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“Chris,” said Joan, president of Peerce & Doogle, “I can’t begin to tell you how pleased we all are that you could make it on such short notice.”

Chris looked around the room at the group: head of production, head of marketing, the controller, the CIO, all of the heavy hitters in one place. Talk about reaching the decision makers, he thought, and they are all here for the first meeting.

“Thank you,” he began, “for asking me to attend. My company is ready to work with you.”

Joan continued indicating with her hand, “Chris, all of us have been meeting together for the past three months. In essence, we are going to rapidly expand. We need a solid proposal by next week . . . I know this isn’t much time . . .”

“My schedule is flexible for just such occasions,” replied Chris. “If you could give me an overview of what you are looking for from my company . . .”

Joan smiled. “Excellent question.” She turned to the head of production, “You were correct in having us call Chris’s company. They are on the ball. Gary,” turning to the controller, “has written a very comprehensive plan which incorporates all of our planned needs.”

Gary took one of the five binders in front of him and handed it over to Chris. “Chris, I think you’ll find everything you need to know in here. If you have any questions in the next week, don’t hesitate to call me directly.”

Chris opened the binder and the first page was headed, “Required New Equipment.” Quickly glancing down and mentally adding, the total would be well over half a million. Have I ever hit the big one, he thought.

“Now,” said Joan, “we’ll give you the overview of what we want to accomplish.”

At the conclusion, Joan said, “I’m looking forward to receiving the proposal next Tuesday morning.”


Chris is going to spend at least a solid week working on this proposal. Between calling his suppliers for technical specifications and browbeating the engineering staff to come up with a comprehensive installation plan, his days will be full. Everything he was going to do now has to be pushed back another week. But that’s okay. This is the “big one.”


Salespeople are supposed to meet with a prospect to find out what the prospect wants to buy. There is no other reason to attend the meeting.

But a prospect may have another agenda. In fact, the prospect may agree to a meeting and not have any real interest in buying what the salesperson is selling. Is the prospect just filling up an empty time slot? Probably not. Here are two of the most common “not interested in buying” prospect situations.

The current supplier has just raised his price. However, the prospect has little if any desire to buy from someone else. He’s a bit annoyed at the price increase, but in the big picture, the added cost is peanuts. So why meet, get a presentation and proposal? Because he wants to use the proposal as leverage with his current supplier to lower the price increase. The salesperson becomes the prospect’s club to beat up his current supplier.

Another common situation occurs when a prospect wants to expand by heading into a new product or service area. He finally calls back all those salespeople who have been pestering him and tells them the truth, “The company is expanding and I have an RFP (Request For Proposal). When can you get here?” The prospect now sits back and collects all of the RFPs. This is great, he thinks, look at all the research I got done for nothing. This is called using salespeople as unpaid consultants.


Don’t assume, in any meeting with prospects or current customers, that you are there to sell. You don’t know why you are there until you find out.

“What’s the best thing that could happen by my being here?”

Don’t take the initial answer, keep digging.

“I appreciate your meeting with me but I have to ask, you must already have a supplier, so why is it that you want to replace them?” Keep digging.

“Your RFP is extremely thorough and will require tremendous research on our part. Unfortunately I don’t see us ever doing any business . . . you probably don’t have a budget in place for our RFP consulting fee… so I guess it’s over before we even start.”

Keep digging.

Think about the sales situations you have been in where everything seemed perfectly in place to get the order, but you didn’t. Did the prospect really plan on buying?


Find out what you are there for. It may not be what you think.


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