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Sometimes a “no thanks” is an opportunity to build trust

Posted on: March 21st, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

In a consultative sales environment it is important to manage expectations and to understand that the sale will happen on your prospect’s terms and not when you want it to happen. This is true in pretty much any sales situation but it is essential in a long-term sales prospecting scenario.

No is the second best answer when you prospect new business

Why?

Because it can help you build the trust and it will assist you in opening a dialogue with the prospect where you can be of assistance and add value.

Let’s paint a scenario. You are selling a software that enables clients to streamline production. Your prospect responds to your outreach saying that they are not interested in a conversation right now because they already work with a trusted company. This is your opportunity to congratulate your prospect on the fact that they already work with a company that helps them in that area and it is an opportunity to ask for permission to reach out again. Should they agree (and in 90% of the cases they do), make it your goal for the three to  six months to arm your prospect with information about your company and your service offering. Don’t just call back  checking the pulse and trying to get another meeting. This is your chance to build a relationship and trust.

How?

You can send your prospect relevant information on your company, such as case studies. Or, whenever you come across information that might be relevant to your prospect, such as media coverage on your company or news on developments relating to the prospect, make a phone call or send an email.

Add value in your communication and be personal. Weave in personal messages as long as they are relevant. If you know that your prospect is a football fan, you can reach out when their favorite team plays the Superbowl. If you happen to know that your prospect is a movie buff, mention a movie that you find intriguing asking for her/his opinion. The most important thing is to be authentic and not “salesy”.  As long as you come from a place of integrity and authenticity you will be successful in building a trusting relationship.

This doesn’t mean that you will win the contract when it is up for renewal, but it will certainly increase your chances to be considered. People like to work with people that they know and trust. But trust is something that needs to be built, it doesn’t happen overnight. Many sales people make the mistake of only communicating with their prospects when they feel that a sale could be made. From a prospect perspective it doesn’t feel genuine . When you show interest in your prospect during times where no sale can be made, that’s your chance to turn a No into a Maybe and eventually into a Yes (if your offering is suited for your prospect’s needs). During the times where you build your relationship you can also gain valuable insights on your prospect’s needs, such as their role within the organization, who they report to, what their budget is and so much more.

When does a No really mean No?

When you are not targeting the right person within the organization.  It is key for you to find out if the solution/product that you are offering is something the decision maker you are targeting is interested in and/or authorized to buy.

The lesson to be learned is that a No doesn’t necessarily mean that your prospect will never buy from you. All it means that the timing wasn’t right or the circumstances didn’t align. The key is to target the right person within the organization and to understand their needs and objectives. Time will work in your favor as long as you are professional, mindful and consultative.

RFPs – Curse or blessing?

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Is your company struggling to respond to RFPs? Are you at times almost going into a lockdown? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you probably know what I am talking about. Resources being pulled from all departments, long work days and sometimes nights, frantic scrambling to make your company and service offering look the best. But have you considered the possibility that all the effort often doesn’t matter?  For there are many RFPs that were really written by somebody else!

What do I mean by that?

It means that the incumbent provider or perhaps the “new kid on the block” helped shape and design the RFP. The decision whom to award the contract was already made before the document was sent out. Many companies are required by law to issue an RFP or RFQ.  Sometimes they honestly consider other contestants but often they know who will end up winning the project.

Why do companies then respond to RFPs?

I have asked myself that question many times. About five years ago I was consulting for an event marketing agency in New York and during one of their strategy meetings (where I was invited as an advisor) the subject of a new RFP was brought up by one of their account managers. There was a large RFP that needed responding to issued by a major Pharma company. There was an intense discussion about resources and costs. When I asked whether they had considered NOT responding, the expression on their faces said it all. They had never even entertained the idea. It was almost as if I had asked them to move Christmas to the 25th of January. An interesting discussion followed and it was agreed to put together a checklist of qualifying criteria for responding to further RFPs, such as

  • Are we in a good position to answer to this RFP (from a resource standpoint)?
  • Do we know enough about the prospect to stand a fair chance?
  • Does our service offering truly match what is outlined in the RFP?
  • Do we have access to the people who issued the RFP?
  • And many more…..

Why do some companies struggle with an RFP if it doesn’t make sense?

Because it’s a widespread view that it’s easier to respond than to actively prospect. Instead of establishing a mindful sales process where prospective target companies are chosen and a pipeline is built, many organizations just sit back and wait for RFPs to come in. It provides the “false” sense of sales activity. And in addition it drains resources that could be better put to use in business development. Building a mindful sales approach and choosing to target companies that are a better match than the ones that issue RFPs might initially cost some time and money. Your end result will be a much more cost effective client acquisition and more rewarding.

When does it make sense to respond to RFPs?

In my opinion, the following two elements should always be present: 1) When you or someone in your organization has access to the key decision makers(s), and 2) When the RFP requirements are well aligned with your company’s offerings and resources. In other words, if you are invited to shape the RFP and you know that the RFP was issued because the prospect is not happy with the current provider, then go for it. If, on the other hand the prospect tells you that they are quite happy with the existing provider but an RFP is issued to find out if there are potential improvements, the chances of winning will be fairly low.

When prospecting and developing business, always ask yourself those questions:

  • Does my service offering help my clients make money and/or
  • Does my service offering help my clients save money and/or
  • Does my service offering help elevate my client’s reputation internally