I am currently working with a client who is using the IMPAX Process in a creative way – to assist in resolving an issue in a customer relationship.
The fact is that almost every organization experiences challenging times with some or all of their customers. Operational and judgment issues happen, and the best thing we can do is recognize them and agree jointly on how to address them so they aren’t repeated.
In this situation, he is using the Them-Us-Fit-Action presentation flow to create context and help get credit for the value his organization is helping to create. The trick is to balance things well so the customer doesn’t feel like he’s avoiding the issue. When he gets to the issue, he will share openly what happened as well as report on the action taken to date. Then he will drive a roundtable discussion where the customer can weigh in on the action plan and gain commitment to a mutually beneficial path forward.
The desired outcome? An improvement in the relationship and maybe even revenue growth!
More to follow…
I got to spend the week with a great group of people in Des Moines,, where we were working on applying the IMPAX Process to some really important prospects and customers. They are one of those sales teams that do a lot of things really well by instinct, yet they found the process to be valuable in helping them do the same things by design. Yesterday we woke up to a ridiculous May snow storm. This is the view from our meeting room:
Not that I can complain – I live in Minnesota after all!
Anyone taking the time to read this Tip already believes in doing their research. We know that it is effective research that allows us to understand the customer’s business and needs, identify and get to the right people in an organization, figure out the fit, deal with gatekeepers, etc. Given this, here’s another research-oriented tip on Breaking the Rules…
The more effectively we can do our research on the customer’s business direction and where they want their business to be a few years down the road, the more likely we are to be able to change the ground rules and compete on a different basis. This was emphasized recently when a senior-level logistics executive was interviewed on the topic of sales and customer relationships. One of the things he said was, “It’s important that a supplier understand our business, but it’s critical that they understand where we want to take our business in the coming years. This is how a supplier can become a partner.” He went on to say that he protects these types of providers from his own procurement team!
By gaining this specific information and insight, we may be able to propose solutions our competitors haven’t even considered. While they’re following the letter of the law, responding to the RFP as it’s written, we can be proposing a solution that truly helps the customer get where they want to go.
This can be a highly effective strategy, but when doing this it’s important to remember who will care about this “out of the box” thinking. It is the senior-level executives who are lying awake in bed at night thinking about the direction and performance of their business, who will appreciate this type of proposal.
I had the opportunity to spend the day today with an inspiring group of business leaders. They are all owners of their business, or senior level executives, who are competing in a challenging market. They are dealing with aggressive competitors, a difficult economy, as well as smarter and more demanding customers. The end result, of course, is that they are fighting the forces that are trying to commoditize them.
Their theme is, “You’re Worth IT!” The “IT” represents the value of their enterprise solution. They, as a group, certainly know that they are more than just products, service, service contracts, financing, etc. What we talked about today is that their enterprise value is made up of so many elements – their products, services, experience, expertise, network, industry experience and importantly their knowledge of the customer.
They get it, and their value really is impressive. Now the task is to get the rest of their teams to get it…
I just heard from the Chief Development Officer of a client of ours about a new division of his company that we are just starting to work with (they are a successful company and a value leader in the market they serve). He told me that they responded to 74 RFPs in 2012 and won none of them! Ouch.
This looks like a no-brainer, but I can’t help but wonder about how they will react to our “breaking the rules” message. Clearly there’s a need, but some people get such comfort from the routine of responding to RFPs, and others are so intimidated by the idea of pushing back.
Nonetheless, I won’t expect much push back when I ask the question, “What do you have to lose?” There’s no where to go but up in this case.
How do you think they will react?
Miguel Zamorano from Donaldson sent me this comment:
we just had a great example of this question, “What do we have to gain” with a large oil / lubricants manufacturer RFI opportunity…!
All these questions were answered: “What if the potential gain is compelling: revenue, commission, an attractive reference account, a growth opportunity…? An answer like this helps motivate us to take action and act courageously.”
With the direction of our National Sales Director and lead/follow through of our Specialty Market Manager we are hoping to capitalize on this great opportunity!! Sales potential could be more than $20 million!!!
Time was very critical to our prospect as well…as there was a deadline/date to meet and have all the information back by the due date! The sales tools available to us (IMPAX Opportunity Planner) was critical in identifying “What we have to gain”!!!!!?
My reply to him: Miguel, thanks for your message. Your situation shows the importance of answering these questions. It also shows what a positive and enthusiastic salesperson sounds like! Good luck. Keep us posted!
With an attitude like that, it won’t surprise any of us if/when he wins this deal!
A Follow-up Question
Last month we asked the question, “What do we have to lose?” This is a good question and an important one for sales professionals to ask. Here’s another one:
“What do we have to gain?”
This is the type of question that’s often asked by people who are motivated by potential gain vs. avoiding pain. This question challenges us to think about why we are pursuing an opportunity or responding to an RFP.
If the answer is, “little or nothing”, it helps us qualify and minimize our efforts. If there’s not much to be gained then why put in much effort? This logic can help us as we’re considering whether we should respond to a particular RFP where we just don’t see a lot of opportunity. Sometimes people run after RFPs just because their pipeline is weak. Maybe our time would be better spent creating demand for our services by proactively developing an opportunity with a desirable prospect.
What if the potential gain is compelling: revenue, commission, an attractive reference account, a growth opportunity…? An answer like this helps motivate us to take action and act courageously.
Thinking through the answer to this question is valuable. The answer can help us qualify opportunities, justify our efforts, make the best use of our time and get the resources we need to be successful.
As sales and account management professionals, time is one of our most important assets, and taking a few minutes to think through the answers to this question can make and save us time!
I have gotten some really interesting comments and questions from those that read this blog. Thanks to those that have shared these with me. I have also received thousands of garbage/spam comments that are kind of hilarious. I have gotten hundreds of offers to buy jeans, jerseys, headphones, “Mont Blank” pens, and of course, “pharmaceuticals”. I thought I would share a few with you here (unedited):
- “An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I feel that you simply should really write additional on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people aren’t sufficient to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers” – No, cheers to you!
- “The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this 1. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought youd have some thing interesting to say. All I hear is really a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you ever werent too busy looking for attention.” – This would have bothered me more if it wasn’t an invitation to buy handbags at a discount price!
- “An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was performing just a little analysis on this. And he in actual fact purchased me breakfast simply because I identified it for him.. smile” – I am, trust me!
- “Aw, this was a certainly nice post. In notion I would like to put in writing like this in addition – taking time and actual effort to make a highly fantastic article?- but what can I say?- I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain some thing completed” – Sometimes I procrastinate too, like when I am replying to these offers
- “here are some intriguing points in time in this post but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is certainly some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Fantastic article , thanks and we want alot more!” – No, thank you!
By the way, if you send me a comment and don’t hear back from me, send it again. Sometimes it’s hard to sort through all of these gems to find your comments.
One of my all-time favorite quotes was shared with me by IMPAX Founder and good friend Dave Matlow. The quote is from Woody Allen, who said, “80% of life is just showing up”. Never has this been truer than in this day and age, where there are many ways to communicate that have nothing to do with being together. I know that there are some great productivity tools out there that can help save us time and money, but I also know that there are times when nothing can come close to the impact of being there.
In sales, the reliance on email, web meetings and video conferencing is an interesting (and possibly dangerous) trend. We are starting to see people differentiate themselves by using the phone instead of email and by simply showing up.
This week I had a chance to join 2 different clients at their national/international sales meetings. What I gained by being there, from the relationship building, the stories and anecdotes and the new opportunities, was priceless. Not to mention the fact that these meetings were fun. And selling is supposed to be fun right?!
This month’s Tip of the Month is kind of basic, and really strategic. It serves as a simple reminder about something we all understand – that sometimes we have nothing to lose!
“What do we have to lose?”
This is a very good question from a couple of different sales-related perspectives.
First, we can ask this question when we are dealing from a position of strength in a customer relationship. It can help us think through the ramifications of our possible strategies and actions. When the answer to this question is “everything”, meaning revenue, margin and future opportunities, it can cause us to formulate and improve our strategy, build stronger relationships, strive to create more value for our customer, and reduce our risk in the account. All of this will help us to strengthen our position and create “competitive immunity”.
Second, we can ask this question when we really have no position, or a very weak one, with a prospect. When the answer is “nothing”, meaning we have very little downside, it can motivate us to be creative, take more risk and strive to gain a relationship with the customer.
Often, this question comes across as rhetorical. Let’s not treat it that way. Instead, let’s really dig in to the answer. The more complete and well thought-out our answer, the more effective and appropriate our access, gatekeeper, proposal and procurement strategies will be.