said they were thinking about firing his major competitor, Steve took the bait. But three months later, his competitor still had the business and Steve couldn’t get Apex to return his calls. Sound familiar?
Analysis: Prospects set traps for salespeople. They know how to get you to do a little consulting (unpaid, of course) for them. It sounds like this: “How would you go about solving this problem?” “We’ve heard good things about your company.” “We’re not so happy with our current supplier and might be making a change soon.” Salespeople, not wanting to rock the boat by asking too many questions, take the bait—hook, line and sinker. Let’s face it, like everyone else, salespeople are looking for the path of least resistance, so we play into the prospect’s hands. Our optimistic nature pretty much takes over. We just can’t help ourselves. The slippery slide into unpaid consulting begins.
Solution: You can be optimistic about your career, but be pessimistic about what your prospects tell you. After all, they’ve got a system that gets them great results when dealing with salespeople. They know how to get you to spend lots of time putting together a detailed proposal that is often used to negotiate a better deal with their current supplier. Don’t take the bait. Ask the hard questions and get answers to the things you need to know. Here are a few good questions to ask:
- “Why would you be thinking about a change? So and so is a good supplier.”
- “I can’t believe the problem is severe enough for you to consider a supplier change.”
- “Let’s pretend we are able to find solutions to those challenges—ones that also make financial sense, are you ready to switch suppliers?”
- “When you discussed this with your current supplier, what did they say?”
What would the answers tell you? Yes, plenty, to be sure. You’d find out in a hurry whether or not you have a good prospect. The bottom line is that a little skepticism can go a long way when dealing with a seemingly positive prospect. Get them to “sell you” on why they’d consider making a change. Don’t fall for the trap. Make them convince you that they’re for real!