So your salesperson makes a gutsy move and asks if there are other competitors, even going so far as to ask who they are. You are proud of them because they are following company sales process by asking the tough sales questions. But is it enough?
These days, most prospects are well aware that sales people are trained to ask buying process questions. They are more than willing to be compliant and answer since in some ways it creates leverage for the prospect in the final negotiation stages. The challenge for a sales person is that the answers to these “non‐traditional” questions serve little to no purpose. Simply knowing that there are competitors, or who they are, accomplishes very little when it comes to developing high level pre‐sales strategy. At best, it informs the sales team what to focus on when they roll out the expensive company resources for presenting and developing proposals.
These days, very few deals are won at the insight/solution presentation stages.
Quite often when we secure a call or meeting with a top decision-maker, i.e. the CEO, they will either ask to include or will simply invite one of their subordinates to take part in the first scheduled sales call. If asked, the CEO will say that the reason for including this person is based on efficiency, since they will be an inevitable part of the decision process. He or she may say something like, “Your timing is good since we have been considering this. I would like to speak further and include my COO or VP.” Most sales people and their managers see this as an extremely positive move that will shorten the sales cycle, however there is a big danger here hiding in plain sight.
Let’s think about the mostly subconscious but entirely rational reason the CEO is inviting this person: He wants to offset his own positive interest and bring balance to the situation. I call this the “lawyer effect.”
Consider what happens when you send a contract to a lawyer for review. The lawyer’s responsibility is to red line the contract, simply as a function of his or her role in the transaction. I’m not implying that the requested changes made by lawyer in contracting situations are not critical, but imagine paying a lawyer thousands of dollars to review a contract and the lawyer comes back and says, ”Looks good, no changes needed here.” The lawyer must find challenges or he/she becomes irrelevant.