Sales professionals have a tough job. While constantly under pressure to make their monthly or quarterly sales numbers they have to deal with prospects that – well don’t always represent their position of authority or their company’s requirements accurately. You know the story. How many times have you been told that someone is the decision maker, only to learn later that they clearly are not? Well here are two situations that come up frequently and what you can do about them.
Situation 1: The Fake Opportunity
A prospect calls and needs a complete proposal from you as soon as possible. They have never spoken with you or tried your product, but the caller claims they will be making a decision right away and you are in the running – just get us that proposal. Big red flag, don’t you think?
Chances are that this prospect needs to get one or two other proposals to satisfy others in the organization about why they are selecting your competition, and you were just lucky enough that they called you. So what do you do? Well my advice is, don’t do it. You do not want to spend valuable time creating a formal proposal for an opportunity that simply does not exist. But you can do something to satisfy this request and not upset the prospect; you never know if you will be engaged with them down the road.
Send a brief description of your product or service with a range of pricing such as: “Our high quality widgets run between $2,000 to $4,000 dollars based on the options selected.” Send nothing more. This allows you to turn the situation around. Now you are in control of the process, not the prospect. If they have a real interest they will come back to you asking for more detail, but don’t count on it. This is most likely a fake opportunity and you are being used to satisfy a decision that has already been made.
Situation 2: The Uninformed Gatekeeper
You are dealing with the person who told you they are the decision maker, or are they? This person has asked you to modify your proposal not once or twice, but three times; and you are probably not done yet. Why? Because they are presenting the information to others who are part of the decision process, and these people have questions that the gatekeeper has not asked.
If you confront this individual they may tell you that you misunderstood what they said. Perhaps they indicated that they are driving the process, managing the process or controlling it. Or perhaps they simply lied about their authority. It would not be the first time this has happened.
So what should you do? Ask to present your proposal to the group that is making the decision. Your contact will most likely indicate that this is not possible – he or she will be representing you and will be in touch if they require additional information. Well how comforting is that? If this happens to you, chances are you have already lost the sale. So how should you proceed?
Well you have two options here. “Play the game” and wait for the results, or “Call the game” and take a proactive approach to earning their business. Tell your contact that you see no reason to continue the process. The prospect may allow you to simply walk away and fade into the sunset which means they were never really serious anyway. Or they may agree to try and work something out with you. If they are seriously interested in your product or service they will work something out, even if it’s a brief introduction to the other players via the telephone or an internet presentation. The point here is that you now have access to the right people and you know that this is a real opportunity for you. Some may think this is a gutsy approach, but ask yourself – do you want to play the game or call the game?
About the Author:
Larry Caretsky is the President and CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software. Caretsky has run sales organizations in Fortune 100 software firms and has written numerous articles on the subject of CRM and Best Practices for improving sales execution. These articles are available at www.commence.com.
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Photo Credit: “Goalkeeper” by Dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net