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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Competing for the Silver Medal?

Now let’s now look at a more difficult conversation. This is a phone call, initiated by a lower-level buyer doing due diligence to justify buying from Column A:

Buyer: Hello. This is Anita Quote with the ABC Company. We have decided to purchase CRM software. We have budget, and we want to make a decision soon. How quickly can you provide a demonstration, pricing, and a proposal?

Salesperson: First, can you tell me your role at ABC Company?

Buyer: I’m a senior analyst in our IT department.

Salesperson: It would be helpful if I could first get a sense of what your organization is hoping to accomplish with your CRM system.

Buyer: At this stage, I’m not prepared to get into a detailed discussion. What I really want is pricing information to determine if you should be placed on our short list of CRM vendors.

Salesperson: In order to make a recommendation, l need to get a better understanding of your requirements. Some of the other companies I’ve worked with were attempting to improve in one or more of the following areas:

  • Reduce the cost of sales

  • Increase cross selling

  • Improve forecasting accuracy

  • Increase sales revenue

Are any of these objectives driving your company’s evaluation of CRM?

Buyer: Our major objective is improving forecasting accuracy, but as I’ve said, I don’t have time to have a detailed discussion.

This buyer’s attitude is significantly different from that in the previous call on the CFO. This buyer already has an idea of what she wants. It’s possible that she’s already settled on one of your competitors, and is feigning interest, either to satisfy her company’s bid procedures or with the intent of using your price as a lever to negotiate the best deal from Column A.

At the end of the dialogue presented above, you are very likely to get a poor response to the question: “How do you forecast today?” But an alternative is to ask: “As relates to forecasting, what specific CRM capabilities are you looking for?” Or, “How would you use a CRM system to forecast?” These questions encourage the buyer to share what she has settled on so far. They may also elicit an answer that tells you that Column A has not created capabilities to help the buyer fully understand how their offering could be used. Sometimes—based on the buyer’s response and use of industry buzzwords—it is possible to determine which sales organization occupies Column A.

After the buyer has responded, your mission is to clarify in your mind (and potentially the buyer’s mind) what capabilities are needed. Ideally, you can extend the list of requirements by adding a capability that the competition does not have—or that your traditional salesperson competitor might have failed to discuss, because he or she did not have Sales-Ready Messaging and was forced to wing it.

When dealing with a buyer who does not appear to want to have an open discussion, we suggest asking yes/no questions, going down the right side of the Solution Development Prompter to determine which capabilities the buyer will agree to. The most typical responses:

  • “Yes, we want that” tells you that most likely Column A has already made that a requirement.

  • “That isn’t one of our requirements, but it could be helpful” is the best response, because it indicates that you may have the potential to introduce a different requirement. When you are coming in as Column B, the best way to improve your chances of winning is to bring up requirements Column A either can’t meet or hasn’t discussed.

  • “No, that isn’t something we need” can be true, but there are a few other possible interpretations. It could be that the buyer doesn’t fully understand the usage scenario, or it could be that you are calling on the champion of Column A, who doesn’t want to change the existing specification. In any case, if you feel it is a capability that you would like to introduce, we’ll show a fairly gentle way to make another attempt later in the call.

By asking the EQPA questions, you are earning the right to ask, “How are you currently forecasting?” At this stage in the call—as opposed to right after getting a reluctant buyer to share a goal—you may have established enough credibility (and earned enough space) in the mind of the buyer to get a reasonably detailed answer. Once the buyer has finished his or her answer, you can then ask the diagnostic questions corresponding to the capabilities agreed to. If by asking diagnostic questions you begin to build a case in the buyer’s mind for a capability that was initially dismissed, you can do a minisummary and ask the capability questions again.


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