You are the Difference
One of the challenges many sales people face is the sheer volume of direct and indirect competition. In some cases it is not the worst thing especially if you can differentiate yourself, your company and your product. But it certainly a big challenge when you are part of an industry that has a lot of players and the reality is that you are fighting of the pressures of commoditization daily. Consider, transport, telephony, hardware, office supply and others. You can see how hard it can become to differentiate on the basis of product or company. Just look at Staples latest TV ad, where the guy is looking at the products on the shelf yelling his surprise about how low the prices are. We think that’s just wrong, but I guess they feel they have run out of options. Don’t worry you have not.
So if you can’t differentiate based on product, or company, it comes down that the differentiating factor needs to be you, and the way you sell. Looking at one specific is how you handle proposals or quotes. In many instances it has evolved in to a strange game that most are forced, even if begrudgingly, to play, not only competing based on price, but allowing the process to be “called in.”
Here is the scenario, you prospect a specific buyer, they tell you their all set, like a pro you persist and they finally give you the opportunity to “compete”, sort of. “Listen, why don’t send me a quote, and I’ll take a look and I’ll let you know.” Some see this as a win, an opportunity, “great, I’ll get it together and get it to you then follow up.” They labour and prepare a quote, then either e-mail or fax it in, wait a day or two of six and then call the prospect, no answer, three voice mails, lots of frustration, then they finally connect; only to be told that they were too high, or “it looks good, I’ll keep you in mind”, or variations there of. While this may not be common in some industries, but it is in many others.
But you don’t have to do that, I understand the pull of the process, the opportunity to bid, that shot at some business. But it also presents an opportunity to differentiate yourself by choosing either not to play the game or play it differently. Making the choice not to play is straight forward, not easy, I understand that the choice not to play, leads to a clear conclusion, no business. But if you play, then it is just a question of time before someone comes and undercuts you, then someone undercuts them, and if you want to get back in the game you undercut them, and it just spirals down from there.
Why not take a different tact, first off before you quote get something in return, a meeting, a plant tour, something that will open up the discussion and lead to mutual discovery. Go further, if pushed for a quote, say straight out that you don’t do things that way. Tell the prospect “that my experience has taught me that in most instances, when we just send in a quote, it is rarely taken seriously and usually leads to a bidding war. The customers we win and serve over time are the ones we sat down with, explored their requirements, and then propose something based on a clear understanding.” I know that this will not fly every time or most of the time, but what happens when you throw that quote against the wall? Exactly.
Even when you do things right and you find yourself having to send in the quote, do it differently. Tell them you want to schedule time to submit and review it together. If they say no, you have a choice to make. If they agree, and enough will, let’s say to a call Wednesday at 11:00 (a meeting would be preferred, but let’s say you can only get a call), they will usually ask that you send it in advance, and you have no choice but to agree. Tilt things in your favour, advance is a relative term, could mean a day before, a week before, but it also means 10:59 Wednesday, and that’s my choice. Why give them the advantage to look at your quote without you having the benefit of heir immediate reaction. If you send it in a day or two in advance, they may like your quote, but start thinking about how and what they want to bargain. They may find you less costly and turn to their current supplier to match it, and in this environment they will. Eliminate that by sending it in just as you are calling, if you have it in you as they get on the phone, you will get their first reaction and be able to work that rather than a delayed, rehearsed or other reaction.
One other thought, if they do go to their current supplier for a price to match yours, get ahead of that too, tell the prospect that the incumbent will offer a match price to keep their business, but where were they till now?
Jim Keenan, sales blogger extraordinaire, who can be found at A Sales Guy, is taking it up a notch with Sales Smack at TalkShoe. As Jim says “Sales Smack gets everyone’s opinions. Sales Smack throws down sales topics that never seem to get answered. Sales Smack brings together, sales dorks, entrepreneurs, marketing weenies and anyone else with an opinion on how to run a business better for a full on business, sales and marketing smack-down. Do you have an opinion? Come on now, don’t be shy. SAY IT!”
So join Jim, me and many more on the first of a series of Sales Smack, tomorrow at 7:00 pm eastern, everything you need to know is at Sales Smack. You want to be there because your competition may be.
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