This is an excerpt from the book, "Sales Truth" by Mike Weinberg. It has been republished here with permission.
Just because a customer asks for a demo or a sales pitch, does not mean that it benefits you to do so. And that is even more true when a customer instructs you to work through their procurement process or solicits a request for proposal (RFP).
Most of us in sales are not paid to do work. We are paid to bring in new business and win deals. Said differently, there are no rewards for jumping through hoops, perfectly complying with someone’s ridiculous process, or for completing more pages of RFPs than other sellers.
I’m sorry if this message offends you or upsets your apple cart, but I have some harsh news. Blindly going along with a buyer’s direction simply for the sake of scoring “obedience points” is not going to help you bring in more business.
Too many salespeople wimp out on their own sales process and continue defaulting to the buyer’s process even when it makes no sense. This deprives them of the opportunity to execute proper discovery work, enhance relationships with the right customer stakeholders, and prevents them from being able to tailor their approach, presentation, and proposed solution.
I understand that for many salespeople, pushing back against the customer’s suggested (dictated) process creates discomfort. We want to be liked. We want to be perceived as empathetic. We want to be helpful and responsive and respectful. We want to be easy to do business with. We want the prospect to want to work with us.
Those are all great motivations and there is nothing wrong with our desire for a smooth relationship. But there’s just one problem with what I call the “Acquiesce Approach,” and it’s a biggie.
Acquiescing to the customer’s strict process can prevent us from positioning ourselves as true advisers and consultants, stops us from differentiating our approach, and often ends up getting us commoditized as procurement lumps all potential suppliers together into the same box.
I can’t speak for how much you enjoy getting stripped of the opportunity to differentiate yourself, your company, and solution, but I can speak for myself. I hate it!
Getting commoditized sucks. Playing by someone else’s rules whose desire is to squeeze all the creativity, differentiation, and profit margin out of our deals is not fun. Following orders from a certified procurement person whose stated mission is to “level the playing field” is not very motivating to me and certainly not why I am in sales.
I have two missions as a professional salesperson. First, I am driven to create the absolute best possible and highest-value outcome for the client. Second, I am committed to winning every deal for which I compete – assuming, of course, that I’m convinced that is in the best interest of the client.
Those two missions are what drive me and drive my sales process. I am beholden to getting the client what they need to win and doing what I need to do so I can win.
The term “win-win” gets thrown around a lot, but this is one instance where it perfectly applies. I’m committed to creating a win-win situation, and if that means having to circumvent, avoid, or alter the client’s buying process, so be it.
I don’t work for procurement people. I work for my client contact (business person), for my company, and for myself. It’s incumbent on me to do whatever is ethical and necessary to ensure the client gets the best solution and to give myself the best chance of winning.
Translation: when I perceive that the customer’s stated buying process or instructions to me are counter to either creating the best solution or improving my likelihood of winning, that’s when it is time to stand my ground and push back.
Top-Producers Are Usually Pretty Good at Telling Procurement to Pound Sand
Based on my experience from years of coaching salespeople at all levels of experience and success, I am confident that a good number reading this will not believe the following statement: Top-producing sales professionals regularly alter their customer’s buying process.
Regularly -- as in doing so is the rule, not the exception. And if that #SalesTruth baffles you, let me take it a step further. Quite often, top-producing salespeople not only disregard procurement’s directions and rules, they actually dictate to the customer how their companies will do business together.
These top sellers change the rules, change the game, and change the outcome – all in their favor!