Last time we took a look at steps to take before meeting with a prospective client. This week’s addition will examine the research and deep thought required in preparation to meet the potential client.
Know the ClientKnowing the client doesn’t just mean having his or her contact information or perhaps even having a past relationship with that person. It is critical that you spend time doing research on that prospect.
» Look up the mission statement of the company.
» Follow the values of the company in conversation and actions. Read news releases on the company site; figure out what the company’s priorities are.
» Find the words they use to sell their product and then use those words in both written and spoken correspondence.
» In your first meeting, be prepared to listen far more than you talk.
Know Your Client’s ProductIf you are unfamiliar with the company’s industry, it is critical that you “bone up” on the vernacular used in the client’s industry before the meeting.
» Be sure you say your client’s product name(s) correctly. For instance, it’s Porsche, not Porsh. Adidas is pronounced Ahh-Dee-dass, not A-Dee-diss.
» When you are meeting with a sports team representative, be mindful of the color combinations you wear. Make sure you are not wearing an arch rival’s team colors.
» If there is an occasion to send a car to pick up someone from the airport or any destination, make sure the make of the car coincides with the brand they represent. In other words, don’t send a Cadillac to pick up a Ford client!
Preparing ProposalsAndrea Michaels is president of multiple award-winning Extraordinary Events, an international meeting and event planning and production firm. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower — Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and co-author of a number of other business books, and she recently wrote an article on “Demystifying the Proposal Process and Winning Business without Losing Money.”
“A doctor will not prescribe medication for you without an examination and subsequent diagnosis,” she wrote. “A mechanic will not order parts for your vehicle without first examining the car and diagnosing the problem.”
She goes on to say that while salespeople aren’t doctors or mechanics, they often are responsible for fixing a corporate problem. Yet they often rush in without the proper examination and diagnosis.
Michaels says that in her own industry of special events, event design and production companies spend $12,000 to $15,000 responding to a client’s Request for Proposal. To double the pressure, her clients want detail, detail, detail, including financial statements, and they demand that information immediately.
And what if you provide all this detail and the client is merely window-shopping? Michaels says, “Why would you want to spend a lot of money with no clue what you are doing?” She affirms, “It would be sheer luck if you could win a bid before you fully understood the needs and goals of your client.”
Michaels’ solution is firmly aligned with mine. The perfect solution is to charge for your proposal. Like Michaels says, “Most of the companies you are dealing with have R&D departments. They are paid for their time ... This is particularly effective if you know someone is trolling for bids. At the very least, it might keep the competition limited to three instead of 23 bids. Explain to the prospective client that the cost will be refunded upon the signing of a contract (i.e. applied to the sale/job.)”
If your industry requires you to submit bids with advanced details, renderings and complex solutions, Michaels and I agree.
“Have clients sign an agreement not to use any part of your proposal if the job is awarded to another company,” she wrote. “Do this before you hand over the proposal. Using your ideas is theft. (This will put a stop to the practice of being handed a proposal from a competitor and asked to price it out against them.)”
Both these practices give your proposal far more perceived value.
Click here for Michaels’ article.
Check in two weeks for the third part of this series on “How Behavior Affects the Sale.”
— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjr.