The worst question you can ask a prospect.


My internal reaction when I hear a salesperson say the following words:

Can I quote you on…?

For the salespeople I work with, the word “quote” has been removed from their lexicon.   We do not quote.  We build relationships, propose new ideas, and then take orders.  Losers quote…then hope.  Quoting is hitting the ball to the other side of the court with no guarantee it will be hit back.  Quoting is counterproductive to generating high value.   Why?  Because ANY rookie sales rep can turn in a quote.  We strive to do things others can’t.

The irony?  Anyone can learn to do this.

The beauty?  Very few will ever will.

Throwing a cheap price on a page and emailing it to a prospect is hardly a new strategy. Prospects have seen it many times before.  Doing this lowers your perceived value and can even generate distrust.  Most importantly, the chances of success are dismal!   Why?  Because there is NO relationship!  All there is, is a price.  If you’ve read this post, you’ll understand how futile quoting is, especially during the first few points of contact with a new prospect.

So why is this such a popular method of getting business?  I can’t understand it…but have you ever wondered if there is a link between this poor strategy and the fact that the vast majority of new B2B salespeople fail?   I would wager its because their primary approach to attaining new business is quoting prices to people with whom they have ZERO relationship.  This approach is fraught with frustration, heartache, and backbreaking amounts of busywork.   I’m here to tell you there is a better way.

–Caveat: the prospect NEEDS to buy something right now and they’re begging you for a price…of course you COULD quote a price and take an order, but even then you’d be better served asking all your typical qualifying questions to see if you may have an even better solution than what the prospect is clamoring for.  You’re supposedly the expert. Be one.

How can we avoid all that low value, trust inhibiting, time wasting crap?

Step 1 is to learn everything you can about the prospect’s specific needs (and for the real all stars — learn the prospect’s pain and pleasure motivators).

Step 2 is to present ideas and solutions that are new, that RELATE to those needs.  When you’ve interacted with the client for a while (a length of time which is severely dependent on your interpersonal skills) a relationship will begin develop and the client will be much more receptive to you and your ideas.  THEN, when you propose a new solution to an existing circumstance, you are no longer quoting….you’re creating.    I’ll never forget one of my mentors giving me one of the greatest sales statements I’ve heard: “We’re not just competitive, we’re creative.”   That has stuck with me for years…and it rings true.  What that is saying is we’re not here to quote you a price that is (hopefully!) a few cents cheaper per part than you’re getting now….we’re here to propose a solution that costs 40% less….or that requires you to invest 5% more but doubles your product throughput, etc, etc…

If you’ve read any number of business books, you know how the advice goes:  If the odds are against you, change the rules of the game.  Quoting is a strategy that rarely leads to winning the game.  Change the rules instead.

One of THE best examples of a rule change in the history of business happened in just the last decade.  In 2007 Apple didn’t announce a version of a phone with a fixed keyboard that was 10% cheaper than the competition.  They made a full touch screen phone where the software could allow for ANY kind of user interface.  In his 2007 keynote, which I HIGHLY recommend you watch (just the first three minutes and tell me you aren’t hooked, and in the first 7 minutes Steve changes the rules) Steve Jobs proclaimed a modest goal of 1% market share for their new phone.  By changing the rules of the game, Apple now owns more than 70% of the mobile phone industry profits.  Do you know how insane that is?Their iPhone business alone is larger than each of their major competitors (google, microsoft, amazon). They didn’t MAKE a phone 6 years ago…and now they are the dominant player in the market…because they CHANGED THE RULES of the mobile phone game. I’d really encourage you to watch that entire iPhone announcement to see how many times the crowd gasps or oohs or aahs….every single one of those came when they realized the iPhone could do things much easier than ever before.

Apple chose not to “QUOTE” us on a new phone.  They proposed a NEW and IMPROVED solution to the problem that we didn’t even realize we had.  They CREATED a need out of thin air!

Lest you think I am insane…of course you will have to talk about your price at some point in the sales process, but if you’ve done this right, you’ll be talking about the price after the client has decided to buy…now its just part of the details, rather than a roadblock you constructed for yourself by ASKING to quote.

The price of the least expensive new iPhone in 2007 was $499, an astronomical price for a mobile phone….and people lined up around the block to pay for one.  They saw the value.

I encourage you to go out in the marketplace and look for all the ways you can deliver more than a quote.  Start with the previous post, and get at it.




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