Bob Schultek 
Author of 
The Gauntlet

How you respond to a prospect’s inquiry determines their first impression about your company and how you do business. It’s your initial, perhaps only, opportunity to differentiate yourself in their eyes. 

Reacting with urgency is essential, but promptly proposing a product or service to address their immediate pain, without first seeking to learn why resolving the problem is important, wastes an opportunity to reveal your organization’s experience and competency, and your genuine interest in their success. Your proposal will be perceived as a one-time transaction intended to “sell” your offering like any other commodity, with price being the dominant deciding factor. 

For your proposal to be seen as more than a transaction…for your company’s credibility to be recognized…and for your recommendations to be appreciated as the prospect’s best alternative, an investment in their success that resolves a short-term pain while contributing to a longer term, strategic aspiration…it’s vital that you first engage the prospect to discover their current circumstances (why they contacted you), and how resolving the stated problem will help them progress (why their pain is an obstacle). Having this discussion prior to proposing potential solutions exposes your portfolio of expertise and capabilities, revealing your distinctiveness and reducing their risk of doing business with you. 

Resist the impulse to quote prices in the moment by requesting a chance to consider what you’ve learned from the discussion, and scheduling a follow-up call or meeting ASAP when you will propose alternatives for their consideration. When you do present your solution, consider these points:

  • Convert the insights from your discussion into objectives and request their feedback on the accuracy of “what you heard” (rather than “what they said”);
  • Present options, two or three recommendations, that achieve the objectives and resolve their need while positioning your offering as a strategic investment;
  • Instead of quoting a specific price for each recommendation, propose a narrow range of investment amounts for each option based on set of specified variables (features, delivery, payment terms, etc.), enabling a more thorough, precise dialogue about each recommendation that will reveal what the prospect truly values.

Proposing investments rather than transactions clarifies how your offering will produce value for the prospect, cultivating an enduring relationship. 

How can this process better differentiate your business?

How can you ensure that your company will be seen 
as a prospect’s best alternative?