Here is a question from an Action Selling ® customer who happens to sell industrial pumps:

“One of our potential clients is a company that gets bids for pumps from three different suppliers, and then pays an engineer to evaluate the bids and recommend the best buy. If they allowed us to jump in as a fourth bidder, they would have to pay extra to the engineer. They’re balking. Our products have a good reputation, but so do the other three bidders. Is there anything we can do? Or must we just accept that we came too late to the party?”

The answer is that this is not necessarily a dead end. There is a potential solution. And it has nothing to do with the reputation of the products you sell. Here is the answer:

Get the buying decisions back on track.

Action Selling ® teaches that customers make five sequential buying decisions: Salesperson, Company, Product, Price, and Time to Buy. This customer’s decision-making strategy is focused on the third and fourth buying decisions: Product and Price. That’s one problem. The other is that allowing you to come in as a fourth bidder would cost the customer some amount of money.

Let’s start with your Commitment Objective for making a call on this customer. Once you have reached the decision-maker who has the authority to allow a fourth bidder, what must you “sell”? You need to sell the conviction that there would be enough value in adding your bid to the process to cover the extra payment to the engineer. For example, would the engineer charge $500 more to evaluate a fourth alternative? Then you need to convince the prospect that having another option – especially your option – is worth far more than $500.

Even without your description of the other bidders, comparing product reputation to product reputation alone is not going to cut it. You will need to find some particular value (in this case, at least $500 worth) that the customer will get by working with you and your company.

Now we’re talking about the buying decisions with which you and the customer should begin: the ones about Salesperson and Company. Those decisions are addressed in Acts 2 to 5 of Action Selling ®. Your challenge – and you’ll have to do a great job at this – is to uncover needs for some special value that you or your company can provide.

The best way to do this is to use the Back-Tracking Benefits method explained in our first sales book, “Action Selling ®.” If you have a copy handy, the method is illustrated on page 44.

Like most salespeople, you face competitors whose products might work as well as yours. That means you must find value elsewhere. It can only lie in something that you or your company brings to the table. You should already have done a lot of thinking about what that “something” might be (if you haven’t, then this particular customer is the least of your problems). So, starting with Act 1, gain a commitment from the prospect on the value of letting you into the game.