Meredith Elliott Powell:

If I ask people for a sale, they give me advice or they won’t even meet with me. But if I asked them for advice and information, not only am I getting the information, I need to make my product more valuable, but more often than not, I’ll find opportunity. And I’ll find a job

Connie:

With Mark Hunter and Meredith Elliott. Powell is brought to you by vanilla. So

Host:

Most people refer to vanilla soft as the solution. It’s the solution to ensure sales reps make the right number of attempts for every lead across all channels, including emails, social on the phone. It’s the solution to serve the rep the next best lead. Every single time you need to get your solution@vanillasoft.com.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Alright, welcome to sales logic. The show where we dive into the strategies we discussed, the steps, everything that you need to know to sell effectively and well sell logically I’m Meredith Elliott Powell. And with me today is my cohost Mark Hunter. Welcome mark.

Mark Hunter:

Thank you. And it’s always good to be able to do a sales logic episode with you because we get into some great topics, some great conversations.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. I kind of love the fact that we’re doing this today. You know, I’ve been getting a lot of out of office email responses as I’ve been sitting here at my desk, I’m working. And one of my favorite times to, uh, keep my foot on the gas is right around the holiday season because, uh, as competitors go away, there’s a great chance to reach people. But mark, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about how the show works?

Mark Hunter:

You know what, before we do that, we should remind people, Hey, the last two weeks of the year is also a great time because again, a lot of our competitors go on holiday. They take time off and it’s a great time to be out there prospecting. Okay? The way the show works, it’s very simple. We break it down into four pieces. We have a topic that we dive into. We have a question from a listener and let me explain really quick, how you get to be a question that gets answered. Jump out to our website, it’s sales logic, podcast.com. Leave us a question or jump out to social media and just do hashtag sales logic. And who knows your question might be the one we answer next week. So that’s two parts. The third part is we highlight a book, you know, we, you and I both read a lot of sales books and we always like to share with our audience. What’s a book that we think they would benefit from. And the fourth one is the lightning round, where we go fast and furious giving you a tips that you can use. And we try to do it all in about what, 20, 22 minutes. So, Hey, why don’t you share? Because I think the topic, I think the question’s pretty good. So why don’t you kick things off?

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. So our topic today is one of my favorite topics. It is RFPs, should you, or shouldn’t you. And if you do, how do you position yourself to win? I love this topic because it is the great black hole of the RFPs. And then our book this week, we’re going to announce it a little bit and our lightning round. Cause I want you to stay until the end. We’re going to do a little Thanksgiving, um, lightning round. And you do not want to miss that. But mark, that brings us to our question. Cause we always kick off with the questions. Our listeners are fantastic about telling us what’s top of mind for them. So every client I have is either in a state with that is going through a massive shutdown and it feels like all of them are going through another massive shutdown right now, or under a huge hiring freeze are so busy. They can’t even breathe or meet, how do I sell or plan to sell in an environment like that? And that comes to us from Kelly height in Honolulu, Hawaii. So mark, what do we do to sell? And you know, these objections are pretty legit objections.

Mark Hunter:

Well, first of all, Kelly, you’re in a huddle, Lulu, excuse me, how can you have problems? But Hey, I’ll tell you what this is. This is not only a challenge for 2020, but I think it’s almost a challenge for every year. At this time, you do have to here’s the whole thing. We cannot focus on the product we sell. Whoa. Yeah, we can’t focus on the product or service. We have to focus on the outcome. And one of the challenges that we have to do is every company goes into this, this whole dilemma, you know, uh, shut down, quiet this time of year. You really got to hone the outcome to making it very simple and making sure it’s one of their top one or two priorities. That’s how you get on the radar screen. That’s how you get them to still talk to you despite anything that’s going on around you.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

You know, mark and I were just talking before we came on this show today that we’re headed into the holiday season and things are a little slow, um, right now. And people, people want, people are tired. It’s been a tough year. People get distracted, um, with, uh, you know, with the holidays and things. But I think one of the most important things that you can do, even if you’re experiencing clients that are going through a massive shutdown, even if you know, people don’t have a lot in their budgets and they don’t have time to meet still do things to add value and stay visible. At some point, the pipe is going to turn back on. We just don’t know when that is. We don’t know if it’s going to be in the first quarter or the second quarter of next year. But one of the things you have to remember is your customers go to people who showed up. So even though we’re headed into, um, what is a traditionally slow time of year for sales really ask yourself, what is some content? What are some things that I could be doing to really add value and stay visible right now? Don’t worry about selling shift your mindset to just thinking about helping

Mark Hunter:

It it’s so spot on because I was coaching a client the other day and she was so concerned, mark, I don’t, what am I selling this time of year? What am I selling? What am I? And I said, stop treat your prospects. As if they were customers, treat them, think of them as if they’re customers already. Cause they’re going to become customers and share with them. And we brainstormed and we came up with half a dozen items that she could be sharing. She could be given to. She could be helping them. And what are you doing is you’re creating continuity right now. This time of year. So critical because the dam will break and oh, by the way, you know, what I find is it’s amazing how when you reach out to somebody and you share with them something that is a benefit to them, it’s amazing how suddenly they realize, Hey, you know what?

Mark Hunter:

You can’t help me right now. There is still a tremendous amount of sales. But if you go into it with the attitude that everything shut down, everything stopped, everything. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? We’ll never see anything. I, I was talking to a gentleman this morning and I made the comment and I firmly believe it. Every day we all have opportunities that come in front of us everyday. There’s opportunities that come in front of us. But the vast majority of them we miss because we’re not of the mindset that sees them. We w we, we just don’t see them because we’re focusing on, oh, there can’t be any business here. Oh, there can’t be anything. There can’t be any net and boom, there’s the opportunity, but we miss it. It’s gone. Yeah.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

I think the other thing, um, I’d like to advise you to do, um, is Kelly is to switch from sales mode to survey mode. One of the things that I like to do that when my clients are in challenging times is instead of calling on them to do a sales call, it’s time for me to back up and do a little bit more research into what’s going on with my clients. So rather than reaching out, maybe in calling you and saying, you know, do you have, you know, 15, 20 minutes, let’s jump on. I want to learn a little bit about your business and see how my products or services can help you. I might reach out and say, Kelly, I’m doing a little re little bit of research with my clients. I want to overhaul my sales process. And we want to do some things with our products to make them even more valuable.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Could I have 15 minutes of your time just to ask you a few questions? And what I find is it’s just like looking for a job. If I ask people to help me with a job, I get advice. If I ask people for advice, I find a job. It’s the same with sales. If I ask people for a sale, they give me advice or they won’t even meet with me. But if I ask them for advice and information, not only am I getting the information, I need to make my product more valuable, but more often than not, I’ll find opportunity. And I’ll find a job. Yeah,

Mark Hunter:

Yeah. And do that with existing customers, past customers, customers, you’ve lost everything. Because again, this time of year, I really contend this time of year. I had a gentleman call me yesterday. He called me, this is a prospect. And I normally try to reach out to him. He called me and we wound up with an amazing 20 minute conversation. That’s actually leading into a great sales call this next week. This is a great time of year. Don’t think for a moment we can’t sell, but Hey, you know what? We should probably get into the topic. Right? I love we should go ahead and go ahead. Tease the audience with the topic RFP, because I’ll tell you what we could go for hours on.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. Um, RFPs, should you, or shouldn’t you, I mean, mark, why don’t we start there because we’re, we’re ultimately going to talk about, if you decide to go into the RFP waters, what you should do to position yourself for success, but I’m just curious. What do you think RFPs should you, or shouldn’t you,

Mark Hunter:

It’s a family show. So we won’t say what RFP really stands for, but that’s okay. We’ll save that for after. No, no, no, no. Anyway, here’s the whole thing. Just because you have an RFP doesn’t mean you should respond to it. That’s I fundamentally firmly believe that you have to have a reason as to why you’re going to go into it. So I do not sales people who get all excited. Hey, I got another RFP. Let me tell you something. You can spend hours and hours and hours wasting your time. There’s a very simple rule. If you didn’t help write the RFP, what makes you think you’re going to earn the RFP? Hmm.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. Um, I do think you’re right. I think we probably should define in clean terms, what RFP means. It means it meets requests for, uh, for proposal. Um, not surprising. Mark and I are a little bit in alignment with this. So here’s how I feel about RFPs. Sometimes you have to jump through the hoops. I mean, in my career, I’ve done a lot of government work on the local state and federal level. And a lot of times when you do that, you’re, you’re required. Some of the organizations that I work with, they just make you jump through the RFP hoop. So I’m not opposed to filling out an RFP, if it is part of the process, however, RFPs are not how I build my sales pipeline. I do not go out and look for RFPs and fill those. Still fill those RFPs out because my feeling is the only way to actually win an RFP is to do all the other traditional stuff that you already do. And the RFP is just a check in the box that they have to have.

Mark Hunter:

You said something very key there, your reputation arrives before you do. And if they don’t know you and you’re filling out an RFP and you expect to win the bid, that’s when you win it because you’re so low priced, you are a stupid idiot. I’ll be very point blank. Here’s the whole thing though. I want to develop a strategy before I determine if this is an RFP. I want to go after now, when we talk about this, I’m saying, okay, is this an RFP? I want to earn? I mean, do I genuinely feel I have a positioner? And what I want to do is I want to earn a seat at the table, almost all bid processes, RFPs, or RFQ request for quote, whatever it is, our RFS request for service, whatever. They generally come down to a final three and you get kind of a seat at the table.

Mark Hunter:

So what I want to do is I’m going to come in and I’m going to say, I want to get a seat at the table. Okay? Government bids sometimes no, that doesn’t apply, but it’s amazing how many times the low cost bidder, even in government projects, doesn’t get picked because they suddenly shift gears. What I do want to do in the RFP is I want to raise a considerable set of questions. I know some RFPs don’t allow that they don’t know. Not only did it, but I’m going to pick up the phone. I’m going to make sure that I’m posing questions. I’m going to my objective is to earn a seat at the table. Cause here’s the whole thing. I may not be looking to earn this bid this time. But I want you to do is I want to have you say, wow, these people are people. We want to stay in touch with these people are people who we want to do business with potentially down the road. So in other words, what I’m doing is I’m, I’m entering the RFP to really not get this business, but to be in the running for future business, that’s a key strategy or I’m, I’m going to do it because I want to signal. I want to send a signal to the industry, to the marketplace, whatever, but there’s any, there’s a multitude of different strategies. It’s not always to win the bid.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah, I would agree. I am going to tell you my favorite RFP story. So before I went into business for myself, the last job that I had last time I worked in corporate, I was a banker and RFPs were a big part of what we did being in financial services. I mean, you know, we, our goal was to own our state own our region. And that meant that we had to land the government and the, and the, you know, the school systems we really needed to have those pivotal, um, community, you know, those community organizations that would help us land other business. So RFPs became something that we had to do because we couldn’t get the school systems work. We couldn’t get the county governments work without filling out an RFP. Um, but always we would sit down at the beginning of the year and we would ask ourselves, which are, which organizations do we want to bank?

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Or do we want to keep this year? And we would start calling on those individuals, those organizations, right? That, so one of the systems that we wanted, the RFPs we wanted was with the school system. Now their bid didn’t come up until October, but we started on it in January. We S we circled out who would be the decision-makers, who we needed to call on who we needed to have relationships with. Just like mark said, we set the strategy and I’ll never forget what happened. When it came up for the RFP bid, we put it out there. Um, we did not technically win the bid, but the superintendent of schools called me under the radar. And he said, Meredith, your bid is an in range. He said, but if you could make these three adjustments, we would like to go with you and give your organization, your bank, the win. That’s the extra that you need. The RFP makes you look just like your vanilla on a piece of paper. And it all comes down to price at that point. But if they know you and know what your organization and your company can do, then they’re going to tell you what you need to do to put it over the edge, to put it over.

Mark Hunter:

I got to share a quick RFP story. I was managing a large industrial supply facility, and we had a major RFP. This was for a major energy facility, about $600 million project. And we had a chance to bid on this thing and it was going to be major. No, it was not 600 million, but it probably stood up to about $50 million where the supplies that we were going to be, this was major. We went into it with the insole intent of we wanted to be number two. And I remember when I sat down and went through this with my team, they said, what? I said, no, we don’t want to win this because the winning bidder is going to be so low priced. It’s going to be ridiculous. We want to come in number two, because if we come in number two, we’re going to be the backup supplier, because what happened was, this was so competitive that everyone beat themselves silly to come up to a low price.

Mark Hunter:

Well, what happened was the company that actually earned or won the bid. They didn’t earn it. They won it. They lost it. It was so low that they couldn’t make money on it. They had a hard time fulfilling the terms of the agreement. Well, guess what? We’re number two. We’re number two. We would routinely get phone calls. Hey, can you help us out with this? Can you backfill this? Can you take care of this? You bet we did. We probably shipped one 20th, the volume, but we shipped it all at full margin. I have a feeling that we probably made more money off that project. Then the company that won the bid, uh, moving 20 times more inventory.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

I agree with that. Here’s what I think is I think that RFPs are a, should, you should do them, but I think mark gave you some great advice here, and that is that you need to have a strategy around them and don’t do every RFP that comes along. Don’t make RFPs your way to get business, because if you’re doing them blind, you are spending a lot of time and effort for very little return on investment, but be smart about them. Have a good strategy around them. And RFPs will probably bring you strong business in 2021.

Mark Hunter:

Hey, we should jump into the book. Yeah. I love the author sharing.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. Sherry Levitan is, um, she’s one of my favorite people now down at our, at our home here in, um, in Charleston, South Carolina right now. So Sherry’s book sits on my bookshelf in my home in Asheville, North Carolina, but it is, um, heart and sell the 10 universal truths that every sales person needs to know. And Sherry not only laid out an incredible book about sales, but she keynotes, she talks on, on the subject and she certainly wrote bottles. It,

Mark Hunter:

Oh, you role models. It, she lives it. That’s what I love about shear. I’ve known Sherry for a number of years and, and we’ve shared the stage a couple of times. And, uh, it’s just whenever you hang out with her and it’s interesting, but you get to know her and then you read her book and you go, this, this is her, this is her. And that’s what I love about. I love books that are authentic to the author. And that’s what this book is. So pick up the book, Sheri Levitin. Um, great read.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

It’s a, it’s a good, it’s a great read. And it’s one of those that you’re going to earmark and go back to. I think it’s also a great book to discuss with your sales team because it’s, it’s a, it’s a great book club book. Um, as you think about going into 2021 in a book that you’re going to have your team read and really put some things into practice, Sherry Levitans heart and sell 10 universal truths. Every sales person needs to know is a great read. Yeah.

Mark Hunter:

It’s designed for guys too. I want to go, well, I don’t want to read that. No, no, no. Read it. I’m a guy. I read the book. Let’s do the lightening.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

I would say that. I would say that Sherry is tougher than a lot of guys. I know. It’s absolutely. It’s absolutely important. Yeah, man. All right. Let’s get into the, uh, the lightning round. Um, I thought we do a little Thanksgiving, um, tribute today and what are the top reasons we are thankful? And we are grateful that, um, we are in the sales profession.

Mark Hunter:

Yeah. I’m going to start off cheesy because I get to work with Meredith Elliot palette.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Okay.

Mark Hunter:

Okay. I beat you to the punch on that one.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

He did beat me to the punch. Um, I’m going to tell you that I am grateful that I am in sales because it is truly a profession where you really make a difference in your, um, in your customer’s lives. We provide products and services that give them peace of mind that helped them make money. That helped them save money and solve real problems to keep their businesses afloat.

Mark Hunter:

And I’m going to challenge you on that word profession. Cause I don’t think it’s a profession. I think it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle because we truly do get to wake up every morning and help people. And I’m sorry, but that, that jazzes me. That makes me,

Meredith Elliott Powell:

I w I w I would agree. I love sales because I’m in charge of my own schedule and my own lifestyle. I’ve never, um, I’ve never had a job that gave me more freedom than, um, than sales gave me. Now, my husband would laugh at that. He said, because you, you would say, cause you work 24 7. I never take a day off, but you know, but I’m able to flex and change and, and really create the lifestyle that I want. And sales allows that.

Mark Hunter:

I love it because I get to help customers see and achieve what they didn’t think was possible. They didn’t think this was possible. And I helped them do that. And there’s something magical about watching a customer succeed.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

That’s so important. I love it. Cause you never master it. I mean, you’re never, ever, ever, you know, done with learning about sales. You can always be better. You can always learn something new. You can always add to your, um, to your repertoire. But I love it because I really think he keeps you challenged.

Mark Hunter:

I love it because no two days are alike. No two phone calls are alike. I, you know, what’s funny is you can get your head handed to you on one phone call and suddenly the next person loves you. And there is something magical about that. Wow. Getting your head handed to it. Yeah. But because there’s so much variety in sales, that’s what I love about.

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Yeah. I was going to say the same thing is that it’s, it’s just constantly changing. Another thing I love about it is that it always matters. It’s always an essential business. It’s never going to go out of style. It’s never going to go away. You’re never going to not be needed. Sales is just that vital to the success of life and business

Mark Hunter:

All ended right there by saying nothing happens until something is sold. Guess what salespeople we’re needed. Yes. I love it. I love it. But Hey, you know what, w we’re kind of at our time limit. So we’d kind of need to wrap this up. So I’m going to say thank you for listening to sales logic this week. If you like what you hear, subscribe, rate, and review the show on your favorite podcast app. If something we’ve said has earned you a single dollar, consider telling a friend about our show. It’s how we grow to help you grow. I’m Mark Hunter and I’m Meredith

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Elliot pal.

Mark Hunter:

Remember when you sell with confidence and integrity, uncertainty

Meredith Elliott Powell:

Suddenly becomes your competitive advantage

Mark Hunter:

And the sale becomes the logic.

Speaker 3:

Most people refer to vanilla soft as the solution. It’s the solution to ensure sales reps make the right number of attempts for every lead across all channels, including emails, social on the phone. It’s the solution to serve the rep the next best lead. Every single time you need to get your solution@vanillasoft.com.