Plavecsky's Ponderings By Jim Plavecsky
by Jim Plavecsky
March 23rd, 2017

Closing In on the Sale – Avoid the Mission Impossible

I was talking to a sales manager today for one of the companies that I represent, and we were having fun identifying the three main types of prospects and where to most efficiently focus our time. We decided that there are three types of customers. There is the “low-hanging fruit,” the “challenger” and the “mission impossible.”

The low-hanging fruit are the customers who, in a nutshell, “want what you got.” They have a sincere need for what you are selling. They will not take much convincing that they need what you have. For example, they may need a machine to weld vinyl windows, and that is what you sell. So, you don’t need to spend time and energy convincing them to buy a vinyl welder, but instead you only need to convince them to buy your machine and not the other guy’s offering. But this is often easier said than done. You can “win the sale” if your machine or product is more innovative, priced lower, is faster to deliver and easier to maintain, or if they simply like you or your company better than the competition. But if none of these are true, it’s all on your good looks. Yes, tell me how that works out. You will encounter the low-hanging fruit early on in the scheme of things, but after all the fruit is picked, you must wait for more fruit to grow (for example, other welders to wear out) or move on to the next type of prospect.

The next type of prospect is the “the challenger.” The challenger is just as the name implies – a more challenging type of prospect. The challenger is a prospect who needs the features and benefits that your product provides, but there are other types of products that perform the same function or that provide similar benefits. For example, a challenger could be a building manager who needs replacement windows installed in a school building. Perhaps he has aluminum windows in mind but your company sells vinyl replacement windows, which may be perceived to be less weather- or pressure-resistant.  So before you even start to convince them to buy from you, you must first try to convince them to buy the type of product you are selling. You may ultimately convince them to buy the type of product you are selling, but you may lose the sale anyway if they end up getting the product from another company that sells at a lower price, has higher quality, offers faster delivery, features better service or simply has a closer relationship with the prospect. So you have to learn to patiently yet tenaciously stay with the sales process until you prevail. Also, when it comes to drawing in the challenger, it really pays to have a strong marketing department to back you up.  A strong marketing department is similar to an army’s artillery or air support. It serves to weaken the resistance before you deploy the ground forces to go in and win the day. Strategically placed advertisements, trade-show domination and super-attractive websites serve as methods to pave the way for you as they convince a targeted group of prospects that they may want what you are selling. As a result, high-quality leads are generated and ground forces (aka, you) are then dispatched to close in and capture the sale.

Then there is the “mission impossible” type. Learn to avoid them. Mission impossible is the potential customer who has no intention of ever buying your product or service. Instead, prospect, if we want to call him a prospect, simply wants to run you through an elaborate quotation process in order to scare his existing supplier or the company he really intends to buy from into offering a lower price. Mission impossible prospects are destructive to the overall marketplace for several reasons. No. 1, they waste your time. You may spend a great deal of time talking to them and discussing their requirements. You may consume company resources in order to put a quotation together. You may spend travel dollars to visit them on numerous occasions. In the end you get no sale because they never had any intention of honestly considering your product or your company in the first place. They most always end up staying with their current supplier, who now may have decided to give them a lower price in order to keep their business. In the long run, the mission impossible prospects not only do you and your company a disservice by wasting your time, but they also do the winner, if we want to call him that, a disservice by forcing him to sell his product at a lower margin. In the long run, the “winner” settles on lower retained earnings and consequently has less of an opportunity to re-invest back into the company on programs to develop new products or to improve the ones currently being sold. So if you spend time engaging the mission impossible types, everyone ends up losing in the long run.

So to all the dedicated sales professionals in our industry, good luck engaging the low-hanging fruit and the challengers, and do your best to avoid the mission impossible.

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  1. LOL – I’d add one more occasional category. “The impossible decision maker”.

    This individual simply will not pull the trigger and make a decision for either you or a competitor. Every time it seems as if they have all the info they required, they come up with one more question to put it back on you. Eventually, this person is likely to say that they’ve decided to wait until next year or some other excuse, usually telling you how impressed they were with you and your product (because they want you to feel really good about all the time you spent with them) and you’ll be sure to hear from them…. at a later date.

  2. Good point Phil – aka the “procrastinator”

  3. Good point Phil – aka the “procrastinator”

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