Too often salespeople cause deals to stall because they take themselves out of the sale (or because they let themselves be taken out of the sale).
What does it mean to be taken out of the sale? It means you agree to something that allows the prospect to move forward without you, removing the possibility that you can influence the outcome. Here are a couple examples.
“Thanks. We have your pricing and we’ll be getting back with you soon.” Sorry. I know it stings just to read it here. Does that sound all too familiar?
Salespeople mistakenly offer pricing too early in the sales cycle. Why do they do this? Because the prospect asked for pricing.
The problem here is twofold. First, because the prospect asked for pricing does not mean that it is at all appropriate to provide the pricing. More often than not, if it is early in the sales cycle that pricing is requested, either the client senses that no real differentiating value is being created, or they have decided that what you do should be treated like a commodity.
“But wait,” you say. “We are not a commodity at all.” In order not to be treated like a commodity, you first have to stop behaving like a commodity. That means creating value at every stage of the process and managing the sale. If you do what your competitors do in a given situation, expect the same treatment. The simple rule to follow is that you should never deliver pricing before you have a complete understanding of the prospect’s needs AND have an agreement on a solution that exactly meets their decision criteria. If you haven’t created the value to ensure you win the deal, you aren’t ready to deliver pricing.
The second problem with delivering pricing early is that cuts off the likelihood of further conversations.
Sales folklore has it that in the early days of Ross Perot’s EDS, they never delivered a final proposal and pricing. They only scheduled pre-proposal meetings. They would always present, insisting on a chance to make revisions and return later.
Emailing or Handing Over a Presentation
“Thanks. We have your presentation. We are going to go over it and we’ll get back to you.”
Another way to take yourself out of the sale is to email your presentation. Once the prospect has your your presentation, you have made it far less likely that you can influence the deal. With your fine four-color glossies in hand, all of their questions can now be answered, right? The trouble is that, as wonderful as all of our four-color glossy proposals and presentations are now, it is no substitute for the ability to have a dialogue with the prospect directly.
Brochures and written presentations cannot collect the spoken and unspoken opinions that the prospect develops as they read; they cannot answer the prospects questions as they occur; they don’t correct mistaken interpretations; and they don’t lead to the relationships that allow value to be created. That is what we do as salespeople.
Not Scheduling Meetings with Stakeholders
“I am going to present your information to my team here, and we’ll see what they think. I’ll get back to you after we have discussed it.”
You are not selling to the decision-maker seated across from you. You’re not. I promise. Outside of their office or conference room is an entire organization, many of whom will be affected in some way by their decision. Those people are who you are also selling to, even if they are not present.
Truth be told, few of these decision-makers make decisions independently. They are surrounded by people whose opinions, in many cases, they value far more than yours. How are you and your company perceived by each of the stakeholders? Do they know who you are? Do they know how you can create value for them? When they hear that you may be chosen as a new partner, what is the first thing that comes to their minds? Is it the fear that you don’t them? That you don’t their specific needs well enough to help them?
It is easy to feel good about letting yourself be taken out the sale. It feels right: The prospect asked for something, and we always try to give the prospect what they asked for. But sometimes it isn’t right to give the prospect what they ask for. Sometimes it is better to do the right thing and to sell the idea that something else is needed before pricing, proposals, or presentations can be delivered.
Choosing to do what is right is always harder than doing what is easy, especially when doing what is easy feels right.
Taking yourself out the sales is never an effective choice.
It is our job to create value, and that requires much more than simply providing pricing, emailing a written proposal, or allowing the prospect to present our solution within their own organization and without us.
1. What are you doing now that takes you out of the sale? Do you simply email pricing or proposals?
2. What could you change so that you could be there to influence the decision and sell, instead of allowing the decision to be made independent of you and your ability to effect the outcome?
3. How could you make yourself present at each stage of the prospect’s decision-making process?
For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.
Read my interview on business relationships by Joe Sperry at S4 Consulting.
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Filed under: Sales