Article 8 – Helping the Customer Choose You - Design Sessions Part 2

Lets consider some details on the design session that we laid out in Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ, Page A.

Last month we outlined the eight steps {{(A through H)}} of the session. Most of the time you will go smoothly from the start to the end. Sometimes problems crop up. Lets solve them for you.

Problem 1 - "Am I doing all this work to make it easier for my competition?"

When the problem is not important, there is always time for your sponsor to talk to your competition. However, since you have both chosen to work on one the most important problems your customer has, and the stakeholders trust you in their business, delay is highly unlikely.

Look at it from your stakeholders' perspective. They want this resolved, and soon. They couldn't deal with it themselves, but now they have a known and comfortable resource (you) who knows as much about the problem as they do. One who can lead them to solution. If you were them, would you delay?

Problem 2 - Purchasing says you can't do this.

The stakeholders get excited about solving a real problem, and they have a good resource to help them solve it. They won't wait for purchasing to catch up.

Remember that every purchasing department has rules to go past bidding and low price. They use these exclusions all the time. An influential sponsor with a truly important problem to solve will invoke the exception. In the design session you got both of those on your side.

Problem 3 - Customer wants to know your price before they start looking at the solution.

People either focus first on the solution or the price. If the solution is not important, the price will be. If you start to field price requests, take it as a sign that the problem you want to work on is not high on their list. Use this as a signal to look for the problem that matters. Solving the top priorities will be important enough to outweigh price.

Remember that it will be misleading to give a price ballpark before you have all agreed on a plan. Your response to the question can be to make this clear, and tell the prospect that you simply do not know what the total costs will be until you have all agreed on the solution. Consider: What if a doctor prescribes a treatment without taking the time to diagnose? Would that be malpractice? Would your influential sponsor want to suffer malpractice?

Problem 4 - Customer says that they want to negotiate your price.

If they want to do this before you are done with a design session, tell them that you want to set a price before you negotiate it. During the design session, your price is clearly going to be a small part of the total cost. Someone who wants to focus on that price has two choices. Choice one is that they can do that in the design session with all of the other stakeholders focused on solving an important problem. It makes that one person look like petty and very few people will do that.

Choice two is to try to talk to you about price later. If that happens, you have two choices. You might as well lay them both out. Choice one - unilaterally change the agreement you all agreed to during the design session. That is an abuse of a trust. Choice two - delay the solution, telling the stakeholders that you are delaying so that you can discuss what they will see as a small cost. If the problem is important, that won't work.

For the high priority problems, the stakeholders won't argue price. They will want to negotiate how fast can you get going. That is a good problem to have! You are moving a long sales cycle into a very compressed sales cycle.

Next month - what about the close?