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An Opponent to My Solution Called to Ask Questions – Is That a Good Sign?

We’ve been discussing forms of engagement that are often confused for sales advances.

Remember, in this context we’re using the term Sales Engagement to differentiate it with the same term as used in marketing.  In this context our definition is:

Sales Engagement – Interest that does not involve obligation.

Obligation Continuum

What follows is two forms of sales engagement that are commonly mistaken for sales advances.  Our goal each time we see engagement is to elevate it to an advance.

They Read My Stuff!

The Prospect Reads or Studies a Copy of Your Presentation or Supporting Material – When a prospect invests significant time and energy in reviewing your presentation or supporting material, it is a positive sign representing worthwhile engagement and possibly an advance. The challenge is in deciphering how much time and energy the prospect actually invested in reviewing your materials.

If you can tell by their questions and comments that they have truly pored over your materials, great! They have demonstrated engagement. Unfortunately, it is far more frequent that the prospect requests these documents (or simply accepts them if you suggested it) and never actually does anything with it.  The best approach here is to turn their interest into a meeting or conversation and suggest a logical advance as an outcome of that.

They Called Me!

One of Your Prospect’s Personnel Contacts You for Additional Information – You should be encouraged if a member of your potential client’s staff contacts you out of the blue to gather additional information.  While not always true, this most likely indicates that an advance has taken place internally, without your knowledge. These requests come from someone who will likely be affected by the decision. That doesn’t mean they necessarily support you or the decision being made, but it definitely represents engagement.

This person is already expending energy by calling you. We are just unsure of their commitment level. The best approach here is to engage the person in healthy dialogue about their role in the process, their feelings about the project, and the dynamics around the decision. The context of their answers will usually tell you if they are friend or foe. You can convert this interaction into an advance by being helpful and committing them to one of your advances (e.g., gathering agenda items for a group meeting, reference client visit, etc.).

If they are unwilling to commit to an advance then you may have just experienced a fishing trip from someone in the organization that may oppose your solution. If that’s the case, don’t mistake it for progress.  Instead, reach out to your coaches within the account and get their feedback on the implications. Discover what triggered the outreach and formulate a plan to move forward taking into account what you’ve learned.

Accurately identifying engagement and converting it to an advance will shorten your sales cycles and help you prioritize your time.

Closing Tip:  When possible, elevate engagement into an advance.

Until next time!


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