BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: We are getting absolutely beaten on the acquisition of new customers. Even with referrals, we are losing bids to a competitor who is doing shoddy work, lowballing estimates, and billing clients for significant upcharges. Obviously we need to be doing a better job selling ourselves. Help!
Thoughts of the Day: Figure out if you’re calling on the right prospects. Help potential clients discover your value by asking them questions to get to the heart of their transportation issues. Make sure you’re working with those who will do more than collect bids. Ask your referrals to get involved in more than just vouching for you.
It’s not enough to take pride in your work. You also have to be able to articulate your advantages while focusing on opportunities that favor your company. Operators need to do a better job of selling the benefits of the industry to counteract the low-cost disruptors. Every prospect makes a unique buying decision; every seller has something unique to offer. The closer the match between what you offer and what the potential client wants, the easier it gets to make a sale.
Save yourself time and energy by effectively weeding out prospects who aren’t looking for the strengths you have to offer. If they are looking for the lowest bid, chances are they will always be looking for a price cut. Don’t assume anything: Ask questions to figure out who’s worth your effort, and recognize the signs of a prospect whose priorities are incompatible with yours.
Do they value quality? Keep going if they value quality over price, since that’s what you’re hoping to sell. If they think quality doesn’t matter, look elsewhere for a potential sale.
How much pricing flexibility does the prospect have? Lots of flexibility equals buyers who have control and can make decisions to acquire something they want. Limited flexibility means that you have to make sure you can do the job in the price range specified, or get out now.
Will they take time to learn about what makes a job good or bad? That willingness signals a potential customer who will invest not only the time to build a mutually beneficial relationship but also the effort to gain the knowledge behind an informed buying decision. If they’re unwilling, however, that means the prospect is likely to make a mistake and choose poorly, which might not bode well for you as you try to inform them about what goes into the quality of your services.
Has the prospect been burned by another’s poor level of service or bait-and-switch pricing? Since you’re selling neither a sub-par service nor pricing that changes by the end of the job, you need to find potential clients who know they can get burned by less-professional operations and appreciate a company with standards and integrity.
Once you’re past the basic questions, dig deeper. Think about your best customers. What attributes do they exhibit? What is it about your company that they value?
Make a list of a dozen good customers. For each one, list five things that led you to rate them so highly. Look for common themes. Build questions that help you discover if your future prospects think or act the same way. Favor buyers who want to get to know you. Who makes the final decision? Who has to live with the solution? Who will act as a technical expert? When can you meet with them?
Conserve selling time and energy. Hone in on prospects who want you to explore the fit. Otherwise, think about moving on before you get burned yourself. Practice living in the land of facts instead of the land of perpetual hope when it comes to deciding where to allocate your selling efforts.
Finally, if an existing customer believes in you enough to refer you, that’s a great endorsement. But it’s not enough. Make them aware of any bidding tidbits you’ve learned that could help boost your standing. Ask referrals to tell potential customers specifically why they selected your company over the competition, relating their decision to the prospects’ hot buttons. And remember to check in with your referral sources to find out what they have coming up for future work. [CD1017]
Looking for a good book?
Try Hope Is Not A Strategy: The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale by Rick Page.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.