Try Before Buy
By Lee B. Salz
service and technology industries, it is not uncommon for prospects
to request pilot programs before committing their full business.
Yet, there are important steps for the sales person to take before
agreeing to the engagement.
competition has been fiercely pursuing this account, but you feel
like you have the edge. All indications are that you are going to
win the business. Then, a call comes in from the Procurement officer
think you guys are great and we think we are going to go with you.
Here's what we want to do. We want to try your service for free for
thirty days. If that goes well, we will talk about plans to go
forward." Is this great news? Bad news? Some sales people feel like
victory is imminent. Other sales people feel like the sale will
never happen. Which one is right?
the old story about the optimist who sees the glass as half full and
the pessimist who sees the glass as half empty. The one who is often
forgotten is the pragmatist who sees this as a nice drink. When the
request for a pilot comes your way, there is no need to shade this
as positive or negative. There is no need for spin. It is merely an
important step of the buying process that requires circumspection
before proceeding. Let's dissect offer from Procurement.
try? The Procurement officer says they want to try your service.
Why do they want to do a pilot before committing? Don't guess. Ask.
Some sales people prefer to assume that they know why this is being
requested. I'm sure you've seen the acronym for ASSUME. The "why" is
important to know before moving to the next step. Have they been
burned in the past? Obviously, there is a trust issue here. Make no
bones about it. If they fully trusted and believed in you and your
company, the check would already be in your hands. Over the years,
sales people have over-promised and under-delivered so buying pros
want to make sure you do what you say you do before they turn their
key. In many cases, the decision to award can affect business
processes for the company. What if they go awry?
this. Imagine a company is about to select an applicant tracking
system to manage their recruiting process. After a tremendous amount
of due diligence, the team feels like they have found the right
provider for this technology. But, what if they are wrong? What if
the technology fails? Does the entire hiring process come to a
screeching halt because of it? Who will take the hit if that
happens? This scares the Dickens out of buyers. The ability to put
their pinky toe in the water before jumping in provides a sense of
security for them. The bottom-line is there is a critical
requirement for you to understand why they want to "try" you.
The Procurement officer has asked for this trial period to be free.
How do they get to decide that your product should be given for
nothing? We would all love something for nothing, but we rarely get
it. Of course, their famous comeback is to tell you that your
competitor has agreed to do this for free. It reminds me of when my
friend Brian was allowed to do something that I wasn't and I would
telI my mom that Brian was allowed to go. She would simply say, "If
Brian jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you want to do that
too?" Buyers don't get to demand your product for free. A good
question would be, "Why would they give their product away for free?
Doesn't it have value?"
thought. What if one of their concerns is billing? How will they
measure your ability to invoice correctly if it is free? Another
consideration is that pilots and trials always have a cost to your
company. If there is going to be one done for free, there best be a
return. Think of it as an investment. No one invests without a high
probability of a return.
days. What is magical about a month for a trial? Why not 6 days
or 28 days or 37 days? It is interesting to find out why that
timeline is magical for this company. What data will they be able to
gather in that time period?
the intent of the pilot is to demonstrate account management? Is 30
days too short? What if they want to measure your ordering system?
Is 30 days too long? This comes back to the recurring theme of
understanding what they desire to accomplish in this pilot.
non-commitment commitment. Procurement folks are famous for
committing to commit. "We'll talk about plans to go forward." I
don't think so! A free pilot with no commitment for the business?
You may have been born at night, but I hope it wasn't last night.
There are times where it makes sense to provide a trial for free for
a period of time. However, it only makes sense to do that if there
is a firm commitment to award you the business if the pilot goes
well. Ah, but what does "well" mean? Folks, this is
the most critical step when agreeing to do a pilot! Exactly, what
metrics will be used to measure the success of the pilot? Without
those defined metrics, you don't have a fighting chance of hitting
the mark because there won't be a mark to hit.
can be an effective tool in the buying process if utilized
correctly. If you would like my tips for an effective pilot program,
send me an email.
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