“Can I Give You A Quote?”

Within the space of 45 minutes today, I get two calls from sales people–each selling something completely different. The first sentences out of their mouths were essentially the same, “Dave, I’m Joe Smith (we’ll say), from XYZ Systems. I wanted to see if I could provide you a free quote for……….” The answers in both case were easy, “No,” and they pleasantly thanked me and hung up.

Hmmmmmm……….

What kind of prospecting calls were these? I wish they were unusual, but they aren’t. I lose count of the number of calls I get on a weekly basis offering to provide me a free quote. (Why would I ever pay for one?)

For the moment, let’s put aside all the nice stuff about being customer focused, providing me insight, trying to understand my business. We’re supposed to do that–but let me not criticize them their initial approach (even though I should).

The key issue from my point of view, as a sales person, is “Why would I waste my time putting together a quote before I even knew if the customer was qualified?”

I don’t understand the rush to quote. I suppose sales people think it’s an excuse to talk to someone about their requirements and get in front of them to try to sell something. But before I invest any time in working on proposing a solution and quoting something, I want to make sure they are qualified. This means they have a problem I can solve, they are anxious and motivated to change, they are interested in my solution, and they have funding for the project–at a minimum.

I suppose sales people think they can get that information sometime during or after the quoting process, but still, it involves a commitment of time with someone who may have no interest in buying, or may be a very bad fit. In the two cases today, I happen to be somewhat familiar with the products they were selling. In one case it was insurance/benefits packages, in another a new telephone system. Even with minimal work, generating a quote would take 1-2 hours.

So I wonder why a sale person wants to make that commitment in their very first sentence, before determining if the prospect is qualified? In my case, I was marginally interested in both. I had no intent to buy or switch from the suppliers I currently use for those areas, but I thought to myself, “let me just see what others are pricing these things at.” I quickly decided that I wouldn’t, just because I didn’t want to take the time.

I can also imagine, what these sales people are saying to their managers–who has trained them in this approach. “I’ve got another quote, just a little more until I close them!” I wouldn’t bet my career on the integrity of a forecast composed of free quotes.

An opening line for a “free quote,” is a demonstration of how little a sales person values their time. By committing to this, before you know anything about the customer and the need to buy, you are committing to the possibility of wasting time on someone who has no interest in buying.

Some will respond, “Well only the interested will respond to the free quote offer.” I think that’s faulty thinking. Too many people casually say “Yes,” just to get the sales person off the phone. With others, those who might have an interest, why waste the effort, your time and their time until you know whether they are a qualified opportunity or not. Why spend any time chasing an opportunity that may not be real or good?

I suppose, many people think that accepting a “free quote” is a form of self qualification. But I wonder about the quality of the potential opportunity. Sales people clueless about the customers and customers clueless about the product self qualifying? Does this make for a high probability deal?

Prospecting is tough. It’s hard to find the right customers. It’s difficult to reach them and catch their interest. But when you do the right job, the people you are working with will be highly qualified. Those are the opportunities you want to invest your time in. Spend the time doing the right things up front and your likelihood of success is going to be much greater.

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