Here is a message I got from a sales training client who sells industrial pumps:

“One of our potential customers is a company that gets bids for pumps from three different suppliers, 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?”

How would you answer? Suppose that a prospect has put a project out for bids and you are too late to throw your own hat into the ring. Is the game over? Must you just give up?

Never! Here is an abridged version of the sales coaching session I conducted with my client. The solution has nothing to do with what types of products you happen to sell.

Get the buying decisions back on track

In sales training programs based on the Action Selling system, I told my client, you learned that customers make five key buying decisions: Salesperson, Company, Product, Price, Time to Buy. In the case of this bidding war, the 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 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”? Never mind industrial pumps; what you need to sell is 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 $100 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 $100.

Even without your description of the other bidders, my instinct and experience would tell me that comparing product reputation to product reputation is not going to cut it. You will need to find some particular value (in this case, at least $100 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. Your challenge—and you’ll need all of your sales skills here–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 you learned in our sales training program. If you have a copy handy, it’s illustrated on page 44 of my first book, “Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional, Even if You Think You Are One.”

Like most salespeople, you face competitors whose products work as well as yours; you acknowledged as much in our sales training course and in our previous sales coaching sessions. That means you must find value elsewhere. It can only lie in something that you or your company bring 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 of the Action Selling system, go sell the prospect on the value of letting you into the game.

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).