It’s no secret that Qualifying Questions have my heart. I am always looking for questions to ask early in the process that will inform selection and the overall project.
My new question (to designers if you’re a trade showroom or to the customer if you’re a retail showroom) is this: “What are the challenges and concerns you have about the project?” Followed closely by: “What are the challenges and concerns you have about the products?” And if YOUR customer is a designer: “What are the challenges and concerns you have about the client?”
And then just listen.
We spend so much time as salespeople looking for wants and desires, when there is just as much buyer motivation (maybe even more, actually) to avoid or fix something. What are they afraid of? What makes them crazy?
Find solutions for those issues. And offer them via the product or as a personal or company service that will help them to solve those nagging.
In the last couple of weeks, I have met with hundreds of designers and salespeople and there has been a commonality to their challenges, especially about the end-user / customer / client.
The ‘complaint’ has been that there is no commitment by the customer to their project, as evidenced by their lack of budget, or more exactly, their unwillingness or inability to share that information with the designer or salesperson.
What happens next is where commitment shows up. If the process continues without that information it will usually proceed to some sort of selection at some sort of price point and (inevitably) some sort of objection will occur. And that will be a price objection. It’s predictable.
At this point, the ability of the salesperson or designer to manage that objection will be limited, which includes the skills of managing the concern and resolving it. And the relationship or the discussion will begin to deteriorate.
So, where the lack of commitment shows up is really with the salesperson or designer, not with the customer or client. It’s lacking because the designer or salesperson doesn’t find an effective way to get that information before they invest any more time or talent or treasure with this client. It might be ignorance on the part of the customer/client – they don’t know what the product or project will cost and are expecting the designer or salesperson to come up with a figure. If that’s the case, stop the process, ask that question, and then start to discuss what it will cost. It might be that the customer/client doesn’t trust the designer or salesperson with that information yet. If that’s the case, stop the process and ask that question, and then discuss what would make them feel more comfortable and confident with you or with the process.
In either case, it’s the designer or salesperson who is driving this process and who needs to be responsible for asking and extracting this information. The customer / client is wired to resist discussing it, so expect that and be prepared to explain why that’s important for you to know in order to move forward. Commitment shows up when things get difficult, and it’s certainly a challenge to discuss money with someone who is afraid of you or of the process. Be compassionate, courageous and confident in your ability to engage and discuss this….in the beginning of the process, when it’s part of the selection process and not later, when it’s a point to be negotiated.
How often have you heard that? And here you are expecting a deposit on the order, not a renegotiation of the pricing.
To effectively manage this you will need a strategy that includes LOTS of questions to determine where you might have missed something earlier in the process AND to determine what it is they want you to do.
What do they want? What are they asking for? When they tell you that the project is now over budget and EVERYONE has to cut their pricing – breathe. Just breathe. Then ask them:
“Tell me more about this……” Be in the inquiry about what happened with this project such that it’s in this place now. YOU didn’t create the over budget and you aren’t the one (or the only one) to solve it.
Where did the over-runs occur? Are there other vendors and contractors on the project who presented a budget, got the project, and are now presenting a new and higher price? Ask your contact these questions…and then ask them – “How are the other vendors reducing their pricing?”
Ask “What are you doing personally to address this issue?”
Ask “How much to you need to reduce the project to come in on budget?” GET SPECIFICS.
Ask “When is the deadline for resubmission?”
Ask “If I can reduce my pricing on this, and I don’t know that I can on line items but I might be able to reduce service costs, when will I get the order?” If you are reducing your price and are STILL in competition with others, you want more of a commitment from them that is commensurate with the commitment you are making to get their business. Otherwise, this can go on indefinitely in a race to the lowest price.
It’s likely that the questions asked above were not part of your qualifying process. That’s nothing that needs defending, but it’s likely the case. If you really want to play this game, and it is indeed a game, you may need to be willing to reduce your commission to get the project. Are you willing to do that – and by how much? When you are working with advisory committees and purchasing agents it’s not the same process as working solely with a designer or an end user. The money is bigger and the stakes are higher, so the game is different. AND you have invested your time and talent in the project and want the business, right? If so, how much are you willing to invest to get it? And remember, when you do the math and it doesn’t make you a profit, you can (and probably should) walk away.