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  • Tiziana Fathers

Three All-Important Questions to Ask to Land the Business

Originally Posted on Mar 14, 2018 Reposted November 17th, 2021

You've got the green light. You have a chance at landing a great piece of business and acquiring a new account. Or maybe you are re-bidding to secure business again for next year. You've done all the right things to qualify, research, prepare and build a compelling offer.

However, to be the front-runner and before you submit your proposal, make sure you’ve asked your client these top critical questions:

1) What are your top three most critical/important things in order of importance, that we need to deliver on to secure your business?

This is probably the most important question you can ever ask a prospective customer. While you may already have all kinds of insight and know their criteria well documented in your CRM, you might NOT know which ones are the most critical and in what order of importance. Know their top three and address ALL of them (in the right order) in the proposal - make it loud and clear. And rather than simply deliver their criteria, exceed it.

But what if you can only offer two out of the three? If you can’t over-deliver on all of the most important items, you’re likely out of the running, but I always say never walk away from a great opportunity. Here's a tip that might do the trick: Offset the one you can't deliver on with something unique and pretty awesome that you CAN offer. Even better - make it something difficult to compare. Buyers don't always know what they need so go for it and offer something they haven't considered. When you can show them something that gives them an edge in their industry....well, you'll have their attention. It goes without saying that you may want to go ahead and do this regardless -- putting you in a whole other hemisphere.

2) What are your deal breakers? What could potentially exclude us?

The last thing you need to happen is to unwittingly slip on a banana peel without knowing what a customer’s sore points are. Know what NOT to do and ensure you avoid any fatal pitfalls that gets you disqualified. Do some probing. Deal breakers could be things like rigid cancellation clauses, hefty minimum order requirements, contracts that fail to be a true partnership placing all implications and liabilities solely on the customer or even something that is contrary to their Corporate & Social Responsibility beliefs and value system. Know what has the potential to irk them in advance....and DON'T do that thing. In fact, do the opposite.

3) What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Here’s where you get to potentially shine and be a thoughtful hero. If you haven’t already uncovered this in your qualifying (and it should be part of the early discovery stage), you better ask it and know it. A customer’s challenges may not have anything to do with the business your negotiating. But it could be something you can take into consideration, potentially even help, alleviate, provide resources for, or even solve. The challenge could be they’re swamped and short-staffed. Anything you can do to lighten their load, save them time, doing anything within your means to help your buyer do less, will go a very, very long way. Addressing this in your proposal can have a big impact. Knowing their challenges makes you sensitive to their needs and it could be the differentiator and swing factor to being their supplier of choice.

A lot of salespeople find it difficult to literally ASK for the business. In my experience, the easiest way to close any business is when you provide something so compelling and awesome, that it's hard to say no. Submitting a creative and customized proposal that more than addresses their most critical needs and challenges while at the same time avoiding that slippery banana peel with a huge dose of 'what's in it for them' likely won't even have to ask. Great deals like that close themselves.

Steve Martin says 'be so good they can't ignore you'.


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