You meet with your prospect, run several meetings, they tell you how much they love your proposal... But then you wait… and wait and wait...
We've all been there.
In my experience, this is one of the most frustrating things business development reps have to deal with.
In the example above, it's likely that the client really did love the solution you were proposing, but it was a “nice to have” vs. a “need to a have.”
The difference between the two is dramatic.
If we are honest in looking at our business development funnels, they are filled with clients that believe the solution being proposed is good, but does not serve an immediate need to motivate the client to buy today.
These opportunities fall into the dreaded “nice to have” bucket. This could eventually turn into a deal that will come in six months, one year, or never.
As business development professionals, our most valuable asset is our time.
We need to do a better job of qualifying our opportunities and get to more “no’s.”
I always say that I would rather a “no” than a “maybe.”
A “no” is never a “no,” but a “not right now.”
A “maybe” just wastes our time and causes our energy and focus to be diverted from real opportunities.
Below are three ways to ensure that you avoid the “nice to have” bucket:
1. ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
One of my old bosses used to always say, “A good development rep ask two questions. A great one asks two more."
The second-layer questions uncover what is most important to our clients and where they are spending their time and dollars.
When we ask our clients questions like, "What is most important to you and your team right now?" or "What is your biggest area of focus in the first six months of the year?" I find they provide answers to the problems that they assume we can solve.
A good way to mitigate this is to ask your client to assume there is no logo on your business card.
How would they respond to your question with that in mind?
When you frame the question that way, it provides more meaningful responses.
Now that we have more honest feedback and understand our client’s key challenges or goals, we need to be able to measure the impact that our solution will have on their business.
How will solving this problem or helping them achieve that goal impact the client’s team, the organization and them personally?
When we know this information, we will be able to tailor our solution to what is most relevant.
2. UNDERSTAND THE BUYING PROCESS
The second thing that is important, is to understand your prospect’s buying process.
Sure, our solution might be incredible for them, but there may be other colleagues that they need to involve to get approval to move forward with your solution.
The best way I have found to uncover their buying process is to simply ask, but infuse it with an energizer.
For example, you can start with: “There has been such a wide range of how our clients have approved our solution. In some cases, there was only one decision maker, while in others there was a handful of people we included in the process.”
And continue with...
“I don’t want to make any assumptions in your business, so can you walk me through your process to get a solution like this approved?”
If they hesitate add second layer questions...
Ask them to walk you through the last advertising package they bought.
Did they need other approvals or could they sign-off on it on their own?
Are they the true decision maker?
If not, what did they need to show their senior leadership to make it a no brainer for them to approve?
Knowing this information and flushing it out of the process will help make a dramatic impact on your closing times and will provide more information for you to move clients from a "nice to have" for your solution to a "need to have."
3. SEND A $0 CONTRACT
Another tactic I use to ensure that we have uncovered all potential objections is to make the assumptive close and ask to send a $0 contract.
An easy way to do this is to explain that in your experience, the legal teams of your clients vary with some approving terms very quickly and others taking longer to review the contract.
We have done our due diligence and know the impact this solution will have on their business and do not want the contract to delay the implementation so we offer to send a $0 contract so their legal team can review the terms in advance.
In most cases, the client will think it’s a great idea and will send over to their team for review. This is a great sign that the client likes your solution and is making recommendations internally and also does not want the deal to be held up by their legal team.
In some cases, however, the prospect will feel uneasy about doing so.
Uncovering this information is just as critical because it allows us to be honest with the deals in our funnel and their probability to close.
When we see the uneasiness of the prospect to send a $0 contract, we know the client perceives our solution as a “nice to have” and “not a need to have.”
This is a golden opportunity for us to get to the heart of their true objection. If we did not follow this process, this would turn into another opportunity that would sit in our funnel week in and week out with us lying to ourselves on its true likelihood to close.
Now we know that there are still objections left to address with our prospect.
One way to uncover them is to put the blame on yourself.
I have found this is a quick tactic to personalize yourself to the prospect and they will want to diffuse your self-doubt.
For example, you might say to the prospect after they refuse to send the $0 agreement…
- I apologize because I feel like I have done a poor job of communicating the impact this solution would have on your goal of achieving “x.”
- In reviewing my notes from our last several meetings, I know your main objective was to achieve “x” in the next six months and our solution would help you exceed that timeline. What did you need to hear from me to make it an easy decision to have the legal team review the contract?
By phrasing the question this way, the prospect will want to address it directly with you because their refusing to not forward an agreement is not related to your potential relationship.
This is an easy way to flush out the true objection. Typically, the prospect will say something along the lines of "it’s not you, I don’t have the budget” or "it’s not your solution, we have other priorities right now.”
Our goal is to address these objections and reiterate how our solution can be tied back to addressing their number one challenge or goal.
Unless we can directly tie our solution to their top one or two priorities, we will continue to stay in the “nice to have” bucket.
Building business relationships is both an art and a science.
These tips have come from years of scraping my knees and making similar mistakes.
I hope that some of these practices will help improve your funnel, increase your business, and form stronger partnerships with clients.
Just remember: bet on yourself – you got this!