Imagine this scenario for a moment. A new client is looking for promotional products – in particular a customised USB drive with their logo on it. As a one off it would be a big sale. Take into account the opportunity to become their preferred supplier, the value of the business over the long term and you don’t want to miss out on this.
Then you get the feeling the sale could be slipping through your fingers so you need to act fast. Some careful questioning uncovered that the client was considering cheaper promotional products from a competitor. You respond by stepping up your offering a few notches. You offer to have the clients electronic product catalogue preloaded on to the drive, and guarantee the delivery date. You say “Give me a chance to show you why what we do will stand out”. The sale is saved by doing more work than just answering a bid.
Having a keen eye for when a sale is going sour takes savvy. Here are five red flags and strategies for saving the sale:
1: An Indifferent Client
A client who is interested in doing business with you should have questions and concerns. If they don't reject you outright, but don't have any questions or engage with you, you should be on the alert.
To resolve this problem you may wish to create more of an advisory relationship with clients. You can let them know that you will offer a solution, or if you can’t you will point them in the direction of another business that can help. Offering to help people find other vendors might seem counterintuitive, but it can actually earn the trust you may need to win over a client. People will share more with an advisor than a salesperson, and they will find your honesty refreshing. It's more of a dialogue than a broadcast.
2: There's No Deadline For a Decision
Having urgency around a sale is important. Early in the process ask potential clients about their timeframe. It is wise to prioritise those customers that have a defined (and short term) deadline.
You can find ways to firm up deadlines. Limited time offers can help to create urgency around a sale. The way you get someone engaged is to find their buttons and push them. Perhaps point out what their competitors are doing, or identify the financial risk involved in not acting quickly on the sale.
3: You Aren't Dealing With The Decision Maker
In the beginning you may be talking with a junior level employee who is vetting options. If you aren't put in touch with the decision maker after a few conversations then you need to act. It can be a sign the customer isn't serious about buying. It may also mean that your chances of making a sale are diminished as you don’t get to put your case to the decision maker, find out their true requirements, or build a relationship.
Getting past that roadblock can be challenging. The bigger the organisation you are dealing with, the more layers you are likely to have to penetrate. Creating a presentation that your initial contact can easily show to upper management, or a quick conference call with the senior level person involved can be very helpful to both parties. It is a situation that needs to be tactfully handled as you need to be respectful of the person you are talking to and not undermine them.
4: Your Price is Too High
People generally object to a price because they believe they can find the same product or service for less, or because you're trying to sell more (a higher specification) than they need.
If your competitors are offering a lower price, focus on how you can provide added value. But if you're offering more than a client needs, you may need to scale back the initial proposal.
5: You're Asked For a Quote Instead of a Conversation
When potential clients ask for a quote before agreeing to talk with you, it's usually a sign they're simply gathering prices from vendors.
Before submitting a quote or proposal, ask what the client is looking for and what criteria will be used to make the decision. Reaching a verbal understanding on those issues increases the likelihood that you'll get the sale. The problem with just submitting a quote is there is no chance for them to tell you if you have any details wrong, as opposed to working through all the nuances verbally.
Posted: Wednesday 23 November 2011
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