Apologies for the sabbatical from my blogs…been busy on-boarding in my new avatar as Vice President Business Development of a great technology startup that will disrupt the social media space in the remote , rural , under-served, economically deprived, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets. The company I speak of is called GramVaani media (http://www.gramvaani.org/)
All this while I have addressed a distinguished gathering at the Rockefeller foundation‘s , Rock Talk event, and participated at the RMAI round table.
During all this, I have had the opportunity to engage with a group of very bright, young women who are raring to have a go at key account management and sales with a great new platform that is poised to disrupt the wedding services space in India.
They posed a very good question to me- what would be set of some basic key questions that could warm up a cold prospect in the first meeting, agnostic to the vertical or the profile of the prospect (client). And I started to think on this and came up with this list that I believe would serve many who have the same question bothering them.
- What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
- What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
- What don’t you like about your current situation?
- What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
- Have you spoken to other solution providers to address your current specific challenge?
- What can you tell me about your priorities and your options?
- What obstacles are there in the way of this initiative moving forward?
- What will be your criterion of evaluating different options if at all?
- How much have your budgeted for this proposal/project?
- When do you wish to start?
Try these questions with a cold prospect and write back to me with your inputs and comments…
more than happy to ideate with you !
I hope you have been enjoying these blogs dealing with how some customers play mind tricks with us sales reps!
Do take out time to read the last 3 blogs, on the same subject…
Now lets talk about this trick that customers play with us….
TRICK NUMBER 4
False Cold Feet
- Explanation: During the final negotiations, the prospect pretends to question the wisdom of the deal.
- Example: “I realized we’ve been working on this for a long time, but we’re not really sure that this is the right thing for us to do at this time.”
- Their Hidden Agenda: They’re trying to scare you into thinking you’ll lose the deal so that you’ll offer some concessions.
- Your Strategy: Determine whether there’s a real problem. If so, roll back the sales cycle; if not, push through.
- What YOU Say: “Exactly what is making you question the deal?”
- What Will Happen: If (as is likely) the objection isn’t real, the negotiation will proceed as before.
- Warning: If the objection IS real, you’ll need to step back from the negotiation process and return to an earlier stage in your sales cycle.
From my little experience, this trick is not real in majority of cases, and the way that I handled this trick was simple.
Dont react to this obvious shock to begin with- maintain and calm demeanor and immediately inform your boss of what happened.
Walk away from the final negotiation table, clearly mentioning to the customer that when ever they are ready, the negotiated terms would have to be re-visited; do inform the client that while the terms can be fast tracked since a lot has already been invested in the engagement over so many months, but a sweet deal cannot be guaranteed under the present circumstances ( postponement of the decision).
On the way out, tell them that a window of 24 hours is open for a rethink on this decision by the client and that the file would be kept “hot” until that deadline. Be polite, BUT be firm and in many cases, the client does get the message that you meant every word you said, and he will in all probability call you up in the next 24 hours.
Try it and let me know if this worked for you.
This series of blogs is to do with the reality that many of us in Sales function face every day.
While we may have had the best of training, with the best of trainers and mentors and bosses, we may have been born with the sales smarts, we may even have picked up some selling acumen through sheer experience, we have to live the with reality that CUSTOMER is indeed KING ….has been, is, and always will be.
NOW…your customers/clients KNOW this reality and despite all your selling prowess, still play dirty with you, trick you and lead you up the garden path. Sadly , very often, you do fall victim to your customer’s tricks and these series are an attempt to highlight some common tricks that customer’s play with you.
DIRTY TRICK #1: The Free Consulting Request
- Explanation: A demand that you provide substantial up-front work without any commitment from them.
- Example: “We’ll consider you for the job if you write us a detailed, 50 page requirements document.”
- Their Hidden Agenda: They want the benefit of your experience and knowledge for free.
- Your Strategy: Before agreeing to do any up-front work, demand a significant concession that will help you close the business.
- What YOU Say: “We’ll be happy to work with you on that document, providing you give us regular access to your top management team.”
- What Will Happen: You’ll get the inside track on developing the opportunity.
- Warning: If you don’t demand something significant, the customer will know you’re a patsy.
Personally I have faced this dilemma ever so often and have just learnt to discern the serious customer from the one who is playing you.
There is no short cut to “learning” this…it comes from a series of cases, of failures, rewinding the entire “case” in your mind, discussing with your mentor/boss, analyzing what exactly went wrong in the engagement, and imbibing that into your client engagement SOP and looking for warning signs the next time around, so that you are not walked across the garden path again!
LET THE CUSTOMER BEWARE!!!
I started as a sales rep with J&J some 18 years back and despite the progression in my career, have always been close to the sales function. Even as the P&L head for the business in Africa, I made it a point to share my earned knowledge with the team, and ensured that those in operations were in some manner a part of the sales function.
Over the years as a professional my belief has been strengthened that a stint in sales in a must for ALL key functionaries within the organization , and by that I mean , marketing,manufacturing, finance, stores, logistics.
What you have to understand, and understand well is even if you manage engineers, marketing, operations, or customer service; you’re still a salesperson. You sell every day. You don’t just sell products and services; you sell your projects, budget, ideas, and capabilities. And your customers aren’t just the paying kind; they include everybody you interface with.
During my 18 years career I have learnt some critical lessons because of my stint in various sales roles and this is why I believe that every manager should have a stint in sales as well
- Shut up and listen. Nothing you’ve ever read or learned is nearly as important as what the person across from you is about to say … if you just shut up and listen. When you talk first, you lock yourself into a position or path. But if you listen, you gain far more information.
- Problems create opportunities. Your biggest and best opportunities to make a difference will always be when things go wrong. How you respond in time of crisis, when somebody needs you, is a window into your true capability. And that spells opportunity if you rise to the occasion.
- It’s all about relationships. There are no companies or businesses, just people. Business is all about individuals and their interrelationships. When things go wrong, that’s the glue that holds everything together. There’s no such thing as a self-sustaining business.
- Your customer always does come first. Call it business Karma, but whatever you have going on, whatever you expect to accomplish on any given day, when somebody, anybody comes to you with a problem, help them first. Remember: you have way more customers than you think.
- Understand motives. When you think about what you’re going to say or do, you miss an opportunity to make a difference. If, on the other hand, you ask, “how can I help you,” or ask yourself “what’s in it for her,” you’ll be in a far better position to help … and recognize opportunities.