In enterprise sales, one of the most effective tactics I’ve learned is to put yourselves in the shoes of your customer and help them figure out what the right questions are to ask in an evaluation process. This is important because your customer is probably going to issue a request-for-proposal (RFP) that tries to standardize the evaluation process, or will at least be meeting with your competitors. What better way to ensure the process is well-run than by helping them figure out the right questions to ask you and your competitors?
We’ve all been there in enterprise sales when you receive an RFP and the questions seem like softballs or unrelated/irrelevant to the core reason they need a particular product. This sets up a messy situation where the best technology/product combined with appropriating pricing may not win the RFP. The more advanced the RFP and specific, the better (unless your product sucks and is weaker than the competition). The best situation is when you gain enough trust from your customers to the point that they literally start asking you to help them write the RFP(s). Needless to say it’s a big advantage to see the exam before you take it.
Let’s say, for example, your software system is built on cloud-computing and is horizontally scalable, and you know one of your competitor’s isn’t. A first-draft RFP from a potential customer may neglect to ask a forward-thinking question such as “If we sent you a crazy amount of traffic, could you handle it?”. A competitor that isn’t as scalable as yours may dodge a bullet if that question isn’t asked and save some points in the process.
The best enterprise sales organization recognize that there’s a lot of potential to gain competitive advantages “upstream” before an evaluation process has even begun. It also has to be an entirely honest process, whereby you help the customer ask the right questions for them, not just the right questions for you. Send them a list of questions that you recommend asking you and your competition (broken down by category or type), build a white paper describing why certain features or differentiating factors are important, etc… The goal is to help the customer be able to compare apples to apples as an outcome of their RFP process and to ensure that your company and your competitors are judged fairly.