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“Show Me The Money!”

Most salespeople build their case around the idea that if the funds are there they can be allocated. In some cases, they’ve got the money; they just aren’t going to spend it with you. I’m reminded of an early experience in my career when I was calling on Microsoft. When I asked them what their budget was for training, they responded rather smugly and said, “Rick, don’t worry, we are Microsoft, and there is plenty of money.” What I failed to ask in my naiveté was, “Is there any for me?” and unfortunately there wasn’t. You’ll find some prospects have deep pockets, but short fingers. They’ll tell you not to worry, the money is there. But “there” is where it stays and you aren’t getting any of it.

In order to be an effective agent of change, salespeople have to factor into their sales strategy the idea that prospect’s decision to change (allocating money, time and resources) is a full integration of human capital, operational resources, fears, priorities and initiatives, timing and available bandwidth and share of mind all bundled up into a complex package. It is the job of the salesperson and the prospect to mutually self-diagnose the possibilities and hurdles. Unless they can comfortably come to terms and manage all these disparate variables, change will be stifled.

In our sales process, the investment step follows the initial step of finding pain and problems. Assuming they have pain, our goal now is to determine if they can spend the money to fix the problem and to make sure the timing and resources are properly aligned to facilitate change.

Questions to ask to initially determine their budget

  • “How were you planning to fund this investment?”
  • “What are you authorized to spend?”
  • “In your company, if you have a problem that is costing you two million dollars, what is considered an acceptable investment to address a number like this?”
  • “Have you made any mental calculations as to how much this is going to run you? Can you share it?”
  • “You aren’t going to shock me and tell me you have an idea as to how much this is going to cost you?”
  • “Have I earned the right yet to ask you what your budget is?”
  • “Do we have enough trust here for me to ask you what your budget is?”

Second round of questions to ask when you get push back

  • “How did you get your figure?”
  • “So is there any wiggle room or flexibility on $350,000 since that is the low end of our offering?”
  • “The good news is I can help you. The bad news is it is going to cost you more.”
  • “I’m guessing you have an unlimited budget and I’m free to use as much as humanly possible? So since you don’t, could you share your range with me?”
  • “Is it important enough for you to share with me what you were hoping to spend so I have some guidance in what to recommend to you?”
  • Write down on a piece of paper what you charge. Flip it downwards and ask the prospect to tell you what their budget is. This will only work if you do it with lightness and have established a very strong rapport with your prospect.

To effectively execute the investment step you need to ask how your solution will be integrated into the prospect’s existing workflow or process. You need to go beyond just the functional criteria and address external criteria. What internal changes must be made, what accommodations need to happen to have a smooth transition? In real estate it is location, location and location. In sales, it is timing, timing and timing. You must put out on the table all potential conflicts of interests, unfinished business, cultural clashes, unresolved issues and possible competition or power struggles. For limited and scarce resources, salespeople are generally so one-dimensional and single-focused on their quest to close that they seek positive outcomes for themselves at the expense of their prospect. When you are selling your solution to a company you are competing with everything and everyone. You are fighting not only for their time and attention, but also against all their personal and professional distractions. Because there are so many variables in the investment step, it is rarely black and white and cut and dried. So often it isn’t a question of whether it is a good investment or if the timing is right, it is a question of where they could potentially spend the time, money and resources elsewhere to get a better payoff.

Frequently your biggest competition is a huge and formidable competitor that you totally don’t take into account. That company is SQI or Status Quo Inc. In many cases you have competition you are never aware of: new fleet of trucks, two weeks of vacation, new accounting system, coaching Little League baseball and a pending plant relocation. Make sure you really understand all the variables involved that could re-channel your prospect’s attention. From the prospect’s perspective, every change is viewed as an opportunity or a possible threat.

Effective change agents cover all their bases and are able to chart the flow of critical prospect business functions and their effects. They have a good handle on the big picture and the current initiatives and priorities. “Change agent selling is based on a universal management principle: Never propose change until you know how it will affect all the pieces and people in the puzzle. When you propose a change into a prospect’s business, always make sure you have an asset management system in place beforehand to ease the transition, institution and facilitation of your offering,” says Sharon Drew Morgan. Once you uncover all the unidentified obstacles and have a handle on all the variables, find out what their timetable is for execution of change. Understanding how the change will be integrated into your prospect’s business allows you to help your prospect come to terms with all the necessary contingencies and potential disruptions. There is always a transition cost associated with change so make sure you get your prospect to get all their ducks in a row to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: https://tangentknowledge.com