How To Promote Your Business

Updated: January 01, 2012


Good Rules of Engagement

When invited to compete for a prospect's business, salespeople traditionally let the prospect set the rules of engagement. What are those terms? Is the prospect candid and clear about what it takes to earn the business, or does he or she just want a competitive quote? You must know and understand the prospect's rules of engagement before entering the arena.

Better still; develop your own rules before agreeing to compete. What is fair to you? What rules are unacceptable? Don't "wing it" when setting the rules. It's unprofessional to waste your time and the support of your company team without clear, fair, and agreed-upon rules of engagement. Set the rules by asking the following questions:

What's the upfront commitment? By definition, "engagement" means a commitment to something. For example, if you solve a business problem, service problems for your prospect and stay within budget, will you earn the prospect's commitment?

Don't assume this is so until you state this rule of engagement and the prospect agrees. If your prospect doesn't agree, the rules of engagement are not fair to you or your team. Before moving ahead, ask the prospect what it will take to earn his business.
Who's quoting and why? Avoid excess competition. If your prospect accepts bids from multiple salespeople, what does that say about your odds of success? More important, what does that tell you about the perceived value of your professional support? Set agreed-on rules about the mix of competition that's fair to you. When the prospect seeks multiple bidders, ask why before entering the quoting fray.

How are your markets assigned? Has one of your competitors ever given a prospect a list of dozens of potential companies in order to block those markets from you? Not only is that unfair to you, but it also puts your competitor's interests ahead of the prospect's. Don't agree to allow other salespeople to block your most competitive markets.

Insist on access to the companies you count on to bring your prospects the best value. That's fair to you and your prospect. Anything less robs you of your tools and reduces your opportunity to succeed.

What's the budget? Understand your buyer's budget before committing to compete. Can your prospect aff ord you? Is the budget flexible if your solutions add cost? Are service and relationship advantages important, or does the account goes to the lowest bid? Is your sale price within the budget?

Define the decision-making path. What pathis the prospect following to reach a buying decision? Who else's input is required? When does the buyer expect your proposal? When can you expect a final decision? Do you have "last look" or the opportunity to adjust your proposal before a final decision is made? If not, does the incumbent or any other salesperson have those opportunities? Is the upfront commitment still valid at decision time? Insist on a fair, logical and clear decision-making path.

Bad Rules of Engagement

Can't you just give me an ‘apples- for-apples' quote like everyone else?"

When a prospect uses the words "apples for apples," he is saying that price, not value, is the deciding factor. Can you always off er the lowest price? When you deliver a low price, is the incumbent salesperson given a chance to beat, match or split the cost diff erence? What happens when your service is superior? When prospects control competition by requiring an "apples for apples" quote, run for the hills. "Would you just bring your best quote so I can present it to the owner?"

Once again NO! When an office manager is delegating the task of getting quotes, be careful. If the owner's representative is not the decisionmaker, your probability of success is reduced.

Determine your contact's authority level. Can he or she say yes to your proposal? Does your contact have the power to recommend your proposal to the owner, or is his or her task simply to harvest as many competitive quotes as possible? Ask if the incumbent salesperson and any other competitors have direct access to the owner. You must have access to the decision-maker equal to or greater than the incumbent's or any other competitor's.

"Why do you need that?" Prospects must be willing to share information to help you build an effective proposal. Some prospects may not have the information you want. Others might be unwilling to share data they perceive as negative. Perhaps your buyer doesn't trust you with proprietary information such as financial statements. If your prospect can't give you what you need to create a professional proposal or won't provide negative or proprietary information, you're proceeding at your own risk and perhaps preparing to fail in the attempt to gain a new customer.

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