Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why Are You in the Woods?

“This is what the client is demanding. They have been saying this for months. I know we don’t usually do it this way, but if we say ‘yes’ now we might get the deal closed and make our quarterly numbers.”

These are words of deal desperation. We’ve all heard them. Some of you may have even said them. The last chance plea to management to agree to some wild concession that will make the deal happen and the world will be beautiful again.

But did you ever notice those words often come from the same source? The same sales lead ends up in the same situation, quarter after quarter, asking for a big concession to get the deal done?

It’s like the golfer who is standing in the woods, lying 3 on a par 4. He says to himself, “I have to hole it from here to make par.” Never mind that he has to hit between three trees, over a trap and roll uphill to the flag. He’s swinging for the hole instead of just trying to set up his next shot, which he will undoubtedly have to take.

And when he misses, he is frustrated that he’s still in the woods and blames everyone and everything without answering the real question: Why are you in the woods? How did you end up in a situation where you need to be successful on one desperate shot to make your number? Did you make a plan for the hole? Or just take out a driver and swing as hard as you could?

In sales, it’s called a “closing plan.” The best sales people make a strategic plan for getting the client from proposal to signature. Understanding buyer values/business requirements, building trusted relationships, generating options and setting expectations as to what is possible and what is not.

A client who wants a fixed fee or “not-to-exceed” price, for example, needs to know that such a price is possible provided the scope of work is defined and fixed. Allowing clients to change scope and not telling them immediately that every change can impact price is a fast path into the woods. You’ll be talking to your management about doing 20% more work for the same price and begging for a concession to get the deal done. Maybe you’ll get lucky one time; but without a change in behavior and better planning, your partners will soon find another player who doesn’t make the game seem so painful and frustrating.

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