The TV series Mad Men is about people in the advertising business in the 1960’s, and the main character Don Draper drinks a lot and makes bad personal decisions. The show often uses real ad campaigns from the period and fictionalizes the pitches made to buyers. That alone is enough for me to watch. But what really intrigues me is Don Draper’s Four Rules of Selling. In the story, they work – as you would expect. Well, most of the time. Do they apply to real life? I wonder.
One of the key concerns of the sales team I advise is the increase in projects requiring multiple bidders. As a result, the cost of customer acquisition is on the rise. We all talk about the commoditization of products and even services, but I think we should also focus on the commoditization of the proposal itself. I am not going to suggest that you charge for proposals – I think that is still a non-starter! However, rather than give quotes away – often indiscriminately writing one for any opportunity – sales representatives should emphasize the scarcity of their proposals.
What do you really know about a potential buyer? Does your qualification process only consider the types of projects and revenue? What happens if you fail to pick up on the customer’s buying style? Even a project that seems a perfect fit may be managed by a buyer whose priorities don’t match what you offer. If your product or service is tooled for high levels of service and customized solutions, then a steady stream of price shoppers will suck your resources up and drive your margins down. Likewise, if your value is derived from depth of resources and simplified options, you won’t line up well with buyers that want to control the process and customize the solutions. The more time you waste on mis-matched opportunities, the lower your margins. It gets worse. On the occasions that you do wrangle a well-suited customer to the negotiating table, will your fear of losing the order drive your price down unnecessarily? There’s a better way to qualify opportunities. Pay attention to the clues and you will derive the customer’s buying style and assess how it will apply to this particular project. There are three primary buying styles, but most customers have a secondary […]
Tom shares three steps that will turn your Request For Proposal responses into high value sales.
There was a time when I would have celebrated with you that your best prospect had just sent in an RFP (request for proposal). Now when I hear those fateful words, I shake my head and wonder what went wrong? By the time the customer has formed an RFP, most of the value in the project has evaporated. That’s why RFPs exist – they are to ensure that the customer doesn’t pay more for something than they feel it is worth. However, the amount of profit that someone is willing to let you earn is based on their perception of value, risk, and reward. Not yours. There is substantial additional value in your intellectual property, expertise, and innovation. An RFP assumes that these intangible contributions are value-added (read: free). How did the customer come to all these unfounded conclusions? Simple. You never gave them any reason to expect differently. Here is what is supposed to happen: You identify your target customer. Then you tailor your message to speak their language and establish you as an expert in your field (marketing). Next you seek out these targeted prospects (lead generation) and engage them in an intelligent conversation about their needs, pains, and intended outcomes (business development). If […]
And What to Do About Them Your sales team is not converting high-quality opportunities and you need to get to the bottom of it. If we know the symptom, we can diagnose the problem and apply the most effective counter-attack. The most common symptoms of ineffective selling are 1. Customers buying on price, 2. Quoting drills, and 3. Not closing deals. When customers insist on shopping on price, we know that this is partly from a lack a good value perspective but we also need to take into account customer insecurity. Our most effective response is to ask better questions, specifically to uncover the moment that price became important to the buyer. There is no substitute for thoughtful intuition in a sales representative, but developing some scripted questions can help less experienced reps delve into the buyer’s thought process. Without Thinking Questions, sales reps become order processors. Sometimes the customer seems to want version after version of the proposal. This is a byproduct of an unqualified opportunity being allowed to move forward. Customers often use your proposals as a tool to better educate themselves on what you do, what their options are, and how choices affect pricing. Sellers need to […]