One of the most common (and damaging) sales mistakes I see is the inclination to move to recommendations too early. If your goal is to build predictability and sustainability into your sales process, an effective opportunity debrief is an important part of the process.
When reviewing an opportunity to determine if you’re ready to make your recommendations/proposal, you want to make sure you understand how your recommendations fit within the overall situation of your prospect.
The next time you feel ready to make your proposal, stop and answer these 15 questions:
1. What problems are we going to solve?
While this first question seems obvious at first blush, it’s often not given enough consideration. Lay out clearly the defined problems that your prospects have acknowledged they have – the more specific the better.
2. What problems do they have?
Winning business at higher margins requires that you understand how your offerings fit into the overall world in which your prospect operates. While you certainly don’t need to know every problem your prospect is facing, you need to be familiar with the broader issues your offering will impact.
3. What have they done to solve those problems to this point?
Make sure you’re clear on what actions they’ve taken to solve their problems to date. Additionally, be clear as to why those actions haven’t been sufficient.
4. Who’s impacted by the problem?
It’s a good bet that people and initiatives are going to be impacted at least indirectly by your solution. Make sure you know who and what is impacted.
5. What alternatives exist to solve the problem?
There are always options (no matter how good or unique you think your solution is). Understand the options that exist, as well as the advantages and disadvantages as they compare to what you will be proposing.
6. What other problems/initiatives are competing for attention with these problems?
One of the most common causes of great proposals failing is that it doesn't align with everything else that your prospect is doing. You’ll want to make sure that recommendations align with, and don’t overwhelm, your prospect’s organization.
7. Who is impacted by these problems?
With so many things competing for attention, don’t miss the indirect benefits of your recommendations and the opportunity costs that you impact. More often than not it will be the difference between your prospect selecting your company, or a completely unrelated proposal.
8. Who makes the go/no go decision?
Yes, it’s still important to know who the decision-maker(s) is(are).
9. How is a decision like this made?
It’s not enough to just know the decision-maker, you must also be clear on the process your prospect will employ in making a decision.
10. What resources/budget is allocated to address the problem?
If your offering is truly a solution, the price of your solution is only a piece of the investment your prospect is going to have to make. Often times the biggest challenge to sales success is overcoming the inertia barrier.
11. What’s the cost/consequence of the problem?
There’s only one reason a prospect fails to buy from you; they don’t see the consequences. Make sure you prevent this barrier by clearly communicating the impact your recommendations will have.
12. What’s the timeline/ramp up time for a solution?
If you’re not being asked this question, it’s a good bet that your prospect is discussing it internally. Make sure you lay out a clear timeframe for implementing your recommendations.
13. What are the threats to the solution?
There is always – always – a risk of failure. One of the best ways to reduce the perceived risk is to highlight what can cause failure, as well as informing your prospect of what you do to minimize the likelihood of one of those causes occurring.
14. What expectations should the customer have?
Your long-term success is highly dependent on managing your customer’s expectations. Don’t handle this important area passively - address it proactively.
15. Who else is competing?
The more you know about who else is competing for the business you are, the more prepared you can be.