I’m not a fan of surprises. I like them even less in sales. What is worse is when the unexpected sales surprises can be prevented. Competition is tough enough. You don’t need to cause your own frustration with sales surprises. Here’s what you can do if you want to sell without getting any unnecessary sales surprises.
What happened to cause the sales surprise?
A marketing consultant met with a department head of an international telecommunications company. He learned that her department had employees with different levels of experience in marketing. As a result, the less experienced staff was missing project deadlines and results were sub par. As a result of the meeting, the consultant had a solution that he wanted to propose. He could provide just in time project management expertise that would be within budget and produce the results the company needed. He suggested another meeting to present his ideas to the department manager.
Here’s the sales surprise!
At the meeting the consultant was surprised by the people in attendance. The department manager brought in other consultants with whom she was working to gauge their interest in his proposal. Since their work involved coaching and training they perceived him as an immediate threat to their contracts. They were very comfortable about voicing their concern about his services. The other consultants said they thought his work would not fit the company culture. This was not the case. They were being critical only to protect their own interests of keeping more of the company’s business for themselves! As the marketing consultant looked back on his selling at that meeting, he realized he made many false assumptions before the meeting. He also didn’t ask questions to confirm or refute them.
Do over! You get to fix your sales surprises.
As the salesman looked back at his work, he realized what he had forgotten to do. Before the meeting he should have told the department head that he had a solution he wanted to propose. That would require decision makers to be present. He then could have asked about the decision making process and made certain that the right people would be at the meeting. He then could have asked the department manager who she thought should attend the meeting. By asking why each person should attend he would have learned their expected role in the decision making process. Had he asked that question, he could have suggested that there was no purpose in having his competitors present at the meeting.
Any time you’re meeting to propose a solution, your primary objective should be to get decision makers in the room. That’s the only way to shorten your sales cycle. Only when decision makers are present can you do your own selling. When decision makers miss your presentations, you’ll have other people do your selling for you. That’s not good. Even worse is when the people who are present can sabotage your selling.
Clean up your own mess.
The sale didn’t happen— at least not then. When the consultant realized the wrong people were in the room he also realized that he had nothing to lose. He knew his services were needed at the company. That’s when he asked more questions about the company culture to find out how consultants were hired. He found out that business unit heads were the ones with the budgets and the most concerned about missed deadlines. In fact, the consultants in the room were hired by business unit heads, not the department head. His revised strategy includes calling on another internal contact to introduce him to the key business unit head who would most see the need for his work. It’s too bad that he never got the sale after his presentation. It’s good he realized his mistake.
Sales surprises will happen when you make assumptions and forget to clarify. When you sell more thoughtfully and ask the right questions, don’t be surprised when you get the sale.