I can quickly tell when a prospect is serious and a good fit. You judge by the questions. It’s tough for customers as most potential vendors they see have no differentiating sales or marketing process. The message is usually a punch in the nose brag of: we are the leading whatever, do lots of great things, are overly qualified, and loved by just about everybody.
Seasoned buyers either ignore the noise or change gears to their agenda. The rub is that most customers commit nearly the same sin by asking a few standard questions that have very little relevance:
- How long have you been in business? You’re not really going to pick a solution by how long each company has been in business. New startups are often selected on the gamble the low cost returns a successful outcome.
- How many employees do you have? Many organizations have used a single individual for multiple years or are adverse to both sole proprietorships and huge corporations.
- How many customers do you have? Until recently, Twitter had 15 employees with tens of millions of users making this question non-sense.
Maybe in the 80’s or 90’s, these questions put vendors on notice. Today, you can answer these questions in seconds on the web and they don’t have much meaning in your selection. Trade the questions above for these:
- How would you solve my problem? Move on when you get brain-lock and a “I’ll get back to you on that” or an unintelligible ramble.
- Can you show me how you use your solution internally? Astoundingly, most technology providers either can’t afford or don’t believe in the offering they are pushing. Run away if this is the case.
- What range of cost is usually expected upfront and going forward? If you’ve done your homework, you may already have a sense of cost or found a calculator on the vendor’s website. Obviously, it is inappropriate to start with cost, but a vendor who doesn’t know normal transaction costs knows their business less than they know yours.
It’s great to follow common conventions, but everyone appreciates quickly qualifying the best customer and vendor fit.