Most of what passes for “selling skills” focuses on making the quick sale, which involves convincing a single person that they need to make a buying decision.
Unfortunately, this approach does not work for complex projects, products and services that involve more than a single buyer, or a significant dollar amount. Here in the Caribbean, I consider a “significant” sale to be more than US$10,000.
It all usually starts with a call initiated by either a prospective client or ourselves in which we discuss a potential problem. At this point, we only have an inking that a potential collaboration might exist.
The next step is to validate the problem through a round of informal interviews, in which we ask those impacted by the problem if they agree an issue exists, and whether or not it is worth putting time, effort and money into a solution. We try to get at the nature of the problem — the cost of its continued existence, and also whether or not it is a priority item, or should be a priority for the company.
Once these interviews are done, and we agree with the company that the issue is real, we sit down with them to co-design a solution, and issue a discussion document describing the solution.
After the discussion document has been validated, the following three questions are asked:
- What is the problem costing the company?
- What return can the customer expect?
- How much should the customer invest to achieve the desired result?
Once these have been discussed, a proposal is written to capture in writing what usually has already been decided.
In an earlier post, I shared why I run from RFP’s, but that was before I read Exceptional Selling by Jeff Thull, which put my years of experience selling projects in perspective in a powerful way. He shares the same point of view, and urges a salesperson of complex products to walk away if their standard process cannot be accommodated.
The problem I have had in the past is that I have been too willing to write a proposal based on a single conversation, with one person. The results of these proposals are usually problematic for both Framework and the prospective client — in short, no-one wins.
There just is no short-cut to the trust that is built when a process like this one is used.