“Riding the whale” is defined as “progressive discovery, progressive disclosure” — and it is all derived from questions that you will ask and information that you will disclose at each step of your process.
From your dossier and the harpooner’s needs assessment, you have basic information about the prospect. Next you need a method to learn everything else that will be critical to your making the sale. Early in the ride, while you listen. Gradually you disclose more as the whale reveals more.
What you’re trying to discover, of course, is how likely you are to make a sale to this whale. You want to exit the sales process early if you don’t get the right answers. A few tips for critical questions:
- focus on process–what steps do you follow in your procurement process? Who will be involved at each step?
- focus on the buyers’ table–who will be affected by your decision to purchase these services or products?
- focus on past behavior–how did you do this the last time? how did that work for you?
- focus on learnings–what did you learn from your customers that has prompted you to make this change?
- focus on business development–what impact will this decision have on your bottom line (or department budget, or annual goals)
- focus on specifics–where does the budget for this project reside? who signs off on that budget? will you introduce me to that person?
- focus on outcomes–what do you intend to accomplish in 12 months by implementing this system (service, process, product)?
Good questions are equally important when you are selling through an RFP. Learn to ask them during the open inquiry period, and learn to answer questions they should have asked in your response.
If the buyer does not, cannot, or will not answer critical questions that will help your company serve them well, you will know to send that whale “back to Baja” and spend your time more productively.
What are your favorite sales questions? Why?