I’d like to save you a few hundred hours of personal time over the next few years and from the associated eyestrain resulting from staring at your computer for 30-40 minutes at a time putting together pointless quotes and proposals.
The insight I’m sharing today hit me about a year ago while I was riding with a rep that wasn’t performing up to company expectations. In fact…he was failing pretty hard. In the process, he was giving me some pure gold sales lessons, mainly: what not to do!
A little background: I had ridden along with him about 6 weeks before this particular day, and I watched him have a great intro conversation with a buyer at a fastener company. They had connected on a personal level (they were both single parents), and he did a pretty good job of outlining our company’s benefits, and he seemed to have successfully sold the buyer on our sales process. We walked out of the call thinking….this is a good one here! All is well right?
He didn’t follow the process he had successfully pitched! Why? I don’t know! He never went back over the course of the 6 weeks, which was totally at odds with the company’s 2 week calling cycle…not to mention he had told the buyer he would be back in 2
weeks. Then he sort of disappeared…nothing like starting things off with a broken committment.
In the interim, he had sent this buyer a list of prices somewhere in the 6 week gap.
When we walked in the front door of the account on that first 4-weeks-too-late callback, she was in standing in the lobby. She looked at us as we came through the front door and sort of panicked. I watched her head do a double take and her body involuntarily shook. It was clear she didn’t want to meet with us. I am certain she would have thought it just fine if she had never seen our rep again. Here is how the very awkward conversation went between the rep and the prospect:
Rep: Hey there! How you doing? I just wanted to stop in and see if you had a chance to review my pricing? (Please note how little he’s bringing to the table here. We could have mailed a catalog.)
Prospect: Yeah, I did. Thanks for sending it, but I am really happy with my current supplier. He’s doing a good job right now. (READ: I have a relationship there that you and I do not have.)
Rep: Were my prices good? (Kill me now, this is clearly irrelevant based on what she JUST said.)
Prospect: Some were ok, some were higher, but like I said, we’re really happy with our current supplier. (Reiterating the existing relationship)
Rep: Can I take another shot at it? I can send you some new prices. (At this point the hairs on my neck are standing up and I am just like…DUDE! Its over!)
Then the prospect said the magic words that will ring in my ears for the rest of my career:
Prospect: Listen, I really like my supplier and his prices are fair. Any price you give me, he’ll be willing to match it. (READ: I like him, I do not know you. I have made my choice.)
Without having developed the relationship to the point that this buyer would at least be a little interested in our sales rep, the price was IRRELEVANT! Yet he was still there, basically begging for business, offering no real value other than price alone.
When approaching a new opportunity, do everything you can to avoid giving a customer a price until you’ve built enough rapport together. Get the relationship solidified first. Then when its finally time to submit a proposal or price list you can have a qualifying conversation first to determine if you would or wouldn’t be wasting your time! On visit #2 or 3, say something like, “You know what? I’d like to put together a custom order form…basically a menu of sorts, of the things you can buy from me. Does that sound good?”
They will TELL you right there if they are interested in your prices/working with you. SO MANY sales reps walk in and ASK to quote pieces of business on call #1, before they are known or liked, and before they know the needs of the buyer! I can’t think of a more futile excercise. Unless the buyer is just dying to leave their current supplier and tells you its your lucky day, quoting on call #1 is a losing proposition. Sadly, I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a sales call with a rep, where instead of bringing something of value to show the prospect, the primary purpose of the call was simply to follow up on a quote that was turned in 2 weeks (or more) prior. This is low value stuff 🙁
Do you know what the buyer has said to the sales rep 90% of the time?
“Oh yeah, I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.” — Good thing the rep spent an hour putting that together!
Develop your relationships out in the field. If you are lucky enough to have a proven and defined sales process at your company…FOLLOW IT…especially if you successfully sold it on the first call.
People are busy doing business with people they KNOW and LIKE. They certainly can’t be bothered to do business with people they don’t.