How many times in the last 18 to 24 months have you been involved in an opportunity (a pretty good one), just like the last few with that customer. You got the call or the email from the customer about the project (the Binford 5,000 Project). You met with your contact(s), qualified the opportunity as much as possible, met with your internal people, developed a great solution, submitted your quote, re-submitted, followed up, followed up again, one more try. Uh oh, now you’re starting to get nervous. Jenny always gets back to me…
After a few more tries you finally get in touch with Jenny. But things aren’t the same. She’s normally pretty friendly, engages in small talk, even asks about you & your family. This time we won’t say Jenny’s frigid, but she sure isn’t warm & fuzzy. The small talk has hit a wall & it seems as though she wants to get off the phone a lot quicker than normal.
It takes a few minutes, but Jenny finally fesses up to you; the Binford 5,000 Project went to your competitor.
You think to yourself, WTF?
Time for a quick post-mortem in your head. You can’t think of one thing you did wrong.
- You had good meetings with Jenny & others.
- You know the project
- They know you & your company
- You certainly have the technology they are looking for & an ideal solution
- Your pricing is right
One question you should be asking yourself & one thing you would know if you spent more time communicating with your customer(s) is: What has changed? On their end. It’s hard to know what has changed at the customer when you’re not in contact with them & if you don’t ask.
Don’t take this as a slam to your work ethic. It’s not. Salespeople have a lot to do. We get it. You must work in your customer “connections”, Zoom & Teams meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. You have to work around their schedules. The customer may be out of town. A lot goes into it. When the time permits & things open up, let’s all agree that we should (if permitted) never miss out on an opportunity to be face-to-face with our customers (or as a client of mine likes to say, we need to get belly to belly with them!)
If you are not in front of your clients & customers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis (depending on geography) you are falling way behind. You are exposing yourself. You are missing out on ways to learn about your customer.
When we say “in front of your clients” we understand that Teams & ZOOM & other online platforms are often required (for now). The good news is . . . all of this information can be gathered virtually.
But that’s only part of it. Being there (or virtually there) is one thing. You must be with them, engage them, understand them, ask them questions. It’s not enough to just show your face. You need to show your value. We say this often: You will gain credibility with your prospects & customers through the questions you ask – not by the information you Dump on them.
- The next project
- Feedback on the current project
- New players involved in the project (engineering, quality, facilities, purchasing, etc.)
- Competitive information
- Developing relationships
- Understanding the customer’s process (decision making process, workflow, tendencies, motivations, etc.)
- Who is involved in the decision?
- Who else is involved in the decision?
- What is each person’s role in the decision?
- How do they make the decision (the steps involved)?
- What factors are considered in the decision (tooling, transportation, duty, logistics, acceptable cost models etc.)
- How often do they meet & discuss?
- Who else are they considering? What are their value propositions?
- What personal PAIN are you helping them with?
- How is their relationship with their supervisor (office politics)?
- Are we just a data point for them? (keeping the incumbent honest?)
Step one is being there. Step two is engaging, asking & understanding their process. Do ‘em both.