Truth be told, I’m a firm believer in working a process during my face to face prospect meetings.
I do this for a variety of reasons:
1) I don’t want to get into a price discussion prematurely. “Prematurely” in this context is before we had an opportunity to create value.
2) When we let a prospect take control of the meeting, it can lead to a misdiagnosis which causes much bigger issues including loss of my credibility.
3) A good process gives me an opportunity to undo some bad habits in vendor selection and even set the rules of engagement going forward. In other words, my competitors will have to perform to the standards that I just educated the buyer on, not the other way around.
And all of this is done in a spirit of guiding the process, not being “controlling”. And yes, there is a huge difference.
There are 3 traps that I see sales professionals fall into simply because they didn’t respond properly when the traps are introduced. Quick note: When I say “traps” I don’t want to imply that they were introduced by a prospect in a malicious sense. They are just traps that bring you down a road that diverts from the process.
Pricing: The pricing trap happens when you start a meeting with a prospect and they immediately start asking you price questions or asking for quotes on various items. On the surface, it could be taken as a buying signal but once again, we are about to take a huge risk. Engaging in a price discussion before a needs analysis is sales malpractice. There could be huge issues that are missed because you allowed a prospect to make you “go there girlfriend”. The other thing that troubles me about an immediate pricing discussion is the sense that we have someone who is just shopping and at the very least, I want to break that pattern. Doesn’t always work mind you, but I don’t know about you, but I always feel better when I went down swinging!
Now in your most professional manner you might attempt to divert this discussion until the right time and then they hit you with “Just a ballpark” or “Off the top of your head” I’m curious, is it ever as innocent as “just a ballpark” or do you think it might be used against you? Bottom line . . . don’t do it! Tell them you don’t get involved in “ball parks” because once you give a price to a client you want them to be able to take it to the bank. More on how to handle the pricing trap in a moment.
Give Me Your Pitch: There are few things in sales that irritate me more than the word “pitch” Marry that with the arrogant look a prospect gets as they lean back in the chair as if to say “Entertain me circus boy” and I want to spike their coffee with Ex-Lax!
The problem with this one, is that too many reps get intimidated and play along. Usually the same reps that will tell you its Sales 101 to present before a needs analysis.
In case you didn’t realize this . . . you just lost control of your meeting!
The Left Hook: The left hook is when you start your meeting and they zing you with something that catches you off guard such as “We used to buy from your company but you sucked at this and were complete A Holes with that” That left hook might even be in the form of “Your competitor was in here and they said the following about your company”
The problem with all of these traps is that they draw you in and force discussions that divert from the main point of the meeting. Oh and in case I forgot to mention this . . . you lose control!
Now I’ll see reps offer a response of “We’ll cover that later”. I even had a wedding planner tell my wife (or soon to be wife back in those days” “We’re losing momentum and I will get to the price later” I secretly hoped that she would choke so I could say “Hurry up, we’re losing momentum Bitchzilla” but I’ve learned to take my meds since then.
So how does one handle these 3 traps and regain control of the meeting?
I handle them all the same way:
Pricing: “Great, so a discussion on our pricing should be added to today’s agenda?”
Give Me Your Pitch: “Great, so a discussion about my company and how we’ve helped other companies from your industry should be added to today’s agenda?”
Left Hook: “Great, so a discussion about how we’ve improved our service should be added to today’s agenda?”
The beauty of these statements is that they will buy you time. Time to build value, gain momentum and if nothing else, time to think about how you’re going to handle the question.
And let’s be honest, these aren’t fool proof. Nothing is fool proof.
Sometimes, no matter how good your response is and how determined you are to stick to your process, you might just have to go there girlfriend.
I just like myself a whole lot better when I know I didn’t just cave in without trying!
How about you?
Paul Castain coaches individuals and trains organizations to achieve higher levels of performance. For more information on how Paul can help you or your team attain new levels of awesomeness click here.