Do you and your salespeople ever go nuts going on bid after bid, spending hours measuring, asking questions, and selling your butt off only to have your client start playing hide and seek as soon as they get your number?
Are you sick and tired of hearing- “Sharpen your pencil, we are looking for the lowest bid here…”
How about getting plenty of opportunities to bid some months and virtually none others? Or when some months it seems you close every Tom, Dick and Harry and other times you feel like you couldn’t sell your way out of a wet paper bag (is that even a thing?)
If you are already bored- move on, this article holds nothing of value for you. If on the other hand you know exactly what we are talking about and want some tools in your belt to take back control of your time and your business growth and your income- read on friend, because things are just about to get exciting…
All Prospects Are NOT Created Equal…
Before we even think about going on sales calls and giving bids, let’s back this truck up and take a minute and talk about who your prospects are, where they are finding you and how they get a hold of you.
This is a KEY component in your sales process (and almost all of your competitors are MISSING it) that can be fixed with Pre Framing.
Pre Framing is how the customer heard about you, what they know about your company and your services. This all comes together and creates a positive or negative Pre Frame that greatly influences whether or not you get the bid at a profitable price.
Lets walk through a couple of scenarios that you are probably familiar with as well as some of the Pre Framing that comes with them that you may not have considered previously:
Google Search Guy: This yahoo has just found you (and 16 other companies) and is slogging through a bunch of calls to get a bunch of bids and will almost always go with price…
Unless properly EDUCATED and properly RE Framed. Woe to the business owner who relies primarily or solely on this type of prospect…
Referral Guy: Ideally this referral came from a customer that has been receiving your newsletter since they started with you and is well educated on all of the unique benefits of doing business with your company. When he or she refers someone, they come to you basically Pre Sold (properly Pre Framed) You are often the only bidder in this scenario and who doesn’t LOVE that??
Tradeshow Guy: This is a little more advanced (and far more effective) strategy that assumes you are going to tradeshows.
It will also bring you a better class of prospect.
When done properly, you can meet this person at a tradeshow (even better over a series of tradeshows), build a personal relationship. Often when this person goes looking for a vendor such as yourself, you are the first and sometimes only bid. All thanks to the magic of a good Pre Frame.
Educated Guy: This is where the money is. This is the customer that:
- Read an article you published, a blog post you wrote, or a podcast you were on (and perhaps advertised on Facebook)
- Goes to your website and downloads your free report on the “10 Things You MUST Know BEFORE Hiring Your Next INSERT YOUR SERVICE HERE”,
- Receives your newsletter for a couple of months
By the time this prospect reaches out, you and your company are already established as THE authority in your marketplace and he is looking to you for answers, solutions and a consultation as opposed to a low bid
BONUS LOVIN: For all of you looking for commercial accounts- add speaking at the tradeshow and watch things really EXPLODE!
The moral of this story is if you are going to throw up a website and maybe some PPC (Pay Per Click) ads and rely on a strategy of “hope”, it’s gonna be a long ride. When you DECIDE that you are going to actively create systems that attract the right kind of prospect, your life gets exponentially easier (not to mention more profitable).
What to Say When They Call In
This is great if your goal is to sound smart and feel good about yourself, but so much if your goal is to sell something and bring home the bacon.
KEY POINT: Talk 10% of the time and listen 90%
Your prospect will tell you everything you need to get the job, but you have to listen. Want the shortest masterclass on selling?
AGE OLD SECRET: ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN
Doing this ALONE can double your closing rates. Rookie salespeople feel the person doing the talking is “in charge” and feel obligated to drown the prospect in a bunch of crap the prospect didn’t ask about and isn’t interested in.
TRUTH BOMB: The person asking the questions is in charge.
Believe it or not, your goal of this first conversation is NOT to explain how great you and your company is, or even to get an appointment.
It is almost the opposite.
You are trying to disqualify them as clients and you as a service provider.
Here are some questions to ask that will help you:
- Decide if you want to give a bid
- Arm yourself with everything you need to win the bid
Question: What made you decide to look for our service?
What to look out for: If their last vendor quit or raised prices by 2.5% and now they are shopping, or if they take it out to bid every year, this is not likely a gold star triple A prospect. This alone shouldn’t disqualify them, but it is something to take into consideration.
On the other hand, If they had a legitimate problem like theft or quality issues, these are gold nuggets you can use when you have the Pain/ Gain Conversation (more on this coming up).
Question: How quickly are you looking to make a change?
What to look out for: If the answer is more than 30 days in the future, Tell them your bids are only good for 30 days and ask if it would make more sense for you to come out as the time gets closer. Often this will reveal a lot more info about their decision making process and help you make a good decision about whether or not to bid the project
Question: What is your decision making process? On what basis will you be making your decision?
What to look out for: If they tell you they are just looking for the cheapest price, this gives you a great opportunity to explain that you are rarely the cheapest. Educate them on the benefit to them of YOUR service as opposed to the low price option.
Some examples might be: superior hiring, better paid, more qualified/ trustworthy staff, uniforms, name badges with pictures, better insurance and most importantly the ability to do little extra’s for the customer (including last minute emergencies). Make sure you tie each into a benefit to them!
Question: All this looking for a new vendor seems like a lot of work- what would happen if you gave up your search and did nothing at all?
What to look out for: Lack of compelling reason for them to make a change. I tend to avoid wasting time on bids where they are “just looking to make sure our current guy isn’t screwing us” or them having little to no reason to actually do something.
All of these questions will help you both agree whether or not it makes sense for you to give a proposal. They might decide you are not a good fit and save you the time and headache of giving a bid you have no chance of winning.
They also might realize they really are looking for more than just price and start selling YOU on coming out- either way, it’s a big fat win…
BONUS LOVIN: Even if you don’t bid- put them in your follow up sequence. THIS POST will hook you up with exactly how to do just that.
These questions aren’t the be all end all, but are a great start to going on more qualified bids and increasing your closing ratio.
It gets easier to disqualify bad bid opportunities when you have a steady stream of good requests for bids coming in. You don’t want to feel like you have to dance for every Tom, Dick and Harry that calls in.
Money Making Magic of Ground Rules
At the beginning of this article we touched on the frustration of customers getting a bid from you, telling you they will call you when they make a decision and never calling you again?
As salespeople the only thing we hate more than a no is a think it over.
How glorious would it be if we could eliminate those deal killers? Ground Rules to the rescue!!
Ground Rules set the stage for them giving you a yes or no answer right when you give them the bid as opposed to you chasing, them hiding, and you giving up. Sad day indeed…
Instead of a long explanation, let’s bring the value with an actual script that I have used successfully time and time again…
“Hey Mr. X, after talking with you briefly, I think that we might make sense for us to come to you and give you our recommendations and a proposal… Before you invite me out, can I ask you a favor…”
“If for any reason I get out there- maybe you don’t get a good vibe, maybe you don’t like me personally or our logo colors just rub you the wrong way… would it be ok with you if for ANY reason, you don’t think we are a fit that you would you just let me know?” (I have never had anyone say no to this).
“Great, and if for any reason I get out there and don’t think we are going to be a good fit for you, would it be ok if I told you that without feeling guilty?” (again- an easy yes)
“Cool, now just in case I come out and you think we are the best thing since sliced bread and I think we would be able to do a great job for you, what would you like to see happen next?”
You are looking for a clear yes or no here. More often than not they will say “I guess if we both like each other, we will sign up with you.” Life is good!
If they start to waffle on their commitment to tell you that you are not a fit or to move forward, remind them of the ground rules and that it is ok for them to say no.
In the rare case you still can’t get a definitive answer, you likely did not do a good job of setting up and reinforcing the ground rules. Don’t worry, there is still a great opportunity to get a ton of insight into their buying process. Here are some examples:
Potential Objection: “Well, I have to give the bid to Mr. Y”.
Response: “I totally understand, and that makes perfect sense. I think I have an idea. Almost everytime I come out on a bid like this, where the prospective client loves what we are proposing, but has to to give it to their Mr Y. Mr. Y always says the same thing-
‘This all looks good. Let’s get that company out here again so I can talk to them.” at this point, you and I get to start all over back at square one.’
Most of my clients tell me they would have prefered to have Mr Y present from the start- on the first appointment so we can handle everything with less headache. How about we schedule something for all three of us? To make it even easier, if I come out and Mr. Y thinks I wasted his time lunch is on me.”
Using this strategy, you put yourself in a far better position than your competition and get right to the decision maker.
Potential Objection: “I have to wait until I get all of the bids in”
Response: “I totally understand, why don’t you just schedule me, you, and Mr. Y last so we can save you the time and hassle of a bunch of extra appointments”
This allows you to meet with the decision maker with with the understanding that they are going to tell you that you are not a fit or sign a contract. No more “We will think it over” and a much higher closing rate to boot.
Now that you have set yourself up for a very high closing percentage appointment with a buyer who is educated on you, your company and value over price and you have a good set of Ground Rules, it’s time to actually give a bid.
Ever get onsite and your prospect immediately starts to rush you around their building or even worse just points to a building and says “How much will that cost?” You might have had an uneasy feeling that is not how a sales call is supposed to go, but you didn’t know how to fix it. Let’s tackle that right now.
Stop them dead in their tracks with a recap of the Ground Rules you agreed to on the phone. Once they reaffirm those Ground Rules. Propose an additional set of Ground Rules for this appointment. Want another invaluable script? I thought you might…
“Hey Mr. X, thank you for inviting me out today. I know this is probably not in the top 10 of important things you want to deal with today, so my goal is to make this as quick and painless as possible. If I can take a couple of minutes to ask you some questions, I will make sure the bid/ offer I put together for you will fit your needs exactly so we don’t have to redo any of this or have you end up with service that doesn’t fit your needs”
They will almost always agree- and if they aren’t willing to talk with you for a couple of minutes, there is no reason you should spend hours of your time putting together an estimate.
Why You Will LOVE PAIN
Do NOT overlook this step-
You MUST find out what the person stands to gain by making a switch and often more importantly, what pain has caused them to make a switch or will come about from not making a change.
KEY POINT: No pain or gain = NO SALE.
So how do you get this magical pain/ gain information? Ask them…
- “What prompted you to get bids?
- “Why now?”
- “Why my company?”
- “Who else does this affect?”
- “How does this affect your life personally?”
- “What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t make a good decision here?”
- “What else have you tried to fix this problem?”
- “How much is this costing you in time? Money? Stress?”
This skill takes time to master, but is well worth it as it can be used in any “selling” situation- with employees, vendors, wife, kids, etc. If you know where the perceived pain or gain is for anyone, and you can position your solution as the answer- you are the king of the world!
Once your prospect is in a place of feeling the pain from lack of or anticipated gain associated your service, it is time to have the Money Talk.
Most salespeople are afraid to talk money this early in the sales process because they fear if they are too high, they will lose the sale. Weak. It is better to know there is a problem sooner than later.
When people are clear on and in touch with major pain or gain, their commitment level is at it’s peak and price resistance never going to be lower.
The goal of the Money Talk is to discover their budget. The better you get them in touch with their pain/ gain- the higher price you will be able to command.
KEY POINT: You can’t control your competitors prices, but you can control who you bid for and how your prospect views your price and your company.
One more quick summary of what we have covered:
- Good Pre Frame? Check
- Ground Rules in place? Check
- Understand the client’s pain/ gain? Check
- Understand the client’s budget? Check
- Understand the client’s decision making process? Check
- Feel like you are light years ahead of every other sales call you have been on? Double Check!
Giving a Proposal
If you have done all of the steps up to this point properly, getting the job is almost a forgone conclusion and giving your proposal is just the last step. For contracts under $1,000/ mo you should bid on the spot with the expectation of leaving with a signed contract.
To do this you will need a bid package. An actual package.
Not a napkin with “vacuum, trash, mop weekly- $500 bucks a month!” scrawled on it.
This package will allow you to customize client information, monthly investment and the service you are proposing- don’t forget to highlight their pain/ gain.
Make it as easy as possible for them to use your services. Include your Onboarding Packet/ Checklist (if you don’t have one- make it today!) as the final part of your bid.
For the poor saps that don’t sign up with you, a tremendous opportunity remains…
Those that are bidding right now. This is the tip of the iceberg for your market. Make your life easy and automate a follow up system that drips education, information and all manner of cool stuff to your prospects, clients and even past customers.
CLICK HERE for another amazing blog on exactly how to do that.
Once you have your automated follow up system in place, you can put all of your prospects, lost bids, current and former customers into that system. Sleep easy at night knowing a steady stream of perfectly worded messaging is being spoon fed to your prospects day in and day out. Priming them until they are ready to buy.
Take this blog post for instance. If you have read this far, you are serious about growing your business and if I am not crazy, you have just gotten some AMAZING tools to do that. Not only that- you are probably thinking-
“This guy is a freaking GENIUS!! I could crush it if I could get him to personally hook me and my business up with more of this genius lovin”
You are not alone. As a matter of fact that is how I get my best clients- and so can you. So stop foolin around on the internet and get to work!!