Money’s the first qualifier.
Always look first at the budget. Not because you should only be interested in money – but because when there’s no realistic budget other parts of the project are usually not realistic either.
Secondly, look at WHO is requesting your assistance.
Increasingly I’ve seen Purchasing Agents, IT Directors and even Administrative Assistants initiating requests for accounting software information.
Clearly these people are information gatherers rather than decision makers. At least lets hope a Purchasing Agent isn’t buying an ERP system without consulting the CFO or Accounting Manager.
The biggest red flag in my 25 years of consulting that always spells NO SALE is when one specific type of person requests information.
I’ve never sold into this situation and you probably won’t either. That person making the request?
As a matter of fact in nearly all cases the only thing that happened is that I was used to gather information.
Why’d this happen? I was stupid enough to provide free information without entering into a paid analysis.
Think about it — when is another consultant going to put their relationship with a GOOD client on the line and bring in a competitor that could potentially sweep away the client’s business?
Instead — just like the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is always pulling the football away from Charlie Brown — the poor unsuspecting ERP consultant falls for these words over and over (and over)….
Here are the words which always spell doom..
“Consultant searching on behalf of client”
Let me translate the above words for you…
“Consultant looking for another consultant to do a free demo, free initial analysis and give a free presentation on available options in the marketplace. While the cost of your time is free I want you to spend as much of it as possible. Naturally my client is on a tight timeline so if you could cancel your other appointments and visit us tomorrow that’d be great. Oh, and in the unlikely even that you’re selected as the provider for this project I’ll expect a 50% discount and you will bill all your time through me so I can retain control of the client relationship. In many instances I’ll already have done a completely half-ass (and wrong) assessment of what my client needs and I expect you to not only back up my flaky opinions but implement the software to my erroneous specfications.”
After you’ve given all your free demonstrations (which the sponsoring consultant will swear is going to get you the business) the prospect is typically never heard from again. These leads are simply consultants looking for a free reference that they can use in their (usually paid) engagement with their client. They have no intention of recommending their client buy anything from a consultant other than them.
The runner up for worst lead source has to be any lead that comes from any place other than the accounting department.
Is there any chance that this lead I received a few days ago – from a Purchasing Director – is going to close? Does this person even knows what MAS 200 is?
Luckily they’ve given me 7 days to work on providing them a quote to upgrade their MAS 200 which also has “several customized programs” that need to be updated as well.
Granted, either of these leads may turn out to be home runs for the consultant who bids them. Or they could turn into huge drains on the consultant’s time.
The point here is that it’s ok to turn down leads.
Develop criteria that a lead MUST possess before you engage in the start of the sales process (qualification).
Develop criteria as to how you deal with EXISTING users of the software. I recommend a pre-engagement paid review process. Price this amount at whatever level allows you to cover costs – but make the prospect put some skin in the game instead of stringing you along during what is increasingly a lengthy sales cycle only to learn they’ve used your expertise to qualify another less capable low bidder or perform the work themselves.