Have you ever been asked to "get started" ... before you close the deal?
- "Do the groundwork."
- Play "Let's Pretend."
- What happens if...?
Many salespeople are asked by prospects to "do some groundwork" and "present the findings" at the next meeting. This "groundwork" might be compiling some preliminary figures, it might be performing a site survey, it might be creating a working diagram, it might be interviewing potential end users, or it might be doing some other initial work. The "findings" are meant to be an extensive analysis of everything that's been uncovered as a result of all the (unpaid) up-front work.
How often have you been in that situation?
Wouldn't you like to know what it is likely to happen as a result of your efforts...before investing your time and energy?
Play "Let's Pretend"
The Sandler "Let's Pretend" strategy will help you obtain the information you need. Here's what the request for "groundwork" from the prospect may sound like:
Prospect: I have to tell you, I'm impressed with what I've heard so far. I'd like to see a preliminary plan for the content development project - with approximate costs and estimated time to completion.
Do not simply say "yes" to this proposal! Instead, play "Let's Pretend."
You: I'd be happy to start working on that. Let's pretend for a moment that when I come back with our preliminary plan, you are completely comfortable with my approach, the estimated costs are within your budget, and the completion dates meet your deadlines...what would happen at that point?
Notice the critical work "I'd" in "I'd be happy to start working on that." That's a very important part of the message.
"I'd" is short for "I would," as in "I would be happy to start working on that...once we establish what will happen if I do." You are not saying, "I'm happy to start working on that right now, and you can expect it all first thing tomorrow" - or anything similar! You certainly do not want to make a commitment before the prospect starts talking to you about the future. And the best way to get the prospect to talk about the future is to bring it back to the present. Get the prospect to describe the future to you...today.
Here's another example. Suppose you sell security systems and a prospect who is considering an intrusion alarm system for a new warehouse says, "I've received excellent feedback about your company. I'd like to see your approach for the warehouse system, including projected costs and installation time."
To comply with his request, you would have to conduct a site survey, develop an appropriate system to meet all of the requirements, draw a preliminary system schematic, calculate material costs and installation times, package all the information in a proposal, and finally, develop and rehearse your presentation. This is a fairly large commitment on your part...with only the faintest hope that the prospect will actually be persuaded to buy as a result of all your efforts!
Before doing all of that work, use the "Let's Pretend" strategy to determine the likely outcome of your effort. Ask the prospect the following:
You: Let's pretend that I conduct a site survey, develop an appropriate system to meet all of your requirements, draw a preliminary system schematic, calculate material costs and installation times, package all the information and make a presentation where I thoroughly demonstrate how our system would do precisely what you require, which is to deter, detect, and document unauthorized access to the premises. What would happen then?
In fifteen seconds, you've done all the "groundwork" and "made the presentation" - virtually. If the prospect is not willing to make a commitment to an action that is in your best interest - and remember, sitting by the phone for days waiting for his decision is definitely not in your best interest - you probably shouldn't commit to doing the work. If you feel you MUST do the work in this situation, charge for it! Agree to apply the initial fee to the project if it is awarded to you. That strategy won't guarantee that you'll get the sale, but at the very least, you'll get paid for your efforts.
Getting the prospect to describe the future today prevents you from being set up. If the prospect can't, or won't, make a commitment that is in your best interest, you must think twice before agreeing to the request to "do the groundwork" or "present your findings."
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