090108 How Quickly We Forget

In which we are reminded to mind our prospects and clients why they wanted to talk to us in the first place. Remember the line, "When you're up to your a** in alligators, it's easy to forget the objective was to drain the swamp"? Early one morning last week, I began reading a proposal we requested and received from a computer consultant.

With eight hours of conference calls planned that day and the next, I wanted to read the proposal, approve it, and move on quickly. However, the internal dialog went something like this:

Here we go…this is great……… page 1…. … yep… yep…. yep…………. ……………….I don’t remember that item (flipping pages, looking for other explanation)…………… This seemed sensible when we met with this guy. (When was that? Last week? Two weeks ago? I can’t remember.) Um…. …………… page 2….. OK…. OK………………………………… I’m not getting this either…… (more page flipping)……

I’d handled alligators at my desk for over 100 hours since the last time I’d talked to the consultant. While he gave me “the answer,” all the steps and parts of a terrific solution, I couldn’t remember the story that tied them together.

Which is why, when we’re presenting written proposals or quotes to clients internal or external, sympathetic sellers will

1) Remind readers of initial objectives, i.e. "drain the swamp." This sounds something like, “When we began these discussions, your objectives were to ____.”

2) Review important elements of the proposal development process. Ask, "Would it help you if I quickly refreshed the steps we’ve been through to get here?" Chances are good they’ll say, "Yes."

3) Review connections between our proposed solution and their objectives. Ask, "Would it help you if I talked through our approach and how it moves you to your objectives?"

Chances are good that our prospects, with all the good intentions in the world, did not read our proposals carefully and may not have read them at all. Just too much other stuff to do. And, like me, they’ll try to look smart rather than admit they haven’t done their homework. So, by asking these questions, we allow them to say, "yes, that would be helpful," which means "I’m so glad you asked because I haven’t a clue at the moment," so we can reposition things and move the conversation forward.

For us, as sellers, these reviews can feel like low value repetition. We want to GET TO THE POINT! From a buyer’s perspective, the review is important because it helps us pick up the conversation again and move forward.

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