When you meet with a prospective customer one thing you can do is strike up conversations with the receptionist and their fellow colleagues for insights.
A few years ago, I heard some excellent advice from one of our ninjas. When he meets with a prospective customer one of the first things he does is strike up conversations at the front desk or with other employees, asking them basic questions.
“How long have you been here?”
“How comfortable are the surroundings where you work?”
“How are things around here? Are fortunes rising or falling?”
“How’s the XYZ business these days? Is the company growing?”
“Are you currently hiring?”
These are interesting conversational points that give you background information on the company. Some people find that kind of intel from a web search the night before. His tactic is more personable, whether he’s with employees taking their coffee break on the loading dock or at the front desk chatting about the weather. He’s also keenly observant about what kinds of things look like deferred maintenance – lights out, restrooms that could use a makeover, or equipment in need of repair.
When he finally meets with the decision-maker he knows what to say. It definitely isn’t, “When you do this lighting retrofit, you're going to save X number of dollars.” Using what he has just learned he will say something more specific like, “You know you’re wasting more than $10,000 a year on overly large utility bills caused by your outdated lighting system. Think of all the things you could do around here with an extra $10,000 per year.” He’d continue by mentioning a potential repair he noticed or a “wish list” improvement an employee had shared with him earlier.
Sometimes he asks, “If you found an unallocated $10,000 in the budget, what would you do with it?” He never uses the word “save,” and his rationale for not doing so is brilliant. He told me, “The reason they call it ‘retail therapy’ is because there are a lot of people who get therapeutic value out of spending money.” There is enjoyment – even a thrill – in spending money rather than saving. Doing his own sleuthing before he chats with the decision-maker allows him to reframe the value proposition, which allows his prospect to visualize the gratification of checking something off his wish list simply by repurposing currently wasted utility expenses. It’s not surprising that his closing ratio has soared as a result.