I recently wrote a column on customers who want you to work for free. I never fault anyone for asking. I do blame salespeople who get intimidated and do things they don’t want to do and aren’t strategic for their selling. These sales people are sometimes afraid to tell a customer or prospect no. Sometimes they don’t know how to or when to move on. As I wrote in the column, the first step to be prepared to not work for free is to be ready with a response. The next very important step is to be aware of how these sometimes innocuous requests are really requests for freebies. Here’s what you should look for if you do not want to work for free when you sell.
1. Customers who ask for information, samples, or materials who don’t have a decision making process in place.
I have no problem with customers who want to test a product before they buy it. A small test will show them if the larger implementation will work or if any problems are lurking beneath the surface and need to be addressed before making a much larger purchase. Providing samples at no charge is a good choice after you ask a very important question. That question is, “Can you tell me how you’re going to evaluate the test and what you will do with the results?” You should be ready to provide the criteria for the test if the customer doesn’t know what he’s looking for in an evaluation. Of course, you would charge for the samples if there are no criteria for the test.
2. No deadline for the decision.
I often ask salespeople to identify 3 key questions that they need to ask during that first sales call to determine that they have a viable prospect. One key question is often, “When will you be making the decision to buy?” It’s bad news for you if the answer is unknown or unclear. You are going to be working for free because it’s unlikely that you’re going to make a sale. Without a purchasing deadline it’s like running a race without a finish line. That’s a very bad idea. Without a purchasing deadline, you remove that prospect from your ‘likely to buy’ list of prospects to a lower probability sale. You adjust your time so you’re not spending as much time pursuing the sale because it’s unlikely to happen soon. That’s how you stop working for free.
I would much rather have salespeople working hard on deals that are likely to close. You don’t make sales when you work for free.
Best wishes for your sales success!