How Sales Technology and Techniques Can Help to Manage the RFP Process

The salesperson has a good communication cadence with their prospect, sends the proposal, and hears nothing in return. They scratch their heads, double guess their position, and are pressured by their manager for an update. As the days pass, desperation sets in and the sales rep explores every avenue to provoke a response.

This common situation is a perfect example to prove how new technologies can complement legacy sales methodologies, to give a deeper insight into customer behaviours. However, before discussing modern sales tools, let's look at some standard procedures to help manage the proposal process.

1. The sales professional delays sending the pricing proposal until immediately before the review call. By reviewing the pricing together, it ensures nothing is misinterpreted and the next steps are agreed.

2. If the buyer insists on the proposal being emailed before a discussion, keeping the scope vague will trigger a reason to call you for clarity. This will be timely because the prospect will be actively reviewing the proposal.

3. Put an expiration date on the proposal (always!). This way, when faced with an unresponsive buyer, you can legitimately chase as the deadline approaches, and remove from your pipeline should the offer expire.

These are all valid sales techniques to employ in the closing stages of a sale, and each works in certain situations. However, it's 2017, and new technologies offer greater insight into customer behaviour.

 

New technologies to support the closing stages of a deal

The first question that comes to mind after sending a proposal is "have they opened the email?". This can be answered using products such as Zynbit or Hubspot, who can also report on the electronic footprint of any additional activity.

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In addition, there is a new type of AI-driven technology that can give deeper insight into specific buying habits and behaviours. A company called Collective[i] (it stands for Collective Intelligence) is a predictive analytics firm where their customers anonymously pool historical sales data with similar companies. This forms an aggregated network that allows sales people and managers to work together as a group, by learning from each other's experiences. The AI module is used to extract insights based on the collective sales experiences of all participating companies. By learning from each other, the guesswork of how a customer typically reaches a decision is mostly removed.

For example, Collective[i] can determine if a buyer is behaving in the same way as historically, whether or not a buyer committee will likely be involved in the decision process, and the typical response time of a stakeholder when presented with a proposal. These insights help salespeople to adjust their behaviour and expectations accordingly. Check out Noah Goldman's interview, with Stephen Messer of Collective[i], on the Enterprise Sales Podcast.

"Sales success has always been about leveraging everything at your disposal to support a positive outcome." (tweet)

Combining the above technology with traditional techniques results in a sales professional having a strong competitive advantage over a lesser prepared competitor.

However, let's consider the limitations of these insights. Technology can help us to map the enterprise procurement process, but unless the buyer is a piece of code, we won't ever be able to read the buyer’s mind. This is where sales professionals will continue to add value and prosper, as they solve their customer's immediate problems, and inspire them to address unrelated challenges, using their product and firm as a trusted business partner.

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What "Not-to-do" When Faced With No Response

Many sales professionals do not have access to these technologies and that's OK; make the most of what you have. In this case, I want to finish with a few pointers of what not-to-do when faced with an unresponsive prospect.

1. Avoid "checking-in" to see how they are doing. You only get one shot at this before becoming a nuisance. Instead, have a reason to call and add value.

2. Do not offer a discount to get a response, ever! It creates a situation that is near impossible to recover from.

3. Do not beg for a response or project your desire to book the business. Customers don't care if you have a revenue target.

As with everything in sales, the right way is the way that works, and the best strategy is to leverage every possible combination of techniques to justify chasing a decision. This is done prior to the price discussion.

IMG 2274If you haven't yet received my research paper, it discusses the differences between selling in the UK vs. the USA, as well as how digital networks are impacting multinational businesses differently on each side of the pond. Download from my homepage here.