Thursday, March 31, 2011

 

The Biggest Goof Sellers Make When Dealing with Hot Prospects

Guest post by Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

I dream of hot prospects who call me up and say, “We’ve heard good things about your company. We want to make a decision quickly. We’re hoping you can help us out.”

Occasionally my sales fantasies turn into realities. When it happens, it’s so easy to be seduced by this low-handing fruit. Outwardly, I try to appear calm, cool and collected – a true professional. But inside, every inch of my body wants to scream out, “Take me! Take me!”

Okay. I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I really want to make my point.

It’s so easy to be tempted by these opportunities. And when you yield to this temptation, you make fatal mistakes—ones that can totally derail your sales efforts and cause you to lose the business.

True, But Embarrassing Story

Let me give you a personal example, to show you how easy it is to get caught up in this seduction.

A few years ago, my primary business focus was working with large corporations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area when they were launching new products. My expertise? Helping them shorten time to revenue on new product introductions.

I’d just launched SellingtoBigCompanies.com to help small businesses gain access to my expertise. It was my new baby. I’d invested tons of time and lots of love to get it up and running.

When the phone rang that day, I answered absentmindedly. But when the caller announced that he was from Southwest Airlines, I snapped to attention. He’d been all over my new Web site, was very impressed, and also very interested in my training programs.

The airline was going to be putting its salespeople through training in the not-too-distant future and was evaluating its options. When I asked who else he was looking at, I was delighted to be included with the industry biggies.

Mr. Southwest had dozens of questions about my content, delivery models, remote training options, learning reinforcement and more. I answered every single one of them in glorious detail.

When he requested a proposal, I asked, “How soon?” When he answered that he wanted it in two days, I quickly agreed.

The proposal I sent to him via e-mail covered everything we had talked about in our conversation, plus a full range of pricing options. It was a masterpiece. I had high hopes that this opportunity would take my business to a whole new level.

I never heard from Mr. Southwest again. Even though I contacted him many times, he never called back.

Lesson Learned

It was my own fault. I mistakenly let my own eagerness to land this marquis customer outweigh my common sense.

The truth is I really needed the business at that time. After spending many months and lots of money to create SellingtoBigCompanies.com, I was running short on cash. I should have known better, but I was seduced by the opportunity.

In retrospect, I failed to find out if Mr. Southwest was just exploring his options or actually in the final stages of decision making. It’s highly likely he was just doing the former.

Had I known that, I would never have written a detailed proposal. Instead, I would have focused on helping him determine the business value of making a change. I would have used my expertise to help him sell the concept internally and establish decision criteria favorable to my solution.

Over and over again, I see other sellers make similar mistakes when they have a hot prospect on the line. Like me, they expound on their capabilities and benefits. They willingly provide detailed information and do tons of extra work to create proposals or presentations—anything the prospects want.

While that puts you into the “nice” seller category, it’s not a good business decision to invest tons of time and effort to land a fantasy customer. Nor does it help your prospects make the best decision for their organization.

If Mr. Southwest was actually deciding in a couple days, I should have addressed the fact that I was a small boutique firm that didn’t compete head-on with the larger companies he was looking at.

Doing business with me would have been risky. I knew that. But I didn’t want to bring it up; I was hoping he wouldn’t notice!

I was so blinded by the opportunity that I was willing to do anything that he asked. It was delusional on my part. Wishful thinking. Hopeful. When we feel this seduction, we need to remind ourselves that “hope is not a strategy.”

While hot prospects may hold the promise of big paychecks, there’s often much that still needs to be determine if it’s a good fit for your company.

Don’t be overeager. Instead be ruthlessly realistic. Detach from the fantasy and assess your true chances. Bring up the tough questions.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do for both you and your prospect.



Want to learn more about the new rules of selling to crazy-busy prospects? To get four FREE sales-accelerating tools and download two chapters of SNAP Selling, visit www.snapselling.com or email jill@snapselling.com

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