Want to know the secret to making a sale and landing the business?
It's hidden in the questions you ask.
You've made an appointment with a prospective buyer or maybe you are re-bidding to secure business again for next year and so far, you've done all the right things to qualify, research, prepare and build a compelling offer. However, to be the front-runner and make the sale...long 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. Dare to provide something they haven't considered. Even better - make it something difficult to compare. Buyers don't always know what they need and appreciate new ideas - so go ahead and offer something they may not know about. When you can show them something that gives them an edge in their industry, saves them time or money....well, you'll have their attention. In fact go ahead and do this regardless -- putting you in a whole other hemisphere to your competition. The more value you provide, the better.
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. You get the picture. Know in advance what has the potential to irk, annoy or accidentally offend them ....and DON'T do that thing! In fact, do the opposite to make the sale.
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 with, 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. Be a solution provider. 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.
Quality questions deliver greater rewards...
Having a great product or service and competitive pricing is table stakes. It's an expectation. But to land the business everyone has the challenge to figure out how to set themselves apart. When you ask these questions you now have the answers of what they need and what will set you apart from your competition. Once you address these insights in your proposal, you've now provided something so compelling that they will find it very hard to say no. A lot of salespeople struggle to literally ASK for the business, and this is the easiest way to close the sale. Because great proposals close themselves. Although you never want to leave that up to chance. In fact, I always respond with one final question before the meeting ends; 'if I can deliver solutions to these important questions, do I have your commitment that we will be your supplier of choice?' I have never had anyone say no. When you know what questions to ask you have an exponentially higher probability to not only close the sale, you'll also have the start of a great relationship and a loyal customer too.
As Steve Martin says 'be so good they can't ignore you'.