In a recent sales workshop a participant asked us for some help to solve a problem that perplexed her. We asked for some context before she asked her question. Here is the scenario she (we’ll call her Sally to protect her identity) painted for us rather graphically. Have you ever found yourself in this situation?
Sally sells a product that helps Sales Vice Presidents increase the productivity and effectiveness of their sales organizations. She has had several in-depth and lengthy conversations both in person and by telephone with the Sales Vice President of a prospective customer over several weeks. Based on the responses she received she thought she had received several buying signals. The most recent one was last week when the Sales Vice President asked her for a detailed proposal and pricing. He stated that he needed it by Friday for a meeting the following Monday with his CEO. The sales representative, who was eager to meet the requested deadline, submitted it to the Sales Vice President a day early (Thursday AM). Surely, she explained to us, this would garner her respect because she beat the deadline.
Now that we understand the context, we asked, “What’s the problem?” Sally stated that it’s been two weeks since she submitted the proposal and pricing and 3 days since the Sales Vice President met with the CEO and she still has not heard anything. She asked politely “what should I do now”?
The question that Sally posed is an interesting but not uncommon question. It’s one that we hear a lot. We responded, “Before we answer we need to ask you a few questions.”
- Did the Sales Vice President ask you to review the proposal and pricing with him after you submitted it?
- Did the Sales Vice President tell you when he would review the proposal and pricing?
- Did the Sales Vice President tell you when he would get back to you?
- When the Sales Vice President asked you for the proposal and pricing did you ask him for a commitment?
Her response was a blank stare followed by “I really messed up didn’t I”?
Before we could reply Sally went on to tell us the following. “I realize now that when the sales Vice President asked for a proposal and pricing that I should have asked for a commitment from him. We nodded and she continued, looking back in hindsight it would have been easy for me to say “if I get you the proposal and pricing on Thursday could we schedule 15 minutes on Friday to review it quickly and answer any questions”?
We nodded once again and responded –“great, is there anything else you could have considered”? Sally paused and responded, “Yes, I could have set-up a follow-up call with him on Tuesday after he met with the CEO to learn of the outcome of the meeting and discuss next steps.”
Sally then went on to thank us profusely for our help when in reality all we did was help her think through what happened and create her own solution.
Sally’s experience is a good reminder to all of us in sales. It’s easy to forget to ask for a commitment when a buying influence asks you to do something–especially when it appears to be reasonable, prudent and logical. When buying influences ask a sales representative for something it’s the perfect time to ask for something in return. Failure to do so places the sales opportunity in limbo with neither party understanding the next step. The result is a stalled opportunity. Savvy sellers always ask for a commitment to ensure the sales opportunity is moving forward and to validate that the buying influence is as vested in moving forward as the sales professional.