From one perspective, the art of the sale is based on the salespersons ability to match the potential client with the product or service they desire at the highest price point the client can afford. How does it happen? How does the salesperson gauge what that price point may be?
Im guessing most of us have had a conversation with a potential client similar to this:
Tuesday, 10 a.m.
POTENTIAL CLIENT: My company is having an event to celebrate the introduction of our new line of Teflon spatulas and we want to go all out. You know, big screen, video, sound system, lighting rig, everything.
SALES: Great. Thats just what we do and we work in the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Vista all the time. How about I send you a proposal for your event? Are you doing video and Powerpoint?
PC: Yeah, video, Powerpoint and, what do you call it when you have the live video on the screen?
PC: Right. We want that as well. At least two cameras, if not three.
SALES: Awesome. Ill put that together and get it right out to.
Tuesday, 2 p.m.
PC: I got your proposal.
SALES: Great. Hows it look to you?
PC: Are you out of your cotton-picking mind? We cant afford anything like that. Im calling someone else wholl be more reasonable.
Its amazing when it happens. You give the potential client a proposal for exactly what they have asked for and they curse you out for totally missing their budget range by being too high or too low. What makes the situation worse is that this situation usually indicates a failing on the part of the salesperson and not unreasonable obtuseness on the part of the potential client. After all, were the professionals and its our job to assess our clients needs whether they understand them or not.
I think there are factors that can be used to avoid the type of misunderstanding illustrated above. First and foremost, the salesperson must have some idea of the size and resources of the potential client. Second, the salesperson must understand the context of the event and how it relates to the clients overall planning.
The First Factor
To explore the first factor, lets assume that the client is unfamiliar to the salesperson and the salesperson has no idea of the size or resources of the client he or she is dealing with. In this situation the salesperson must find a way to extract the information without seeming ignorant or intrusive. It helps by stating some level of interest in the clients product or service as in the extension of the earlier dialogue below.
SALES: I use spatulas all the time, but have never used a Teflon spatula.
PC: Were a new, small company, but were poised to take over a large portion of the spatula market with our new product.
Okay, that settles it. A new small company is not likely to have the resources to finance a huge event no matter what their desires might be so Im going to scale down the expectations and work with them to find a more reasonable budget, essentially down-selling them so I dont lose them to a less expensive competitor.
The other extreme is the client that has potential business that goes unrealized. Ive seen this happen when a new client calls and the responding salesperson is unaware of the vast resources of the client as in the following dialogue.
PC-2: You were referred to me as a company that could help on this last minute event. Well need you to jump through several hoops and respond immediately.
SALES: Yeah? And what color is your money. We dont jump through hoops for just anyone, you know. Ive never even heard of your company.
PC-2: Really? Dont you read the newspaper? Were the German bank that just purchased the largest insurance company in America for one gazillion Euros.
Read, and Keep Reading
This exchange brings me back to the title of this piece. Rental and staging companies, for the most part, provide services for other businesses, large and small, and we have an obligation to be educated about the business world and know who the players are. There are many ways we can do this, but I find the most effective way is to read the newspaper every day and never miss reading the business section.
This is particularly so for rental and staging companies in the hotel and small-room business, where clients can range from tiny companies to Fortune 500s, all in the same day. Knowing what type of client youre dealing with allows you to play to your strengths and exploit all opportunities to maximize your involvement.
At the very simplest level, awareness of the potential client lends the salesperson a position of authority and helps create a bond of trust immediately. Just like the following dialogue.
PC3: I was wondering if you could help us with an event thats taking place next Monday? Its a press conference announcing the recent merger of two software companies.
SALES: Im sure you must mean the Fremworks and NixNetworks merger, where Nix is paying $5 Billion in cash and stock after beating back a hostile bid from Beerware?