Recently I was pursued by an aggressive sales person from a Cincinnati media company. Their products are good and they’re a decent fit for my client, problem is they’re TOO LATE. I informed her the budget was pretty much spent for 2012 and there were limited opportunities. I told her there was a chance that aprox $5,000 was open for a 1-time promotion for the fall. So after a handful of phone calls and persistance on her part I agreed to meet with her to see this idea “that was a perfect fit for my client” within the parameters that I told her, remember the $5,000 budget.
We get together and she’s going through the promotion which is OK, but a lot more than I would expect for $5,000. After about 25 minutes of reviewing all the aspects I knew there was no way she stayed within the budget. But I thought, was it $10,000? Maybe $15,000? Nope, $40,000. WHAT! Why in the world would you waste your time putting this together, waste my time showing me this and ruin your creditably over 1 proposal. This is the reason that clients hire consultants and ad agencies like me, to avoid situations like this where they get all excited over something only to be let down because the sales person does not listen, or worse, listens only to their commission check.
As a young radio sales rep for WGRR in the late 90’s I remember asking my sales manager, Kim Wiest, why I had never had one of these “hard closes” you read about in sales books. I never had to ask the hard questions like “if we can do that will you buy it”, etc. It seemed like the vast majority of my proposals went really smooth and at the end all the minor yeses I received built to a really easy close. I thought there was something wrong, but there wasn’t. Kim did such a good job of training her sales staff to ask the right questions and wait…..TO LISTEN. By asking the right questions and listening it was easy when it came time to present a proposal to a client. It was exactly what they asked for and within the parameters they laid out. After a few years I not only realized the importance of this with regards to closing deals, but I also realized the impact it had on my reputation. I never wanted to sell something to a client to hit a budget, or get a commission check. I wanted to sell something to a client because it was what they wanted, needed and would drive their sales and profits.
So it’s situations like this that drive me crazy and make sales reps look really bad. Do a proper needs analysis, listen to your client and bring them ideas that meet their needs and budgets. AND more importantly, don’t be afraid to not sell them something. Don’t be afraid to tell them no, that you don’t have anything that fits their needs. When you can do this, you’ve arrived as a consultant, and not just another sales rep cold calling anyone with a sign outside.