Volume 38, Issue 12, December 2003
by John Baker
Differences Between Prospects and Customers
Many times in the bidding/selling world of the glass industry, we find ourselves going overboard for a prospect. We drive great distances, do a complete take-off, offer boatloads of free advice and, of course, lower our prices. Who is in control? The prospect, of course.
What Prospects Do
There is a huge difference between a new prospect and an established customer. In fact, there are multiple key differences. Prospects will:
1. Lie on a regular basis;
2. Bleed you for free consulting, engineering advice, paint samples, mock-ups, detail sheets, brochures, adds and deducts, etc.;
3. Give you a second follow-up such as “we have to get eight other bids,” “we’re not sure if we have the job,” “our accountant has to review the numbers” or “we have to think it over.” They all sound good—some even sound like a sure buying signal; and
4. They hide, and we chase them with callbacks, voicemail messages and
e-mails and we still get no response.
The saddest part about this is we rained these prospects and we let this happen.
Controlling the Situation
If you are a good manager and you have a reputable glass business, it’s time to take control of the bidding/selling process. We love new prospects, but we have guidelines. We will travel and meet with a new prospect if:
1. We can take some time to look at and talk about the project;
2. We have a reasonable shot at doing the job at a reasonable price ;
3. The prospect is committed to advising the glass company where it stands within 15 days; and
4. The prospect is genuinely interested in working with a new glass shop that meets his criteria.
This is called an up-front contract and it sure makes things clean and easy. When do you want to hear “no,” early on or three months later? With this firmly in place it will restrict the new prospect’s ability to play games. This really takes some guts, and you have to be comfortable with a “no” and move on.
Once a new customer has made the cut and proven to you that he is honest, reliable and truly interested in quality workmanship, then things change. He should also be able to provide you with straight answers and timely feedback on all the jobs you bid. We will then provide him with cost engineering, the newest supplier catalogs and maybe even choice tickets to the ballgame.
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