I have taken a few days off with my wife this week to travel to York and whilst we were in the car on the 4-hour drive it got me thinking about a sales experience which I always remember for the wrong reasons, but which is a good reminder I think for this blog.
A few years back whilst I ran my previous company, we used to sell into local government organisations (Town Councils) and I remember heading up the M1 then to meet with a council to discuss a potential opportunity. I had met them a few months back at a conference and following a few other conversations, they asked me to come up and meet with them.
In typical sales mode, I was excited. So excited at the thought of winning a new opportunity that I forgot some of the basics.
Basics like having an initial conversation with a potential buyer and finding out about the project, what was driving them to implement a new solution, the budget range they were working towards and most importantly the TIMELINES they were thinking about.
When you ask basic questions like this, it allows you to qualify the opportunity and, most importantly, save yourself time and wasted trips. In business and sales, the most precious commodity we have is our time. The one thing that makes every human on the planet the same is that we all have the same amount of time in one day. Successful people just choose to be more disciplined and focused on how they spend their time.
Life isn’t full of mistakes though, just learning lessons, and my trip up the M1 was one of those.
I got all sales giddy and just agreed to make the huge long 4-hour trip thinking it would be worth it. When I got there, although the conversation was good, the prospect indicated that they were just discussing options at the moment and were thinking about putting it into their budget for 2 years time!
2 years time! I was expecting the business to be done in the next 2 months let alone 2 years. I tried to look enthusiastic but the reality was I was gutted and vowed on the journey back to learn my lesson. I had made the long trip but hadn’t qualified the deal well enough and it meant I lost a day but gained experience.
When you get sight of sales opportunities, it is exciting and sometimes we lose our clarity and focus. Be keen, and be intrigued but before you commit to travelling long distances to see a client (which costs you both time and money) find out more.
Ask about what is driving the buyer to look at the project and how they are thinking of investing in this area. Where does it fit within their priorities and who is leading the project and how involved are they in making the decision?
When you understand these KEY aspects, you can then make a better judgement on whether a long trip is worth it. If you get the assurances you want then go and do what you can to win the business. But when you don’t, consider if it is worth it.
We can change many things in life, but we can’t go back and make up for lost time!
It’s a good lesson I learned and one which I encourage you to think about as well.