How Not To Be The Talk Of The Prospect’s Office

"Jarring" is not the reaction you want
by Todd Knutson

talk of the townA few weeks ago I wrote about how not to self-destruct during your first meeting. Unfortunately, in this true story the agency became the talk of the prospect's office. Here's the back-story.

Recall that this was a "good agency located in the Southwest" that was asked to submit a proposal for an initial research project estimated at $50,000. They took three and a half weeks to respond and then submitted a proposal with a price tag of $191,000.

At the time I wrote, "odds are, the project - any project - is in jeopardy". And that's what happened, though the prospect's "No Thank You" response was polite:

We were looking for something more in the moment that could present us with company growth.

Understandably, as the prospect explained on the phone, the agency became "the talk of the office for a day" when it became known that their proposal was three times the budget - a budget that was communicated during the initial meeting. She said that the word to describe her reaction to the proposal was "jarring".

After a conversation with the prospect, we can summarize exactly what went wrong.

The agency:

  • Didn't listen: They failed to listen to what was said, as well as what was implied.
  • Didn't view the prospect's business situation: They failed to look at the prospect's competitive situation, their culture, as well as the type of project appropriate for a company their size.
  • Had no sense of urgency: They took 3.5 weeks to submit the proposal, which said a lot of negative things about them.
  • Failed to meet the prospect's expectations: Proposing an initial project that will cost three times the budget is a bad idea, plus its scope was far beyond what was needed or desired. 

It's one thing to lose a project after a hard-fought, competitive dual. It's another to beat yourself.

The silver lining of this story, however, is that all this is fixable. You just need to focus on your sales fundamentals:

  1. Ask questions.
  2. Listen carefully to what's said and not said.
  3. Summarize what you've heard.
  4. Agree on next steps, including scope and due dates.
  5. Deliver as promised and expected.

This agency likely fell down on #2, #3, #4, and #5. Let's all learn from their mistakes.

 

 

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