It probably seems a little confrontational when I ask a prospect the simple question of “Why are you doing this?”, but really it’s just a more direct variation on a theme.
The other, less direct versions of this question are questions like:
- Why is this the right time for you to consider changing vendors?
- What performance threshold are you hoping to achieve by changing your provider right now?
- How have things changed so much in the last 6 months that you are now considering changing your provider?
- What will working with a new vendor give you that you are not getting from your current vendor?
In the end, though, it all boils down to wanting to know why.
I am working with two clients who have put this question into the early parts of their sales process and the answers they received are astonishing in their frankness. I assure you that all of these examples are real. I find some of them rather disturbing.
- “I have to look at other vendors every so often to keep procurement happy.”
- “The company we are working with says they can’t make any money because raw material costs are higher than what we pay in total price, so I’m looking to find someone who is cheaper.” (All providers in the industry buy their raw materials from the same source.)
- “We’re always looking to see what’s out there.” (The next question: “When was the last time you changed vendors?” Answer: “We’ve worked with the same company for 11 years.”)
These same clients would visit any company that would give them the time before even reaching the “Why are you doing this?” point. Their reasoning, and I hear this a lot, was, “Hey, you never know.”
True, but only if you don’t ask. If you ask, you will probably get a good idea of whether or not the prospect is interested in making a change (and whether it is worth your time to move forward in the process). The good (for you) answers from prospects to the “why” question include:
- Current vendor is failing to perform
- Specific improvement targets for changing
- Clear need for new technology, system, process or materials
- Company initiative to change approaches and therefore vendors
It’s never too late or too early to ask the “why” question, and you really can’t ask this question often enough. By finding out the prospects’ motivation you can find out the reality of whether or not they actually plan to change. After all, change is where the money can be found.