Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Great Sales Sins - The Eager Beaver

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was just a wee bit too happy? Specifically, they were just a little too eager to please?

In a normal, productive relationship, there is a balance of compromise and empathy where the needs of the individual are weighed against the corporate good of the couple. This is a nice way of saying that if you want sweet, hot, monkey loving, your sorry butt best get off the golf course and watch a little "Desperate Housewives."

Things can get out of whack when balance is not maintained. For example, if "Hey baby, me and my buddies are going to Hooters to get drunk and then embarrass ourselves to the extent that we may have to move," is met with a warm, sincere, "Well, you be careful. I wouldn't want anything to happen to my little love possum," then you may have an imbalance.

How many times in the sales cycle have we endangered our chances by appearing a little too eager?

"We won't lose on price"

"Want a reference? Here's my entire customer list. Call them all."

"You want us to be liable in case the Internet goes down? Sure, we'll put it in our contract."

Just like the lopsided relationship, you pipeline can suffer long-term damage by not maintaining a health balance of respect for both you and your prospect.

"Oh, we'll do anything to earn your business," is the personal relationship equivalent of "Hey, I'm a co-dependent stage-five clinger."

Your solution will deliver value to your prospect. It will lower operational expenses, increase revenue, and empower the enterprise to do more with existing resources. You have a strong position in your negotiations, don't give in too easily. You have the ability and the right to keep your negotiations in balance by asking for something each time you give.

For example:

Prospect: "We would like an on-site presentation."
Sales Rep: May I confirm the major details of the project with the Executive Sponsor?

Prospect: "We would like to talk to at least five of your existing clients."
Sales Rep: Out of respect for our clients' privacy, I am only allowed to release only one until notice that we are a finalist and/or on your short list.

Prospect: "We would like a discount!!!"
Sales Rep: "I would like a spouse that owns a liquor store and a golf course, not going to happen." OR "My discount authority only extends to the end of this month/quarter. If I provide a discount, can we agree that this purchase can be completed by then?"

Lesson Learned

When it comes time to negotiate contracts, it's always best to bring in a third party whose compensation is not tied directly to the deal.

Once you receive the "Selected Vendor" status, there is a euphoria that can lead to a little too much optimism. It's in this state that T&Cs can be positioned to effectively come back and squarely bite you in the hindquarters.

A few years ago, my team and I received the Selected Vendor notification from a very prestigious and widely known government agency. Their Chairman was practically a household name, and to have them as a client would be a huge ego boost for us.

There was only one special term that we needed to add to our contract. In the event that our web content management system could not publish to their website in a timely manner, they were entitled to a full refund and the contract would be cancelled.

No problem. A majority of the value of a web content management system is the ability to publish content. This was like saying, "Your car must be able to go into Drive." We had this one.

Yep, really should have talked this one over with my technical team. The new client's definition of "timely" was having the ability to specify, to the second, that the content would be available on the website. So, by the letter of our contract, if the client wanted to have some unknown amount of content published at 12:00:00, then that was the time it was to be available, e.g., 11:59:59 was too soon, 12:00:01 was too late.

Evidently, they were pretty damn serious about this requirement. After months of trying to explain the virtual physics around moving data from one server to another and striving to reach a compromise, they activated the term in the contract, a refund was produced, and the commission was quietly deducted from my check.

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