How to Sell from the Rear – Putting the Sales Process to Work
Wondering what selling from the rear looks like? There is a sales process to help you get through it, so don’t worry.
“You have a less than 10% chance of winning our business.”
If this were the customer’s response to your proposal, how would you respond? According to The Wizard of Odds, the probability of an overall win in blackjack is 46.36%. So, you’d be better off playing blackjack than pursuing this customer’s business – or would you?
Get Started with the Sales Process
What should your response be when you’re in a loss position and have to sell from the rear? Should you pack up the tent and go home, or press ahead? Before we answer the question, it’s important to look at how to avoid this situation, while increasing the odds of winning future business.
Before you devote time, energy and resources to a proposal response, you must first answer the following questions (borrowed from Power Base Selling):
- Do we have an opportunity?
- Can we compete?
- Can we win?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “no” then you are done, walk away. Walking away from an opportunity is the hardest thing to do for anyone involved in sales. However, from a business perspective, if the odds are stacked against you it’s the financially prudent thing to do.
Now, let’s say that we had answered “yes” to the questions above prior to proceeding on the initial proposal, and the customer’s response to our bid was “You have a less than 10% chance of winning our business.”
How do we proceed in the sales process, given that the odds are clearly not in our favor?
There are three solutions to every problem – accept it, change it, or leave it. In this real-life sales process we made the decision to change it. Here is the approach we took to win the final bid and secure the customer’s long-term business (Hint: it can work for you as well).
6 Ways to Work the Sales Process to Close the Deal
1. Go deeper in your research.
Before I met with the customer, I reviewed three years of the company’s annual reports and quarterly financial statements, looking for any “hot spots,” major areas of emphasis, and significant business trends compared to their key competitors.
2. Know the customer’s real buying criteria.
When the customer said we had a <10% of winning, my response was “based on what?” The answer was purchase price. From the research I had done, I knew there were other factors important to their decision beyond just price. Fun Fact: According to the latest study by Stax, Inc., a global strategy consultancy, price is the #1 buying consideration only 18% of the time, and in the Top 3 only 47% of the time.
3. Change the ground rules.
In this situation, we were able to move the conversation away from price to those other factors – i.e. growth, off-balance sheet financing, useful life of the asset, budget and tax implications. When all factors were taken into account in the cash flow analysis, we proved our case.
4. Sell beyond the bid process.
By changing the ground rules, we were also able to focus on the long-term business outlook and showcase how off-balance sheet financing would work in the customer’s favor in budgeting for future projects. No competitor addressed these broader financial considerations, giving us a clear advantage in the end.
5. Get the other key players involved.
The C-level executives, primarily the CFO and leasing partners, were brought in during the final stages of the decision process because of the broader implications of our recommendations.
6. Set the table for the long term.
After we won the initial bid, our sales team began work with the customer’s project team to develop the plans required to meet their long-term business needs. This allowed us to work on multiple projects simultaneously, and to stay engaged with the customer for years after the initial sale was completed.
As Anthony Iannarino points out in his book, The Lost Art of Closing, the process of buying and selling today is non-linear. Most sales processes are dynamic and involve a series of stops, starts, and unpredictable human interactions.
Be Creative and Show Value in the Sales Process
Selling from the rear, or from any vantage point in the sales process for that matter, offers you an opportunity to be creative and distinguish your business by demonstrating your unique extended value and ability to sell outside the lines.
Have you faced the same roadblock in the sales process? Share what resonates with you in the comments below!