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First in, best dressed

Today, sales professionals often have to catch up with the “modern buyer” who is often ahead of us in their evaluation process.  Nothing new; here’s a tale from last century. 

It was a call-in… 

NewCo Mining was being spun off and needed a new payroll system – in 5 weeks.  What would you have done?  I scheduled a 9 am for the next morning.  Would wear my best tie. 

Carol in Finance escorted me into a conference room and introduced me to Judy from HR and Bill from IT.  (Bill was with IBM; assigned to help NewCo spin-off from the parent company’s systems.)  I started the usual way: “Thank you for inviting me to visit with your today…”  “I’ve prepared some information to share…”  “Before we get to my list, what do you want to cover?” 

Straight forward enough, but Carol just repeated the information she shared over the phone.  It was uncomfortable, until “he” walked in without introduction.  “He” sat at the end of the conference table.  No greeting, no handshake (no warmth).  Carol picked up the pace: 

We’re a new company being spun off from XYZ Mining.  We have approximately 1,000 union employees at 5 mine locations plus a corporate staff.  We need to convert to a new payroll system by the start of the quarter (5 weeks from now).  Bill is from IBM and will help us with anything we need; data conversion, interfaces, whatever.  We called you because your company is the biggest in the business; we also called your largest competitor – they will be here in an hour.  What will it take to get a proposal? 

First in! 

I described a 5-step process that would address their request: 

  1. Requirements Analysis (covering functional, technical, and financial considerations)
  2. Feedback on the feasibility of our findings; recommendations; and preliminary pricing
  3. Product and Service set presentation (functional demo, installation  requirements, interfaces; file format options; Customer Service Delivery; “Phase 2” options; and our Quality Assurance program)
  4. Final price quote review and preparation of order placement documents
  5. Joint development of the implementation plan (tasks; deadlines; responsibilities; “Go Live” date; post Go-Live phases; etc.) 

I cautioned that an implementation of their size and complexity often ran much longer than 5 weeks from the order placement date; and this was only our “Very 1st Meeting”. 

That’s when “he” spoke: 

We have Don Wall coming in next.  (FYI – Don was a Hall-of-Fame sales rep with my biggest competitor.)  Why should we buy from you instead of him? 

Again, no warmth; just eye-contact and a direct question. 

I’ve always been coached to answer direct questions with direct answers.  In this case, I said, “Well, I would answer your question this way:

  • It’s true; my firm is the largest and most successful in the industry
  • My role is to lead our most knowledgeable and experienced team to address the largest and most complex clients in the market (aka best dressed!)
  • Although we are considered the biggest and the best, I’m not sure even we can do your conversion in 5 weeks
  • With respect; you don’t have time to shop around” 

A direct answer, true? 

He looked at me for a moment, turned to Carol and said, “He’s right.  Cancel the 10 am.  Get me a proposal by close of business today.”  And he left the room. 

Carol turned to me and asked, “OK, what do you need from us?” 

First in! 

GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

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6 Comments


  1. Jeff
    Mar 02, 2013

    Gary,

    I enjoyed your story from back in the day. Good times and fond memories of the time spent working for the “biggest and best in the industry”. Those were truly the good old days.

    Thanks,

    JW


    • Gary
      Mar 02, 2013

      Thanks for the thought JW! Yes, “back in the day” was great fun. Thx, GAP


  2. Tom
    Mar 02, 2013

    Best blog yet, Gary! I always enjoy a good war story and liked the process overview. Keep it coming…

    Tom


    • Gary
      Mar 04, 2013

      Thanks Tom! Yep, war stories make for good entertainment. Feel fee to share some of yours. Thx, GAP


  3. jim gummow
    Mar 19, 2013

    Gary,

    Great stories of old! Must be something to doing business the old fashioned way, as it still works…Truth spoken will always win out over what someone wants to hear!

    Great Blog,

    Jim


    • Gary
      Mar 22, 2013

      Thanks Jim! Yes,something about the odler I get the better I was. 🙂 Hope you are well. Thx, GAP

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