We all love to group similar things together and simplify things around us in everyday life - we do this so we can make decisions quicker and easier.
Take for instance the process a lot of us go through when we go to make a larger purchase in our life: We look for 3 or more options of what we want to buy that appear similar in nature (for example: similar features, benefits, options), we get prices or quotes for the 3 different options, we may do some reviews of the product or service online, talk to friends and colleagues about their experience in buying and using similar products or services, and then we finally determine which one to go with. A lot of time, the final decision comes down to the lowest or one of the lower prices because the options we found all look the same.
I see this occur each time I make the drive from my house to my office in Northeast Indianapolis. It’s about a 25-minute drive and the last 5-10 minutes of the drive there are a string of billboards advertising the best deals in furniture in the Indianapolis area. (My office is in a part of Indianapolis where there are a large number of furniture retailers.) Each one of the retailers’ billboards and furniture offerings appear to be comparable in terms of quality of furniture and each advertises that they have the best prices and deals in town. I am not in the market for new furniture since I just moved into my new house last year and furnished it, but if I was, any of the retailers would seem like a good option compared to the others. It would probably come down to the best price/deal at the end because I would not be able to tell a difference in what each of the companies are offering.
How often do we see this happen to us when selling?
We finally got an opportunity with or got a request for a proposal or quote from that ideal big prospect and we’re excited. We’re going to show them how great our company and products or services are and what an great fit they will be for them, how different we are from the competition, and why it makes perfect sense to go with our company. But, as soon as the request for proposal or quote is sent out, we can’t get a conversation with the prospect or everything has to be submitted online and responses provided to you and all of your competitors. If we can get a conversation with the prospect, the answers are vague and not helpful at all. So, we go ahead and submit our response and hope for the best even though we know very little about how we can help them and don’t get a chance to show them how different and great we are. And then we chase them to get an answer or maybe we never get an answer or find out their decision. A lot of time, effort and energy is wasted by us and other people in our company, preparing our proposal or quote when it didn’t have a chance from the start.
Sound familiar at all for your business?
Here are 3 things you and your people can start doing right away to turn the tide in your favor and differentiate from the start with your prospects:
- Show up different from your competition at the start. I know – this sounds simple, right. It is simple, but not always easy to execute. Don’t do what the prospect expects from the start. Be willing to tell them “no” and walk away from the opportunity if it isn’t a good fit for your organization or they won’t communicate important information with you. Grade the opportunity to determine if it makes sense for your organization to pursue or not and be willing to walk if it doesn’t. Make sure that you communicate with and involve the real decision makers once you know who they are. Push back and challenge the items they’re requesting if they don’t make sense. Get clarity with the prospect on what they’re wanting, why they’re wanting it, and what happens next and when once you submit your response.
- Take the simple to complex. The prospect is trying to simplify the decision-making process between you and the competition because they wrongly believe you are all the same and any one of you can accomplish what they need so price is the real decision =-making factor. It’s your responsibility to break this. In order to do this, you need to know what your company is able to do and willing to do that the competition is not. Once you know this, you have to ask the prospect questions to help them see that by going with your competition, they are not going to be able to solve a problem or part of the problem that is important to them and that they don’t have a plan in place to take care of this. You are subtly telling them “This is how we are different” without saying it to them.
- Shred the request for quote (RFQ)/request for proposal (RFP)/request for info (RFI). Prospects use a request for proposal or quote to try to “compare apples to apples”, make things clear, and simplify their decision making. Yet, it rarely accomplishes these things. There are often pieces of key information left out of the request (either by oversight or on purpose) or items requested or listed that are vague or wishy-washy. “Shred” the request and ask them for clarity for anything that is not clear or does not make sense. Ask questions on these items to help them to see the holes in the request and the future challenges with these missed items that can lead them to cost increases, change orders, etc. whether they work with you or a competitor that they may not be aware of due to the lack of clarity in their request and requirements. Show your expert status and become a trusted advisor without having to claim that you are these things.
Put these 3 items in place from the start with your prospects right away and you’ll start to level the playing field and differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
Have more questions about this topic / want more information? Check out similar blogs written by Shad Tidler.