Are you really going to buy something from me?

19149276 You get a call or an e-mail.  You resist the urge to jump up and down.  Boy, this one sounds good.  They fit your client profile and they contacted you.  Their buying signals are flashing like the Bat Signal in the sky they’re so blatant.   You know you could truly help their business.

You might as well print off the contract now, right?

Not so fast, my friend.  Any of these ever happen to you?

  • They already know they want to hire your competitor but need to demonstrate they’ve done due diligence by getting a few bids.
  • They’re using the "put it out to bid" pressure tactic to get their current provider to snap back into order.
  • Their RFP is awfully detailed — they’re fishing for free ideas so they can do it themselves.
  • You’d be their 4th or 5th (fill in the blank with your profession) in the past few years.

So how do you figure out if they’re really a buyer?  Here are some signs that you can at least put the champagne in the fridge to cool:

  • Do you have access/time with the CEO and other top leaders?  If not…odds are whatever you sell isn’t a priority for the organization.
  • Are they used to paying for services like yours?  In the same price range?  You don’t want to be the one to break in the new kid. 
  • Does your sweet spot match up with one of their biggest pain points?  They’re going to want pain relief and look for a partner who can promise them that, via pat experience or great ideas.
  • Are they the ones driving the process — being flexible about getting together and reaching out for more information, a demo, etc.?
  • Are they quick to answer e-mail, return phone calls, get you data that you requested?

If you answered yes to all five does it mean you are on Easy Street?  You know better.  But at least it means the opportunity is probably a good one.  Now, it’s up to you.

8 comments on “Are you really going to buy something from me?

  1. Although all of your points are spot-on, I really like that you put the “time with the CEO and other top leaders…” as your first bullet. That has taken a while for me to learn, but it really clarifies things before time and energy have been “wasted.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a pitch meeting or just a simple introductory meeting with a prospect ready to “pop the cork.” Yet, after three (or five) revised proposals or creative treatments, a week between emails, and additional time spent surfing their voicemail system, I find that I should have corked something else… my mouth. The proposal (or a not-so-loose representation of the proposal) shows up weeks later, done by their “in-house” marketing lackey.

    Sure… We’re in a “service industry.” We do work on behalf of our clients’ needs. We’re supposed to get paid for it. When some ladder-jockey thinks he can get some fresh ideas to take to their CEO to claim as their own, it burns me to no end.

    To that – Keep Cooking!

  2. Jeff Gwynne says:


    As the COO at my last company said (many times) “buyers are liars”.

    One thing I have found in the high tech sandbox(where we mainly play) is that knowing the CEO doesn’t always do it (and can some times work against you). There are two scenarios.

    1. There is no marketing VP/director. The CEO calls you and says that there is a lot they need (and which you can do quite nicely) but he wants to wait until a marketing VP/director is hired (delay). When the marketing VP/director is hired, he has his own ideas/resources (or maybe even feels threatened by you presence).

    2. The CEO wants to use you and passes it on to the marketing person. For the result, refer to 1.

    Still I would say if you don’t have a connection, fogettaboutit. It doesn’t always work, but when it works, it’s great.


  3. Andrew,

    I hear you. It’s a fine line of wanting to share and demonstrate expertise and giving away the farm.

    And yet, I am not sure there’s a way to ferret out the true intentions until you wade into the water a little bit.

    And so we wade in…


  4. Jeff,

    We’re in the middle of one of those right now, waiting for the person to be hired. I moved the prospect from hot to lukewarm at best.

    A new sheriff in town is rarely a good thing, IMO.


  5. Ajit says:

    Just realised that this could be a global phenomenon!
    I was thinking this was an India specific behavior (we’ve gone through this so many times!)

    But the problem here is that the sellers don’t give up. Its a buyers market for marketing services and communications in our country, so the seller still keep at it despite getting stung like this so many times … People deserve to be whipped for wasting the most precious resource… time! Great post!

  6. Varun Badhwar says:

    Deja vu..

    From a seller’s pov.

    I think the key element is to give buyer some time, although the follow-up shouldn’t be late,

    Thats what i have discovered over the years,

    And, it works wonders.


    Varun Badhwar

  7. Ajit,

    So when the sellers do not give up, in your culture, is that perceived as a good thing or do the buyers get annoyed with the persistence?

    Or are you saying that the buyers take advantage — sort of getting everything they can for free before they say “I’m not going to buy.”


  8. Varun,

    Can you tell us more about what’s worked for you? Sounds like you have discovered some good techniques.


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