How does the RFQ play out in creating a sales funnel?
Part One of this three-part blog post looked at the importance of PROSPECTING. Although you may dread this aspect, let’s face it: it’s the start of the sales cycle. Prospecting includes enlightening current customers on the value of expanding the scope of services they receive from you.
Part Two focuses on the WHO of Prospecting.
Prospecting practices make the difference between creating opportunities for relationship building versus generating redundant efforts in responding to an RFQ. Even if you currently do business with a company, you and your own company might be a well-kept secret. If you are only engaged in peer relationships, your internal contact may not be advocating the value that you provide to his or her company. No one may realize that you are behind your engineering solutions.
The only way to get your light out from underneath the proverbial bushel basket is to prospect the Decision Maker instead of relying on others to spread the word.
Keep in mind that Key Decision Makers are solutions-focused: they seek comprehensive rather than tactical answers that result in improved company image, competitive advantage, increased revenue and cost-containment.
Some guidelines to keep in mind when successfully prospecting Key Decision Makers include:
- Prospecting does not involve cold-calling. If you are calling anyone you can get hold of at a company, you will end up in voicemail. Even if you have a well-crafted voicemail message, it will not be returned unless that individual knows you.
- Call on companies where you have a referral. If you have an internal contact, or even that peer engineer to whom you’d rather be talking, ask who the Key Decision Maker is. Ask that engineer to refer you to that Key Decision Maker, which includes having them send your LinkedIn profile as a means of introduction.
- Do your homework about the company you want to call on – even if you currently do business with that company. Go online, Google the company and find out the latest news about them. Go to their website and read about their products and services. Go to LinkedIn and do a company search to determine whether the corporate hierarchy have profiles. Find out about the personalities behind the brand.
- When you make your initial phone call to that Decision Maker, you still may be put into their voicemail. Don’t take this as a sign of disinterest. There are not enough hours in the day for folks to answer every phone call. Reinforce your referral status in your voicemail, let them hear what your voice sounds like. Leave them a message that makes them think.
- Leave an engaging voicemail that validates you and justifies their choice to answer the next time you call…even if it’s to ask you to call back at a different set time and date.
“Hello, this is Sally Jones from Awesome Engineering. Sam Bennett from Engineering recommended that I contact you about some engineering solutions we’ve discussed that can significantly improve productivity and reduce maintenance downtime at your Company. I will call back on This Day at This Time.”
6. Then follow up. Make sure you do what you say you are going to do. That voicemail message differentiates you from engineers that are simply asking for the opportunity to respond to an RFQ to get their foot in the door. When you follow up with the Decision Maker, continue that discussion you started in your voicemail.
Be prepared to walk your talk. By LISTENING.
It’s more productive to ask good questions and let the Decision Maker do the talking. You can discover far more than tactical problems by conversing on a peer level with the Decision Maker. Good questions start by putting yourself in their shoes and asking open ended questions.
“Mr. Decision Maker, in working with my customers, I’ve found that near-capacity production goals have impacted the ability to schedule maintenance downtime. How does this situation play out over the course of the year for your company?”
Keep in mind that you didn’t just dream up this question. You did your homework about the company and hypothesized that based on their current track record, this might be a situation that applies to them. And the Key Decision Maker knows you did your homework – and appreciates your effort.
Ask the question and be prepared for the fact that they may take it in another direction, such as responding “We don’t have to worry about that situation because…..” or “That doesn’t apply to us.” In which case you ask “What are the biggest challenges you are facing in meeting production schedules…?” Start a dialogue. Start a peer conversation.
Keep in mind that every discussion doesn’t result in a project to bid on.
You are simply starting a discussion that may lead to more discussions. If you revert back to Order-Taker vs. Innovator mentality, you’ve blown your credibility and Mr. Decision Maker will feel duped by your voicemail message to engage in a discussion that is nothing more than a sales pitch in the long run.
If you are going to engage at the C-level, start to learn how to have a C-level discussion. You have so much expertise to offer these individuals. And they have so much strategic insight to offer you. And there’s only one way to learn. By doing.
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.