Based on a true story.
“We appreciate all the work you’ve done but we’ve decided to stick with our previous supplier,” the plant manager said to the salesperson.
The salesperson couldn’t believe his ears. He had been making excellent strides at the account for the past several weeks.
He had approached and found them viable and worthy of his time.
He found out who the decision makers were.
He had secured meetings with those key players.
He diligently worked at discovery, finding/creating an opportunity to provide the customer with a superior solution to one of their operations.
Finally, he had flawlessly executed that solution’s demo to a very positive reception just 2 visits ago.
This all culminated with his previous call where he had presented his proposal. He brought a superior solution, at a FAR LOWER demonstrated cost, and procured an agreement to move forward. Everything was done right?
Even when things are “done” they might not be done. One of my mentors once told me that the deal was never done for him until the customer actually paid the invoice. Good philosophy. Don’t spend the money before it’s in your account 🙂
So, when you’re blindsided with a new scenario that seems more like a nightmare than reality, what should you do?
You need to DELIVER in your Moments of Truth.
Think of the Moment of Truth as a metaphorical fork in the road. Although instead of a left and right option, this fork’s 2 options are to keep moving straight ahead, or to make a U-turn.
Anytime you are faced with a chance to advance or regress in an account, based on your words and actions, you are standing in a Moment of Truth. I would argue that very early on in a sales relationship, you are facing successive Moments of Truth, maybe 2, 3, 4 calls in a row, while the buyer is still trying to decide whether or not to work with you.
They are more common early on, but they never go away:
A competitor tries to cut you off at the knees at an account you’ve had for years.
Your buyer contact moves on and the replacement already has a friend that sells what you sell.
A larger company acquires your account and now they are thinking of putting everything out to bid.
There are lots of opportunities for things to go “wrong.” It is in how you handle these moments that determine your career success over the long term.
So how do you develop the ability to perform under pressure?
That question brings us to the magical foundation of performing well in the Moment of Truth.
You need to achieve the Position of Power.
What is the PoP? The Position of Power is a place where, all things being equal, your client would choose to do business with you over your competitors. A SERIOUS PoP would be where all things aren’t equal, NOT in your favor, and your client STILL would rather work with you.
How does one get to that place?
Experience – Try not to make the same mistake twice. Learn from them.
Selling Skills – How often do you role-play your most difficult sales situations? When is the last time you took a class or read 5 different books on selling and relating with people? Performing well in a Moment of Truth with a decision maker just might propel you into the Position of Power in a matter of 3 or 4 minutes. Insane…but it happens. Could you make that happen if the opportunity presented itself?
Work Habits – The fastest way to gain experience is by performing a LARGE volume of work. What do you DO, day in and out? How does that prepare you for the inevitable surprises?
Selling Process – How effective is your entire approach? What kind of client relationship does this yield for you? Would your client choose you every time? Would your clients shut your competitors down before they could even get started on their value proposition? Some of them might. Heck, maybe you’re an all star and the majority of them might. What can you do to keep that going? Relationships like that need to be maintained. They aren’t a given. You want your clients to wonder how they survived without you. That’s power.
So how can you know if you’ve achieved the PoP? Unfortunately its mostly a hindsight thing.
The only way to know for sure that you’re in it is that you “win” in consecutive Moments of Truth. If you truly have the PoP, you will generally receive cost guidance, last look opportunities, and they may even tell you your competitors came calling.
Quick tangent: If your customer ever tells you the competition stopped in to see them…there is about a 95% chance they prefer the idea of staying with you. Some of them do it to keep you on your toes or give you a hard time, but most of them do it just to let you know. Its almost like a “hey, make sure you appreciate us” kind of thing. They like you though.
Think about it…if they intended to leave you because a competitor began calling on them, they certainly wouldn’t tell YOU about it early on. This could even be a moment of truth. If you panic or get weird (especially to the client) that sends an interesting message about you.
Back on topic: so how did things work out for our salesperson at the beginning?
I am happy to tell you that because of the respect he earned by following the process, he had laid the groundwork to be in the Position of Power. Even though the prospects of closing the deal seemed grim, he was able to reel it back in, by performing in the Moment of Truth:
After he got the news from the plant manager, he responded:
“So, (Buyer Name) Do you mean to tell me, that after I’ve been coming here to see you for 2 months, I’ve showed you a superior solution, and exposed the borderline price gouging that was happening to you, you’re going to give all that business back to the very same guy? Does that make sense to you?”
The plant manager thought about it for a moment and said, “No…You’re right. Thank you for pointing that out.”
He extended his hand to the salesperson and said, “I’m looking forward to working with you.”
Someone toss me an EASY button already.
All kidding aside, this win was just like all the other wins in sales: It only looks easy if you’ve done the hard work first…
…when no one was looking.