So there you are, talking with this great potential client, right in your “sweet spot”. He has so much aching need for what you can do for him and he is prepared to spend time, money and resources to fix them. Moreover you have the perfect solution within that budget which will make them pleased to have done business. What could possibly go wrong?
Have you been there? And then, just as it is all about to happen, once they have details of your proposal, presentation and proof of concept, your potential client casually mentions that they need to review against competing providers, or take time to discuss it at board level; or they will need to get authorisation from the FD.
I have been there. I am sure you have too. We can blame the prospect all we want or take it all on the chin as inevitable in business, but really it is our fault – Totally our fault. We get so excited about what we can do for the prospect and what that will mean for us, that we just plain slide over a major part of the client acquisition process.
Before we do anything, before we waste time, hope, money, resources, (more hope), we have to fully qualify our prospect. Who else is involved in the decision? Who will be affected by it and might put a spanner in the works? What needs to be decided? It could be that a whole raft of things has to happen internally or with us before the decision can be confirmed. When would that be? Are there critical time lines that we are not aware of? Is the timeline they gave us at the outset real? Where geographically or in the organisation will the decision be made? How will that decision be made? According to what criteria: Price? Return on investment? And why is the decision being made at all or at least, why is the decision being made that way?
What difference would it make if we knew all this before we got excited and emotionally involved? Would it change the way we present our solution? Perhaps we would stop in our tracks right there. We could save hours of everybody’s time if we had the courage to ask for this detail. “Mr Huge Potential Client, will it be OK if I asked you some questions about how you make a decision like this, who tends to be involved, that sort of thing?” How long does it take in the sale interview to ask for this detail? Perhaps as little as four or five minutes. Five minutes versus enormous waste of resources including false hope.
Do not forget this important disqualification step. If you do forget, you may wish most heartily that you had spent more time with a Sandler trainer to help you with some techniques and even, perhaps, to instil the required courage.