By Richard Hamje, Senior Strategy Consultant, Mainstay
The first step in the sales process typically begins when you introduce your solution to the prospect. During that introduction, you might also provide an estimate of the business value you should be able to deliver. But since you’re producing the estimate without knowing the details of your prospect’s situation, he or she will likely be skeptical of the promised benefits.
This is a good thing!
Objections are actually great opportunities for engaging your prospects – because now you can offer to work with them to refine the business case and help them gain greater confidence in your solution.
Of course, a good business case requires a lot of data – such as device counts, maintenance bills, project plans – that only the prospect will know. So how do you work with your prospect to dig up these facts and build a winning business case?
There are basically two modes of collaboration -- asynchronous and synchronous – and the best approach is usually determined by the availability of the parties involved, and your deadline.
Since asynchronous collaboration doesn’t happen in real time, it’s often the best way to work together when you and your prospects have trouble finding mutually open time slots; when you're separated by long distances and time zones; or when there is just too much data – from too many sources – that you need to pull together.
There are two effective ways to work together asynchronously:
- Questionnaires. Sending a list of questions to your prospect is a simple way to collect the information you need to build your business case. It’s a good idea to add some context to a questionnaire, such as hints on where to find the requested data or methods for estimating unknown data. Your prospects can respond at their own pace, providing individual data points as they become available, or waiting until they’ve compiled the full set.
- Tool sharing. Web-based business case tools are a fast and efficient way to collect and share data points. Your prospects can just submit the information online and their responses are captured and logged automatically.
Questionnaires might take a little extra work because you need to track and remind your prospect, log their responses, and transpose them into your spreadsheet or other business case tool. Tool Sharing does all of this automatically. Either approach, however, will minimize the need for in-person meetings and it gives your prospects enough time to track down data within the organization. The downside is that it often takes longer and requires regular reminders to get all the data assembled.
This form of collaboration happens concurrently, in real time. Obviously both parties must be available at the same time and focused on gathering data. The prospect needs to have most of the data points at his or her fingertips – or at least be able to bring all the data holders together for the meeting.
There are basically two way to collaborate synchronously:
- In-person. If proximity permits, meeting in person with your prospect is the best approach. Not only can you enter the data points directly, you will be building rapport with the prospect and may be in a better position to detect sensitivities.
- Online meeting. If proximity (or time zones) are an issue, online meetings are a good alternative. If you have a high-quality video conferencing capability, you’ll still be able to build rapport this way.
As you might imagine, the challenge with synchronous collaboration is getting everything set up. Multiple meetings may be needed, compounding the difficulty.
Regardless of the type of collaboration method you use, it’s important to document everything carefully. When you later present your business case, you may be asked to validate the numbers. Records showing who provided the input values, and when, will help prove your case. Again, tool sharing provides these records for you without extra effort – the other methods will requires that you keep manual notes.
Whether you collaborate synchronously or asynchronously, when you base your business case on numbers provided by your prospect, it has an excellent chance of being accepted. For a significant opportunity, it’s well worth your effort to engage your prospect directly in the process.
Looking to build a compelling business case for your prospects? We’d love to hear from you. For more information, visit www.mainstaycompany.com/sales-consulting or email email@example.com.
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