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Fed up chasing quotes and proposals? Part 2


In my last blog on the subject of chasing quotes and proposals I explained how finding budget before sending anything will cut down the amount of chasing you’ll have to do. Maybe you’ve mastered that already. My guess will be you are still left chasing some (but fewer). What can you do to cut that chasing still further? Two things. The first thing is to find the real decision cycle. That seems easy enough. (See my next blog for the second, more challenging thing!)

Is finding the decision cycle easy? Well, yes it is, if you do it at the right time and ask the right questions.

Let’s look at the right time. Let’s assume you have built a decent amount of bonding and rapport so the prospect doesn’t see you as an untrustworthy commission-grabbing salesperson but sees you as a partner in solving their problem. You are working on the basis of equal business stature and so you have built in an agreement that you can ask about their decision cycle. You have helped them discover a problem that they want to resolve enough to get the decision made. You have identified an investment level in terms of time money and resources that makes sense to all parties involved. At this point, it would not make any sense for your potential client “Yes, all those things are right- but I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to make the decision. I won’t tell you who is involved or my time scales or the criteria I’m using to decide to go ahead.” If they were suddenly unwilling to share that information with you, it must mean that they don’t trust you enough, or the problem isn’t one they want to fix enough or they aren’t happy to make the investment.

So, timing is important. Asking the right questions is also key to establishing their decision cycle. You can guess what those are. They start with a simple “How do you go about making a decision about something like this?” or variations on that, like “How would you get authorization to go ahead with this?”. If they don’t tell you enough detail (or haven’t worked that detail out yet) you may have to ask more specific questions like “Who else, apart from yourself, is involved in making the decision?” “When does it need to be done by?” “Where will the decision be made?” “How will the decision be made, what criteria will you use?” and even “Why are you making the decision in that way?” That looks like a lot of questions. However, remember you only need ask them if they haven’t already told you. I always find it useful to repeat back to them what they have told me, so they get a sense check that they haven’t missed anything like “Oh! I’d better check with the business owner!”

If you ask these questions at the right time, then you are establishing commitment and chasing pretty much goes away. Then, surely all salespeople do this? It saves time ,effort and disappointment (on all sides), it speeds up the sales cycle, improves closing ratios and forecasting accuracy. Basically it means making more money. However, salespeople typically don’t do a good Decision step. Even Sandler-trained salespeople. Why is that?

The biggest reason is fear. Imagine, you have a wonderful prospect who you can help, at the right level of investment. The demonstration is about to be the next step, the bells and whistles of the solution are already ringing in your head in expectation, the quote is about to be sent with all the zeros in the right place, the proposal to finally help your almost-client is about to be crafted. And now you need to put all that in jeopardy for the sake of a few uncomfortable questions. The whole imaginary palace is potentially going to brought tumbling down over this last section of qualification. All that effort to find this prospect, get the right meetings, and to guide them to a solution, is about to be thrown away on some questions your new contact might not want to tell you the answers to. Why would you do that to yourself? Far better, surely, to assume all is well, avoid all that gut-wrench, slide smoothly into the solution part of the meeting and hope nobody notices that you have not the foggiest idea if they will actually buy from you.

If you want to stop chasing proposals, you have to find not only their budget, but also their decision cycle. Don’t skip it. I know it’s tempting to skate over this. I can assure you, if you are weak here, it probably means you’ve already failed earlier in the process and if you don’t do a good job in the Decision step, you might still get the business but you’ve added to the risk that all your hard work was for nothing.

Don't forget to check out my next blog on this subject. You might find it a bit shocking.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer