Have you ever introduced a topic the prospect wasn’t expecting – and stopped a deal in its tracks?
Don invested three months developing a comprehensive IT solution for a prospective client. He effectively orchestrated the interactions between the prospect company’s buying team and his sales team. The project objectives were defined with laser-like precision. All the potential implementation roadblocks had been identified and resolved. Timelines and deadlines had been established. Don and his team had generated a complete and compelling proposal. He was absolutely confident he would win the business – and he had every right to be confident.
At the proposal presentation, Don first reviewed the project objectives and requirements and reconfirmed that they were the elements on which the buying decision would be made. Don then covered each phase of the project – point by point. After each point he asked the buying team members if they were 100 percent comfortable with what he presented. They affirmed that they were. Don reviewed the financial arrangements to which they had previously agreed. No problems there. Don was entering the home stretch, confident that he would close the sale. Don wasn’t quite finished with his presentation when the buying team leader interrupted, “Don, we don’t need to see any more. We’re ready to move ahead with the project. We’d like you to get things going as soon as possible. Let’s complete the paperwork.”
Even before Don could breathe a sigh of relief and pull the contract out of his portfolio, a member of his tech-support sales team killed the deal. The tech guy blurted out, “You should know that there’s an update coming for the database program. We’re just about finished beta testing it. The final version should be ready in about 60 days. A strange silence fell over the room.
The Unasked Question
Of course, in the tech-support person’s mind, the prospect buying team should have asked about software updates. Even though they didn’t ask, he felt it was important to provide an answer. The tech-support person was not, strictly speaking, a salesperson. But there are plenty of salespeople who have answered similarly inopportune unasked questions at similarly critical moments.
You can guess what happened. The tech support member’s answer to the unasked question derailed what was shaping up to be a “slam-dunk,” and quickly transformed in into a disaster. The prospect decided to hold off signing the contract … and ended up working with someone else. Why did the deal die? In Don’s world, software updates are a fact of life, something that’s routinely handled with little or no inconvenience to the client. The fact that Don didn’t mention it, and his team member felt compelled to bring it up at the last moment, cast some suspicion on the “slam-dunk” proposal.
The objective of a presentation is to present the aspects of your product or service that address the issues and concerns previously identified … and nothing more. This is not the time to introduce new elements. If, during a presentation, you’ve ever said something like, “you’re probably wondering how we would …” and then gave an explanation about some new element that is supposed to add value to your offering, or entice your prospect to buy, then you are guilty of answering an unasked question. If the prospect had been “wondering” about it, he would have asked!
Excerpted from: Sandler's 49 Rules