Assessing a Competitive Sales Opportunity

Nov 12 12:00 2006 Roger Bauer Print This Article

Have you ever found yourself wondering how you shot the last sales opportunity even after everything seemed like a close was eminent?  Many times the answer lies within us if we’re willing to dig deep enough.  Let’s take a look at five possibilities for why things may have gone awry.

Did you uncover a true pain for the customer?  As salespeople,Guest Posting we’re quick to assume we completely understand the customer’s dilemma because we want the sale, but that assumption often leads us down a twisty path all the while instilling a false sense of optimism in the opportunity.  A true pain is uncovered only after you’ve validated it with the owners and completely understand the impact it has organization wide.  You may talk with a prospect that says “we need your product now because I’m up to my eyeballs in complaints, and it will vastly eliminate the complaints” yet the pain is only seen as affecting that particular person or department.  Maybe the organization itself doesn’t understand the domino effect the pain has on the organization so that means someone didn’t do a thorough job of exploring and explaining the pain with others in the organization. 

Did you uncover a reasonable budget for your product or service?  Prospects sometimes have a decent idea of what your product or service should cost, but many times their only basis for determining such is an online search and a quick review of a few of the results from that search.  Don’t leave it to the prospect to price your product or service for you—let them know as early on as possible a ballpark range to expect to pay.  If they heavily balk at the number, get out early and move on.  It’s much better to qualify a prospect out than to waste a bunch of time on wasteful meetings and proposals when you’re out of the game before it even begins.  Hearing things such as “oh don’t worry, I’ll get the funds for this when we need them,” or “this is a future project, but we’re getting a head start” should sound warning bells that you’re up against possible budgetary issues or future price shopping regardless of how you position the deal.    

Did you really talk with the proper decision makers?  If the sale is potentially complex, meaning it may impact multiple areas of the customer’s business, several people are likely to be involved.  If the pain you’ve uncovered is legitimate, it’ll become apparent to the contact person you’re talking with that more people need to be involved before contract time.  If the prospect is serious about implementing your product or service, they’ll welcome the interaction with others as a way to gain their approval and solidify the decision.  If they prevent others from getting involved, you likely aren’t dealing with the decision maker, or the project isn’t likely to happen. 

Was the timeframe realistic?  Just because a prospect says they need your solution implemented by the end of the month doesn’t mean it’s feasible.  The burden is on you to help your prospect establish a workable implementation schedule.  If you can’t come to an agreeable schedule, you’ll both be better to walk away from the deal.  Forcing your organization to do something they’re not skilled at doing or requires too many resources is only going to make things worse.  Look at it this way, your competition will have to bend over backwards to meet the terms meaning they’ll be allocating extra resources just to make it happen.  More often than not, they’ll have problems, too so don’t fret over it. 

Did you establish an agreed upon value analysis?  All the ROI analyses and charts in the world may make sense to you, but did the customer buy into it?  Too many times, a value analysis looks phenomenal on paper and in theory, but it has little chance of being realized because it was designed for a perfect world—one in which we do not live.  Make sure you establish realistic metrics with your prospect prior to suggesting any return expectations.  Nothing will burn you more than inflating ROI numbers that will never be realized by your customer.  It’s always better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.    

While there are far too many factors that can lead to a lost opportunity, you can greatly improve your odds of closing a sale if you consistently address these five areas throughout your sales process.

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Roger Bauer
Roger Bauer

Roger Bauer is Founder and CEO of SMB Consulting, Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky based small business consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, sales, marketing, SEO, technology, and business analysis. To learn more, point your browser to Business Consulting.

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