Using IT to your advantage during the sales process
Believe it or not, businesses evaluate
your company during the sales process and you may be eliminated without knowing
it before you submit your final proposal.
While this seems obvious, most businesses are moving at 100 miles per
hour and don’t take the time to analyze how they interact with potential
customers during the sales process.
A couple of years ago, I did a
consulting project for a client and interviewed several of their customers as
well as companies that took their business elsewhere. There was a common theme among all companies
– during the sales process they evaluated potential vendors based on the
Quality of their response
I was surprised how important
response time was for these companies.
But when they explained their reasoning, it made perfect sense. If a vendor takes a long time to get back to
us during the sales process, what will it be like when they have a signed
contract? I experienced this hand when I
was looking for a telesales firm. I
reached out to several firms via e-mail and phone. Only 1 firm actually got back to me and it
took them over a week. These are telesales
firms specializing in sales! It blew my
mind. Needless to say I went elsewhere.
What are the common causes for a
slow response? For the sake of argument,
let’s eliminate laziness because I’m not sure there is a cure for that. The
main problems I’ve encountered are poor communication and no proposal management
Let’s talk about communication
first. The Internet and PDAs
(Blackberry, Smart Phones, Treos) phones have significantly changed customer
expectations. It is rarely ok to wait even
a day to respond to requests from potential customers. Most businesses expect
an initial response from potential suppliers within a few hours. Companies that wait a day or more to
acknowledge a potential customer are usually out of the running before the race
If your initial response is quick,
the next hurdle is quickly understanding the customer’s requirements and
providing a quality proposal in a reasonable time frame. Most sales people either use one of their
past proposals as a starting point or send out an e-mail to their colleagues
requesting a proposal that closely meets the customer’s requirements. If a sales person’s past proposal is solid,
no problem. The problem arises when they
send out an e-mail asking a colleague if they have a proposal that meets the
requirements. Their colleagues are busy
managing their own opportunities/customers and typically don’t respond for a
day or more. Even if another rep does
respond in a reasonable timeframe, it usually takes several e-mails to get the
right information. As a result, it takes
much longer to produce a quality proposal than it should.
If your competitor responded in
half the time, guess who’ll win.