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Week 037 – Take Your Customer on an Adventure – Chapter 10

Do you like adventures? I don’t mean an adventure such as Columbus might have taken, but more in the style of trips offered by travel agencies. Taking a boat up the Amazon River for instance? Or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Or a cave tour in Iceland? Then make your offer to your client in the form of an adventure!

These kinds of excursions are probably associated with a certain risk, but with the right guide, any interested and solvent client might give it a try.

Take Your Customer on an Adventure © Fotolia 2015 / Frank Waßerführer

Take Your Customer on an Adventure © Fotolia 2015 / Frank Waßerführer

Therefore, you should choose clients to whom you can offer a quantifiable benefit and who are ready to take a risk. Find someone who wishes to make an investment, because they value the expected benefit more than the effort required to obtain it.

Let’s stay with the example of a journey. Every journey has a point of departure and a point of arrival. Keep this image in mind and describe your offer in terms of such a journey.

The first building block of an effective proposal is the current situation. Do you remember the knee-specialist? What we learned from him is that competence comes into being through the right questions, not through an instant solution. Show your customer that you understand his individual situation and have a solution tailored to him. First understand and then show that you’ve understood.

The second building block is the goal of your initiative. Why does the customer wish to invest? What result is he striving for? What economic benefit does he wish to obtain? If you’ve been paying attention during your initial talks, this part should be easy. You might even quote words from your client at this point; this will make it easier for him to understand what you mean.

The next step is the implementation. Here you will illustrate what needs to be done. In order to do so, stay as broad as possible. You don’t have to go into the details here, give a rough overview: a preliminary discussion to clarify the issue, then the implementation of the insights gleaned, then a procedure following the proven XY method, followed by the kick-off, etc.

The final step will be a comparison of the investment with the expected ROI. Three elements are almost always sufficient here:

  • Product costs and/or license fees
  • Implementation based in a cost estimate per unit of time
  • Maintenance costs and/or running costs per period

This issue occasionally draws resistance from experienced sales professionals, since some might say that this was a thing of the past and that clients wanted individual proposals in order to compare them with others. And when they say so, they will hardly realize that they just made themselves into a pro bono advocate for the customer. They’re defending a ritual that has become part of running conflict between buyers and sellers, but has little to do with profitable business. The professional buyer is always looking for comparable offers; therefore you have to ensure that your offer is incomparable.

Keep in mind that you are setting a sensible return against the investment. Here, too, experienced salespeople often get defensive: “If I promise something now that can subsequently not be kept, that’s counterproductive!” True. And that is why you should never promise anything. Instead, I would recommend saying something like, “In other projects with similar conditions we have achieved a cost reduction or a gain of x dollars. What returns would be realistic in your view?”

You have to understand that it’s not a question of giving a guarantee, since that would indeed be counterproductive. Why? Well, imagine that I were to guarantee that after one of my seminars you would increase your revenue by $25,000 per year. I presume that this would have the effect that you would lean back and think: “That’s a guaranteed result, which means I don’t have to lift another finger…” There are similar effects that arise when any kind of guarantee for complex products and services is offered.

When you guarantee a result, you are forced to execute your task without the indispensable support of your customer. Ironically, this may even generate resistance from the customer himself. It is better to reveal this mechanism whenever your customer asks for guarantees. Customers should understand that the call for guarantees is understandable, but under closer inspection is counterproductive. You can guarantee the quality of a product, but unfortunately not the success of an investment. That is why there is currently very little interest on savings accounts, whereas companies generate considerably higher (not guaranteed) returns on investments.

There are four core elements of a good proposal: current situation – goal – implementation – investment. If your proposal should have more than three pages, I would recommend that you condense the content of the four elements to half a page each. A total of a thousand characters should be enough. The following outline will guide you concerning the structure:

  1. Management Summary
  2. Current Situation
  3. Goal
  4. Implementation
  5. Investment / Amortization
  6. References
  7. Additional Remarks (optional)

If your proposal is structured like this, an important requirement is already fulfilled. But what if a proper proposal isn’t even necessary? Sometimes you should send a sales confirmation right away. Does it work? Maybe – you never know.

Next week we will have a closer look at the decision making process from the perspective of the client. Maybe you’ll find reasons why it’s sometimes a good idea to send a confirmation straight away.

Best wishes,
Stephan Heinrich