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PHOTO: Adam Solomon

The first live contact a prospect has with a company is often a conversation with a business development representative (BDR). BDRs are tasked with qualifying each person as a prospective customer. When you're talking to a BDR, don’t even think of asking a question: they follow a script and resolutely stick with it. Their only goal is to move the prospect through their process with the goal of scheduling a demo with an account representative. 

Personally, I don’t like it, but I’m resigned to the fact that this is the way our modern sales processes work and am willing to engage with what is usually an earnest, hardworking young person working towards a daily quota of calls and demo commitments as long as they are polite and try to be helpful. Unless it's really bad or really good, I find the initial BDR call doesn’t affect my customer experience opinion one way or the other (the same can’t be said for what comes next — there is no excuse for delivering a poor customer experience once a prospect has been qualified).

Last week, I saw both good and bad in action. Guess who we bought from?

Ours is a simple story. After working to clean up our database we realized we really needed a contact database provider to enhance the information we had collected on our own. Our requirements were fairly basic and we quickly arrived at a shortlist of vendors. We knew each of the vendors on our shortlist could deliver exactly what we needed but what we didn’t know was what it was going to cost — none of the vendors had published pricing on their site. So we filled in our contact details on their pricing pages, and the process began. 

Both had BDRs call to qualify us within 30 minutes, and as expected, the BDR wouldn’t provide pricing information. From there the two experiences couldn’t have been more different.

Company A: It’s All About Us

Here's a small sample from the half-way point of our conversation with company A. 

Us: We understand what you do, we’d just like to know how much you charge.
BDR: I’m not able to give you pricing but I’ll be happy to schedule a demo for you with an account executive who will be able to give you that information.
Us: Fine, let’s do it.
BDR: Great, I can schedule that next Tuesday at 10am.
Us: That doesn’t work, we are ready to make a decision. We just need to know the price. Can’t someone just get on the phone with us.
BDR: Hmmmm … let me see. Well, the best I can do is tomorrow at 1:30 pm.
Us: OK, if that’s the best you can do, we’ll take that appointment.

Joe at Company A (not his real name) calls us the next day, "Hello, nice to meet you. Tell me about your company."

We oblige, describe our needs and continue with …

Us: We have very simple contact requirements and just need to know your pricing.
Joe: Great, our product is the most accurate in the industry. Let me show you what we do. 

Joe provides full demo. 

Joe: Do you have any questions?
Us: Yes, please tell us what the product costs.
Joe: We have the most accurate product in the industry. 
Us: We believe you, but please tell us what it costs.

This sequence repeats five or six times with Joe responding to each pricing request as if he hadn’t heard it and instead reiterating his value proposition until finally …

Joe: What is your budget for this product?
Us: We haven’t budgeted for this product. Please tell us what it would cost.
Joe: It would be helpful to know your budget.
Us: We didn’t budget for this product, would you please just provide us with a quote.
Joe: This is the price for the full product. 

Joe shows us a spreadsheet.

Us: That’s way out of bounds for us.
Joe: But this is the most accurate product in the industry. How can you say that?
Us: We are a small company with limited resources. I’m sure you have a great product but we just can’t afford that price.
Joe: We have the most accurate product in the industry how can you afford not to have our product.
Us: We’re sorry but it is just not possible for us. 
Joe: Well how much can you pay?
Us: We had hoped to be able to pay around $X.
Joe: Well that’s just not feasible, we have the most accurate product in the industry. Tell you what, I could give you a subset of our functionality for $2.5X.
Us: We’re sorry but that’s just not possible for us. 
Joe: Oh come on, you can’t afford this price? It’s only an additional $X per month. We have the most accurate product in the industry. You’re going to pay more than that by not having the product.
Us: We appreciate that you have a great product but we just can’t afford it, thank you for taking the time for talking with us.
Joe: I’ll put you on a callback list for three, six or nine months from now.
Us: We will still not be able to pay your prices at that point, and we are going to buy what we need now.
Joe: There's just not a fit here. Nice to speak with you. Goodbye.

Related Article: Forget Sales Quotas: Obsess About Your Customer Experiences

Company Z:  It’s All About You

Contrast our previous interaction with our conversations with Company Z. 

Us: We understand what you do we’d just like to know how much you charge.
BDR: I’m not able to give you pricing, but I’ll be happy to pass you to someone who can do that. Let me transfer you to Paul.
Paul C.: (real name): Hi Anita, I’ve been told that you want information about our pricing.
Me: Yes, that’s correct.
Paul C.: Tell me a little about your company and what you are looking for.
Me: Provided brief overview and described requirements.
Paul C.: Ok, our price is $Y and that gives you the following features.
Me: I don’t need access to that many contacts, do you have a starter price?
Paul C.: Yes, I could give you a smaller number of contacts for $X.
Me: I think that would work for us but I’d like to loop my co-founder in.
Paul C.: Would it make sense to schedule a brief demo for the two of you? 
Me: Yes that would be great, can we do something tomorrow?
Paul C.: Sure, what time would be convenient?

We scheduled a demo for the next day ….

Paul C.: Let me show you the functionality that you are looking for.
Us: This is great.
Paul C.: Can I show you one more feature that I think you’ll also find useful?
Us: Yes please. (views demo) Wow, that’s really great. Let us discuss your proposal and we’ll get back to you.

Two days later I emailed Paul C. to say we were interested and to inquire if there was any way to further reduce his price. Paul C. wrote back to say that he didn’t have flexibility on price, but could give us additional contacts for the price he quoted. We are going ahead with Paul.

Related Article: Want to Improve Your Customer Experience? Ask Your Customers for Help

Two Similar Value Propositions, One Clear Winner

Both companies had products that would work for our requirements. The reduced pricing for Company A was two and a half times the price of Company B. In full disclosure we would get significantly more contacts with Company A, but we don’t need those for our immediate requirements so that wasn’t a factor in the decision.  Pricing was our primary concern, but Company A didn’t want to hear that. They thought by repeating their value proposition over and over again we’d suddenly decide that price didn’t matter. 

In the end Paul got us to a place we could afford, and in the process treated us as intelligent human beings. Joe on the other hand tried to bully us, insulted us and in the end if he’d come close to Paul’s price, we still wouldn’t have bought from him. His approach to selling his product told us that his company didn’t care about customer experience, that they were just concerned with making their revenue goals. 

Here were the clues:

  • Scheduling a demo was more important than finding a way to answer our question.
  • They approached scheduling from the perspective of what was convenient for them, not us.
  • The demo was completely scripted and our sales person was unwilling to deviate from his script.
  • Joe was unwilling to talk about pricing until the demo was complete.
  • Joe’s script had him repeating the value proposition over and over. We understood it the first time. We did not need to hear it thirty times. Assuming your prospect is not smart enough to get it the first time is a bad assumption.

Clearly some group of sales operations and marketing people analyzed their sales funnel to the nth degree and developed a process they thought would lead to the best conversion outcome. But they’ve done it at the expense of customer experience. If that’s your approach, I’m not sure you even need a Joe, you could probably automate your process with a chatbot demo device driven by machine learning.

Related Article: Presentation Tips That Skip the Software Dog and Pony Show

A Simple Customer Experience Checklist for Sales

If you care about customer experience, consider:

  • Answering questions when they are asked. Don’t pretend you haven’t heard them.
  • Deliver a demo that addresses your prospects needs and not just what you want to show them.
  • Be responsive to customer needs and scheduling requirements.
  • Don’t mandate that your sales reps adhere to a script — a conversation works better every time.

And above all, don’t insult your prospect when they say no. You never know who they’ll be talking to — it could be your next hot prospect.