I’ve noticed an interesting, yet disturbing phenomenon recently. It’s sales people who think their job is to provide a quote or a proposal. Let’s not forget, our jobs–what we get measure and compensated on is not quotes, it’s orders! What’s important to our companies is the revenue we get from fulfilling an order!
In smaller organizations, inexperienced with selling, it’s understandable that people get confused, mistaking a customer’s interest in pricing with purchase intent. However, I’m seeing this in larger organizations in which many of the activities seem to be oriented around number of quotes issued. Maybe it’s driven by misguided metrics or managers, or the thought that sales is just a numbers game—issue enough quotes, we win our fair share, we make our numbers. In too many organizations, there is too much focus on quote activity and insufficient focus on closing.
A quote or a proposal is one element of the sales process. Most likely, it comes toward the end of the process. But it’s just one of many elements critical to closing deals.
Perhaps I’m misguided or arrogant, but I want to provide as few quotes or proposals as I can get away with. They are a lot of work, they consume time and resources. I don’t want to provide a quote until I understand it’s one of the last things standing between me and an order. I don’t want to provide a quote until I’m certain I understand what the customer is trying to achieve and know that what I am quoting will enable the customer to achieve their goals. I don’t want to provide a quote because the customer needs three to present to management. Sure if a customer is looking for budgetary information, there are a number of ways to handle this with out going through a detailed quoting process, but to provide a range for which to plan their budgets (I’m a little skeptical about even these–but I’ll accept these for the moment).
Make no mistake, our job is not complete until we get an order, assure that it’s fulfilled, and have a delighted customer.
There are some that think, in the new world of buying, we can’t push, that we have to be responsive to the customer–since they are in the driver’s seat. They think we have to inform, educate, respond, putting the best case forward, provide a quote, and then hope the customer buys and buys us. I’m sorry, I don’t get it, I think it’s just an excuse for poor salesmanship. Asking for an order, closing a deal, earning the business is not inconsistent with being helpful to the customer or facilitating their buying process. We should be facilitating our customer’s buying processes—but part of this means they are making a buying decision, and we want to help them complete that process as effectively and efficiently as possible, hopefully with a favorable decision. It’ not pushiness, it’s not inappropriate if the sales person and the customer are aligned in the objectives the customer has for their buying process and decision.
I’m a huge proponent of becoming trusted advisers of our customers, of building deep relationships, of creating value. It’s clear our sales processes have to be aligned with the customer buying processes. But the outcome of a customer buying process is a decision and should result in an order. Our jobs as sales professionals is to make sure it’s ours.