Sales Training: To sell or not to sell?

By Milestone|3 February 10, 2017

When I was working for an outsourcing company as a Business Development Manager, I received, out-of-the-blue, a Request for Proposal from a large elevator manufacturer company. The value of the (Request for Proposal) RFP was large – packed in 100+ pages of information which contained an opportunity that would involve years of work and hundreds of consultants to be engaged. At the bottom of the RFP document was the contact information of the client – with email and telephone numbers.

Naturally, I emailed the client to express interest and intention to bid on the project, on behalf of my organization. As we worked on the response to this RFP, we had some questions we wanted to ask the client – to clarify the given requirements. So once again, I sent the client contact an email with our questions. After 2 days of waiting, we received no response. So, we decided to call the client directly. Unable to get hold of anyone, I left a voicemail asking for a return call. What I received was a return email – citing that our client contact person is away on a business trip and a reminder for us to submit our response to the RFP as best we could, by the indicated due date.

A day after the RFP’s deadline, we receive an email from the client contact – that our bid was unsuccessful and no indication of reasons why. What happened? Was our price too high? Was our solution inadequate? None of the above! The client never had any intention of working with us in the first place. Never returned phone calls… Not at all met us in person… Never contacted us at all before sending RFP to us.

As it turned out, the intention of this client was to do business with someone else at the start. But because some companies have guidelines to seek multiple request for proposal bid responses before selecting a supplier, the invite responses from bidders to fulfil the required amount of bid responses. Sound familiar?

What can us, as sales professionals do, to try and reduce these situations? Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask for a Face-to-Face meeting – If the prospective client shows interest to do business with you; they would be willing to meet and discuss their situation with you. After all, if you were to do business together, it would be good to see the people you would be working with, before the work starts. Moreover, by giving more information to the potential supplier, the buyer increases their chances of success and potentially saves time and effort on the wrong solution.

“But what if by the time, we received the RFP request; the bid process has started and we are not allowed to meet with the client, as per RFP regulations?”

Well, then the question should be – “Why would you have been invited so late into the process without any announcement?”

  1. Ask why you were invited; This may sound like a silly question, but to understand your client’s perspective of your company will give you an understanding of how they would want to work with your organization. I remember one time I asked this question to a prospective client, and their response was “…because your company is the most renowned and largest in this industry…” When I followed up and asked why being established and significant was important to them; their reason was because they are in need to buy from a safe company whom they could trust and leave things with – giving them an ease of mind.
  2. Body language + Verbal language – a person’s body language gives a lot of indication of what a person is feeling. Look yourself in the mirror – If you are having an interest in speaking to someone, how would you look? If you are having an interest in purchasing something, how would your voice sound? Additionally, listen to the dialogue in the meeting – listen to what the client is seeking for themselves. By telling you what they’re after, you know where their intention stems from. From there, pitching your solution to meet their intentions will surely capture their attention.

My teacher taught me that Intention & Attention have almost a direct proportional relationship. The more Intention you show to others, the more Attention they will reciprocate to you. Perhaps by checking the intention levels of our prospects, we can focus our attention on the right opportunities; saving ourselves resources and increasing our chances.