Henry Goudreau, HG AssociatesThe Measure Call
Marketing consultant Henry Goudreau in his CD Series advocates the use of the "Measure Call". This call/visit occurs after you've systematically qualified the initial lead and, Goudreau suggests, is the point where you find what really matters to your potential client.
For residential work, this 'measure call' is the visit to the home to take measurements and determine the scope of work. But, Goudreau wisely suggests, during this visit you absolutely must refuse to discuss price, even if the homeowner pesters you for a ballpark number. Instead, while you are taking notes and measurements, you use the time to engage in 'small talk' with various questions to determine exactly why the prospective client wants the work done. Then, you arrange a second visit with a well-thought, comprehensive proposal, that answers the prospect's hot button priorities.
Goudreau suggests a similar approach for commercial, industrial or even government work. In these cases, he said once he called members of an organization's Board of Directors individually, listened to their specific concerns and priorities, and then, when he made his formal presentation to the Board, included these concerns in his observations. And for a government design-build project, he again arranged a pre-meeting with the decision-making group; discovered what really matters to them, and then presented an appropriately responsive proposal.
This requires work and effort -- clearly you need to have a screening resource to qualify your prospects because you are going to need to spend time with an additional visit and/or phone calls to gather the insights you need. But it makes a whole lot more sense to do things this way than to just blast out a standard proposal, and 'pitch' your service -- you then, even if you have a chance of winning the work, will likely win it only on price -- and that will probably be unprofitable for you.
Unfortunately, in his CD, Goudreau moves on to an 80s style approach and recommends you not take 'I'll think it over' for an answer. Even though he says he does not advocate 'high pressure', he goes on to say that you should never leave that second call where you make the meaningful presentation without an order in hand. He suggests you press for the decision and hold the pen for the clients to sign. Maybe this approach works if you are a died-in-the-soul hard-rock salesperson, but it doesn't ring right to me. Obviously you need to have confidence to ask for the order, and you should investigate for hidden objections if the potential client uses the traditional "I'd like to think it over" stall, but if you are doing things right, in my opinion, the process should flow so naturally that if the client is the type who really likes to deliberateand think carefully and not sign on the spot, then you will still get the business with some 'think it over' time. The point at which some sincere effort to put the deal through transforms to high pressure can be murky --I think you need to assess the situation on a case-by-case basis.