I'll never forget my meeting with the VP of Sales for a hot telecom company. They'd loved my proposal, so I figured we were getting together to kick off the project.
"I'm afraid I have bad news for you," the VP said. "We think your training program is superior to the other ones we've looked at. Your pricing is fair. And your ability to tie it in with our new product launch is unsurpassed. However, we've decided to go with your competitor."
My jaw dropped. I stared at him in shock. Then he continued, "If you get hit by a Mack truck, our entire training investment is gonzo. We just can't do that."
In short, he meant that my company was too small to do business with. Working with me entailed more risk than he was willing to take.
That was the day when the concept of "risk" truly hit home for me. Our prospects deal with it all the time. But often we, as sellers, are totally blind to what a risky decision we can be.
In today's business environment, we have to be aligned not only with our prospects' business objectives, but also their risk temperament.
To your prospects, risk means the cost of making a mistake. It could be financial, social, psychological, or even emotional. Risk is about fear of change.
Chris Mercer, CEO of Mercer Appraisal, found this out early in the life of his company: "When we were smaller, we realized that there's a concept called 'safety' in the minds of most buyers. From their perspective, it's a multi-variable function of size, longevity, customer list, perceived quality, external affirmations (speeches, articles, books), and many other things. We've been working for more than twenty-five years to be the safe choice in our field."
That's what we all need to do. But it all starts with identifying what your prospects perceive as risky. Here is a list of just a few things they could fret over:
- Projects not delivering results;
- Losing money; missed deadlines;
- Your company's financial solvency;
- Cultural fit; compatibility;
- Quality of your work;
- If your expertise is right for them;
- Accuracy of claims;
- Your length of time in business;
- If you're too big to care about their business; and
- If you're too small to handle their account.
You may pooh-pooh some of these as no big deals, but believe me, I never thought a Mack truck would impact my ability to get business, either.