The first thing to consider is whether the prospect actually has a process for decision making. When they get your proposal or quotation what will they do to systematically make a decision and to make the right decision when choosing between different suppliers’ proposals. This pre-supposes that receiving a proposal is a part of their buying process.
If you want to influence the decision making process you need first to understand it. At a very early stage in the sales engagement cycle you need to find out how they will make the decision, what you need to provide, how and when, and anything else you need to do to make it easy for them to evaluate what you are offering.
To expand on this a little:
- In many cases today decisions are made by a number of people, we call this the decision making unit (DMU). The people that make up the DMU will wear a number of different hats such as; user, influencer, decision maker and budget holder. You need to know who these people are and engage with all of them as early as possible.
- What you need to provide will be determined by the individual when you meet them. By way of an example; if you are supplying a piece of equipment to a factory the DMU is likely to include such functions as; engineers, health & safety, facilities manager, general manager and finance director. Each will have a different need in terms of the information they want from you; finance may want a RoI justification, H&S will want certificates and other relevant information and so on.
- Now you know the people, the hats they wear in the buying process and what they will want to see, you need to establish what format they want the information in and what critical timings they want you to meet.
- You need to understand the specific process they will use and key timings. If the actual decision will be made at a steering committee meeting that is held every quarter it is obvious what you need to do.
Once you understand the people in the DMU, their relative power and interests, and the process they will use, you must tailor your selling process to mirror their decision making process.
If the prospect does not have an established decision making process you need, ideally at the first meeting and certainly before you expend significant effort, to agree on a process that will suit them, and that they are willing to commit to actually making a decision at a specific point in time. Document this and send it to them and anyone else they have identified as being involved in the decision. From this point the process is the same as that above except you are likely to be driving the process harder than they will.
If you have sent proposals but received no decisions or feedback it may well be because you sent the proposal at an identified point in your selling process but that it was not relevant to their decision making process. You need to go back and ask them tough questions like; did you actually want what we proposed and if so when and how will you make the decision? This will be tough because you will have to accept that some will not turn into new business but at least you will know where you stand.