I was watching a college football game the other day and heard the announcer talking about the option play. It sounded like a great idea… set up for a pass and if you can’t find an open receiver you have the “option” to lateral to the runner. It can also be set up as a run and if the quarterback can’t see an opening for the runner he has the option to pass. It gives the offense "options" and keeps the defense “honest”.
Our selling process is designed in the same way… to create and preserve options in the selling process. Unfortunately, many people in sales are operating in a way that actually eliminates options and lessens the chances of winning. It takes some guts (like holding the ball until the very last minute), but will provide more winning outcomes.
Here’s an example of an "option" strategy in sales. A prospect asks you to send them a proposal along with a price quote. A "no option" strategy is to provide it or send it. Once they have the information they need they are in total control of the selling process and no longer need to speak with us (how many times have you sent a proposal and then had no success in reaching your prospect for follow up?). We have in essence used a no option strategy and limit or chances of success.
An option strategy would be to say “I’d be happy to provide that information for you but would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions first? Once that question has been asked the prospect has choices to make that actually give us options. They could ask “why can’t you just answer my question?” , which would enable us to give an explanation and possibly gain either more information or even better, an appointment. Or they could say unless you get me the information I request we can't continue. You now can decide to pull out or you always have the option of giving out the information that they have requested.
Often times not complying with a customers request gives us "options" and complying removes options. The concern for most sales people is if I say I will not comply I could lose the sale (which most of the time they don't have anyway). They tend to forget about all of the sales they have engaged in, sent all of the information that the prospect asked for (and removed all options) and didn't get the business. This time wasting activity is what they should really be worried about.
Action Step: Next time someone asks you for something consider running the "option". It might actually get you the business you want or save you from wasting your valuable time.