Be straightforward when asking your for prospect for an order date
March 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to ask a prospect straight-up when they’re going to put their order in for your equipment. You’re afraid of coming off as saying “I would like to close this sale so can you please tell me when I’m going to get my commission?” But it’s generally more uncomfortable to try to get that information from your customer in a roundabout, “tactical” sort of way. So do your customer and yourself a favor and just ask the question.
“We’re putting in an order for parts at the end of the week, so can you tell me when your order is going to come in, so I can order parts to include your system in the next manufacturing run?” Or how about: “The price is going up after the weekend, so can you tell me when your order is going to come in so we can lock in at this price?” Or even better: “We’re almost out of inventory so can you tell me when you’re going to place your order so I can reserve the last of our inventory for you?” Almost without exception, these questions make you sound like a late night TV ad screaming:
When late night TV ads are running (not that you ever watch late night TV ads…) and the ShamWow ad comes on and tells you “Order RIGHT NOW and we’ll double your order for FREE. That’s an additional FOUR ShamWowS!” do you really think to yourself “WoW! I’m getting $40 worth of these things for only 20 bucks!!” or do you think something more along the lines of “I guess 20 bucks is what eight ShamWows is going for these days”??
Now imagine you’re a researcher with an MD / PhD / DDS / DVM / MS or some combination of the above, and ask yourself how you’ll interpret the salesperson asking you when your order is coming in because they’re running out of parts and they really want to get you a system. Would you think “Wow! This person really wants to help me get my system as soon as possible!” or would you think “This guy wants to know when he’s getting his commission to pay for that trip to Hawaii“??
If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the second one.
I am not condemning any and all tactics used to create a sense of urgency with your buyer. You have to in order to get them to buy. However, if you pull tricks like this out of your hat when you’re making it up for your convenience, it won’t serve you well in the long run. Why?
- Because your customers have likely been in the game for a while. This means they’ve purchased a lot of scientific research equipment, which means they’ve talked with enough salespeople to know every trick in the book.
- Because making up self-serving circumstances shows a lack of mutual respect. If you’ve gotten to this point in the sale (ie you’re asking them when their order is going to come in), then you’ve put in plenty of work to earn your customer’s trust, and you’d be foolish to piss it away. Being straightforward shows and reconfirms respect.
- Because, in three words, the three golden rules of sales are “Qualify, qualify, qualify.“ When you’re nearing the end of the sales cycle, asking your prospect for a straight-up answer about when they’re going to make their purchase will tell you how committed to the purchase they are. If they give you a straight answer, great. If they’re unable or unwilling to give you a straight answer, you learn right then and there that one of the sales you’ve been counting on might not be as close to “closed” as you thought it was. It gives you an opportunity to make a recovery instead of trucking forward with false assumptions about your prospect’s intentions.
- Academic markets tend to be small and very networked. If you tell every single customer you ever deal with that you’re running out of parts, just when you need to close the sale, your customers will learn your ways over time.
A good (and simple) alternative:
These words almost never fail me: “Bob, last we spoke you mentioned you were getting close to putting an order in for our equipment (our reagents, our services, etc). I know there’s no crystal ball for this sort of thing, but I’m trying to do some forecasting of how much business we’re going to do over the next 3 months, so can you give me an estimate of when you’re expecting to place the order?“
You let them know they’re giving you their best estimate, not signing a contract in blood, and it puts them at ease to make an estimate. You give them an honest reason for why you are asking so they have no reason to doubt your intentions behind the question. Do these to things and you’ll almost always get what you’re looking for. If they say that they can’t give you any kind of estimate, then take this opportunity to probe and figure out why. More on this in another post.
Extra: IFF (= “if and only if” in statistics speak) one of the circumstances that I opened the post with is true (ie you really ARE running out of inventory, or you really ARE doing a manufacturing run at the end of the week and you need to order parts), now is the time to make that known. ” (continuing from above…) so can you give me an estimate of when you’re expecting to place the order? And now that I mention it, we’re ordering parts for more systems this week, so if you want to get yours set up in the next month like we talked about, the sooner the better.“
Please let me know about your own approaches and how this approach works for you in the comments section below.