I was sitting in yet another deal review. The sales person was describing the deal, focusing on what the customer wanted to buy.

The sales person described the products, the volumes, the competition, potential pricing…

At some point, I raised my hand, asking, “Why are they buying?”

The sales person looked at me, perhaps noticing by silver hair, thinking, “Poor old guy, doesn’t realize senility is setting in, I’ll humor him.” He responded, “Because they are unhappy with their current supplier and want to look at alternatives?”

I persisted, “Why are they unhappy with their current supplier?”

The sales person couldn’t answer.

I continued, “Why are they experiencing problems with the supplier? What are the problems are they experiencing? What is the impact of those problems? What happens if they don’t make a change? Is it the competitor’s product that is causing problems, or is it something else?”

The sales person couldn’t answer. He looked at me, frustrated, I was slowing down the deal review…

I shifted gears, “What are they looking for in the alternatives?”

The sales person cheered up, “They are looking for a product that meets their needs and their price expectations, and ours will…”

“But what are their needs?”

The sales person was getting frustrated, we seemed to be going in circles. “Well, they need our product…”

“But, presumably the current product meets their needs, what’s changed?”

Yes, we were going in circles—and the sales person kept focusing on the product he was selling.

Finally, I asked, “What do you need to do to win?”

The sales person was being kind, undoubtedly thinking, “It’s a shame when these old guys just keep asking these questions, going in circles…”

“We just have to come in at the right price, we have to be lower than their current supplier…”

To which, I replied, “Is that what is causing the customer to be unhappy? What is it that we need to do to win?”

And the sales person couldn’t answer…

SOURCEPartners in Excellence
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Dave Brock
Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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