SAMUEL SAYS: DIAGNOSIS SHOULD ALWAYS PROCEED PROGNOSIS
By jumping straight into a solution or “prognosis” during a sales appointment, there’s a high likelihood you’ll blow the opportunity and lose the sale. A good salesperson will tell you that the majority of your time during a client meeting should be spent in uncovering your client’s needs and making a “diagnosis” before offering your tailored solution.
But how do you know that you’ve gotten to the bottom of their needs and avoid falling into the Assumption Trap? Clients will frequently name their needs on a superficial basis, and many salespeople will immediately rush in to offer a solution. It’s what we do – we solve. Right?
If you jump right in when you think you know the problem, you’re wasting an opportunity to learn about other issues (a.k.a. other sales opportunities) and you risk solving something that isn’t the root cause. Then your client will feel you don’t understand them and their business, and you’ll be left to explain why you didn’t make a sale. But how do you avoid this crucial mistake?
First of all, don’t accept what the client tells you right off the bat. And for goodness sake, don’t assume you know what they need! Keep digging, and ditch your script. You’re looking for Hard Evidence instead of the problem, and I’ve included some helpful questions below that should be added to your repertoire.
Sometimes your clients make assumptions too! As an example, say you’re working with an IT manager who doesn’t know the current process in detail. He could say “I think it takes about 5 people and roughly 5 days.” Those words think and roughly are your clue to dig deeper. What if he’s off by one day or one person? That’s a 20% variance on a key component. Here’s a question you could use in this situation to get granular on the issue:
“Clearly this is an important decision for your business; would it make sense for us to meet with the operations manager to confirm so we can provide the perfect solution?”
Sometimes this will be a tough conversation. You’ve got to do it in a way that preserves dignity for the client while also suggesting that you might need data from a source other than them. You’ll do this in one of three ways:
1. Discuss the customer’s internal process.
Spend time with the client and make it clear that the questions you are asking pertain to building the business case. Link the evidence you are looking for to their approval process.
“John, I’m concerned that we haven’t established the ROI for this project. I understand you need a business case for project approval. Those numbers I mentioned getting from Operations will help us establish if my solution will work, and help you get a start on the business case, how does that sound?”
2. Discuss your experience with other similar clients or projects.
Most clients are keen to hear what their competitors or other companies are up to. Without disclosing confidential information, you can outline what you’ve seen done in the project scoping and vendor selection phases.
“John I’m confused. We seem to have missed a couple of steps in the process. When I worked with XYZ Company, they found value in completing a detailed review, which gave them the benchmark needed to establish an ROI for the project. With what we currently know, my solution can’t be benchmarked in order to determine your ROI. What do you say we dig a little deeper so we have some firm numbers we can both commit to?”
3. If you’re desperate, talk about your own need to justify your time on the project and explore other internal resources.
If you’ve got serious concerns about their ability to commit or move forward, let them know that in order to get the resources you need to develop a proper solution, you need to show your manager the business case and ROI to determine if you’re the right fit. Do this in a way that doesn’t undermine your expertise though!
“I think we have a stumbling block. In order to give you a demo unit for a few days, I need to show my team why this solution makes sense for you, which I can’t do at the moment. I’ve got some questions I need answered – can you help me out?”
If you get positive responses — great — carry on!
If you don’t, then it’s quite likely the client isn’t ready to move forward anyway, or isn’t serious about the issue at hand yet. This is likely a good time to put the account on a follow up schedule and move on to other opportunities.
The Mongrel Method teaches sales and marketing tactics for the technology age using the fun -and memorable- personality of Steve’s dog Samuel to help the concepts stick. You can buy your copy here: https://mongrelmethod.com/buy-the-book/