Terry Ledden - Managing Partner - Sandler Training Ottawa
One of the biggest fears for a lot of sales people is stepping up to the budget conversation. It’s further complicated by the fact that most prospects will hold the money cards close to the vest in a conversation with a “salesperson.” Stepping up means having a rational, adult to adult conversation regarding the level of investment the prospect is committed to make, prior to chewing through valuable pre-sale technical resources or burning through yet another valuable weekend generating a proposal that will never be read or acted upon.
When the time comes for an open, honest conversation about investment, sales people too often find themselves caught in a game show like situation. The prospect plays host and the salesperson-contestant attempts to guess which door, sealed envelope or briefcase opens to the money treasure hidden within.
So, rather than pre-negotiate a solid upfront commitment to invest what’s needed, sales people sometimes find themselves accepting vague yet promising input from prospects. Don’t misunderstand. This IS a make-it or break-it conversation and it is one of the main reasons why so many sales people and prospects avoid it ….. due to the looming possibility that it could end now. Salespeople need and want another deal in their pipeline and the prospects need and want another quote to either keep the incumbent provider honest or to justify a decision they may have already made.
A beautiful thing happens when buyer and seller pre-negotiate the money (and terms) up front. We get to qualify/test the level of prospect commitment to actually move forward. Getting money out of the way up-front also allows buyer and seller to come closer together and collaborate in the co-development of a solution that the buyer knows will be within their acceptable range of investment AND the seller knows won’t be another wasted weekend burner.
Once you’ve validated that the reasons for doing business the BUYER shared with YOU are compelling enough to her that she is committed to take action then it’s time to get the money conversation on to the table. Start with a soft, non-threatening question: “I don’t suppose you’ve had a chance to put a budget aside to take care of his have you?” Be prepared for a NO response. It’s the most likely. Remember, buyers tend to often hold the cards close to the vest. This is not the point where you say: “No problem, let me go away and put something together for you so you’ll know what you’d be looking at!”
Instead, use a combination of third party story and bracket: “Would it be helpful if I shared an example of what other customers typically invest in a situation like this and would you be comfortable letting me know whether or not it’s something you/your organization would support?”
Stop the unpaid consulting. Get a commitment to invest before you propose.