You’ve submitted your paperwork and presented your capabilities but there are no positive signs coming back from the client.
Is it “over” or is there still time to win the business? You can win a proposal without a strategy; it’s called luck. But salespeople are paid to make their own luck. Many salespeople engage in a “quote and hope” or “spray and pray” selling strategy; they throw lots of proposals over the wall and hope to get their share of business. By now you recognize “Hope is NOT a Sales Strategy,” so the key to success lies in having a sales strategy and executing it effectively. A strategy is a plan to deploy your resources in a way that brings your strength to bear on the opponent’s weakness, thus creating momentum that leads to victory.
Most salespeople default to a classic frontal strategy of selling the company and the proposal. This tactic may be successful if your firm already has a long track record of performance and relationships with a particular client, and if the decision-making process is in the hands of your supporters. However, as the client approaches the crucible of its decision-making process one vendor often emerges as the leader, but the client doesn’t necessarily tell the others to go away. It may be unfair, but customers may still keep you in the process for price leverage, “column fodder, a safety net in case they can’t reach terms with the preferred partner. Or they may simply lack the nerve to give you the bad news.
Unreturned phone calls, canceled meetings, vague answers, denied access to decision-makers, or new requirements that your service or product don’t meet – these are the signals that indicate that you’re out of control of the sale. A sure sign is that after the presentation and agreement meeting the client isn’t talking to you about terms and conditions, support issues, price, or other post-sale matters.
There is still hope if there still is time. The classic flanking strategy as applied to sales means that you must, through your supporters, change the issues, change the players, or change the decision-making process if you want to have a chance of winning.
Should you take this step? The first ethical premise of competitive selling is that your solution is genuinely good for the client’s organization; the second is that your tactics remain morally, legally, and ethically sound. If the former isn’t true, get out of the evaluation. If the latter is untrue, get out of the business.
After the prospect has completed their evaluation issues, move naturally from features and capabilities to the expanded product, which includes support, guarantees, linkage to other products, terms and conditions, and other risk-reduction issues. Many deals have been won at this point by going for a tie on the product or proposal and linking this offer to something else the client wants; expanding the shape of the deal to include things they’d like that don’t cost you much money.
Introducing new players may mean encouraging your supporters to add themselves to the buying committee, or asking a third party to influence the fence-sitters on your behalf. You don’t want to go over the project team’s head. But by expanding the scope of your offer laterally or strategically, you can often give your supporters a legitimate reason to become involved.
Changing the process means getting your supporters to add or remove requirements. Changing how the votes come together may also help your cause. A departmental vote can let you win without a majority. A two-tier decision involving headquarters may let you change issues at a higher organizational level. Adding proof exercises may let you change the issues to risk and expose the competitor’s overstatements. Delay may buy you time to employ new strategies.
Through your supporters you must change the issues, players, or the decision-making process if you want to have a chance of winning.
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