The Seduction of Low-Hanging FruitBy: Jill Konrath
I remember the first time it happened. It was on a Thursday, about 4 pm, and I was worn-out after a day of cold calling. I hadn't uncovered even one viable prospect. Enough was enough! Time to go back to the office and do some paperwork.
When the phone rang, I answered it tiredly. But by the time I hung up I was a new person. I had just talked to one hot prospect!
Her company was BUYING! Not just looking - BUYING! They needed several new systems to handle their growth. And they wanted to make a decision quickly.
"Can we come in for a demonstration," she asked.
How could I refuse! They came in the following Monday and we spent about two hours together. We discussed their needs and I showed them several possible options. Things seemed to go really well. In parting, they asked me to call back early the next week.
Tuesday morning I left a message. Wednesday and Friday too. My calls were never returned. It wasn't till a week later that I finally got my prospect on the phone. She thanked me for my hard work, fast service and excellent demonstration. Then, very apologetically, she told me they'd selected another vendor.
I asked "Why," but her answer was evasive and focused on minor details. Of course, price was thrown in too - as it always is when you lose.
I'm embarrassed to tell you that this happened to me more than once. And sometimes I invested an inordinate amount of time and effort in those so-called "hot prospects." I coordinated elaborate meetings and prepared detailed proposals. I even rearranged meetings with prospective customers who weren't quite ready to move ahead.
Can you guess what happened? That's right. I almost always lost the business.
Lest you think I'm not too smart, it didn't take me too long to figure out something was wrong. My proposals, presentations and demos were fundamentally sound, so it had to be something else. But what …
When I talked to the more seasoned sellers, I was cautioned on wasting my time with 'low-hanging fruit" - in other words, companies who are ripe to buy.
They told me that many of these prospects already have made their decision, but are checking the market for two reasons: 1) To prove to higher-ups they did a thorough investigation, or 2) To leverage competitive offers to reduce their preferred vendor's pricing.
Yikes! That explained a lot of things. Naively, I had assumed that I had a fair shot at every deal.
Learning how to ferret out those opportunities where it was worthwhile to pursue low-hanging fruit was hard. I had to be much more straightforward than I was used to being and ask questions that made me uncomfortable. But by doing this, I saved myself lots of hard work. And, I had more time to spend on prospects where I could win.
The lure of low-hanging fruit never completely goes away. The chance to make easy money is just too seductive.
I still have to caution myself when I encounter these opportunities. The worst thing about them is the wasted time that could have spent with prospects where my chances of winning were much higher.
© Jill Konrath, 2002