Are your current or potential customers turning you into a solutions give-away specialist?
You are a bright, curious and inquisitive person. Chances are you enjoy being helpful. You also want to showcase how knowledgeable you are.
That’s when you are vulnerable to being perceived as a solutions giveaway specialist to allegedly prospective customers.
One of my clients was approached by a large company via referral. This prospect appeared eager to buy from him. They pushed him to schedule a discovery phone call so they could tell him all about their proposed project. They were eager to determine his thoughts.
Was a big red “Caution” sign raised when you read that last sentence?
Of course my client jumped at the chance to schedule that “discovery” call. He also had the good sense to sleep on that enthusiasm.
In the morning, after the initial adrenaline rush wore off, he called me before he contacted these folks. We framed a more realistic approach which allowed him to make that discovery phone call a two-way street.
We created a go-to list of 5 questions to keep handy at all times. These questions rapidly frame context when you get one of those phone calls “out of the blue” and they ask you if you have a few minutes or when you receive the juicy email that my client found in his inbox.
Unfortunately, some customers take advantage of our generosity. We end up writing the RFQ/RFP specifications on a project that is awarded to someone else.
Take the time to qualify customers. Take the time to establish context. Avoid rushing to provide insights and solutions.
Otherwise you end up helping everyone but yourself, and pro bono at that.
Once you respect yourself, first, those prospective customers also will respect you.
You can still be helpful and insightful. You can still provide some degree of feedback. I recently assisted a prospective customer who was misusing business terminology and subsequently directing his company to bark up the wrong tree. I shared my knowledge of business terms and appropriate uses and applications. I didn’t share my facilitation process and team-building methodology.
Do you see the difference between “what do you think?” and “how are you going to do that”?
Ultimately, you won’t be a solutions giveaway specialist any more. Your goal: become the basis of design when that prospective customer creates that RFP / RFQ.
When they sign your contract and award you the entire project, they will be on the receiving end of your entire solutions enchilada. Not before.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC is a management strategist and team-building leadership coach. She helps small to mid-size companies, startups and family-owned businesses who wrestle with unpredictable revenue streams. She and her clients co-create Playbooks, resulting in more productive and profitable teams and healthier organizations. Her Playbook on practical collaborative leadership and business development strategies, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.
Image courtesy of Thomas Strohl, 123rf.com
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