Thank you for the offer, we have decided to cooperate with another supplier;
At this point we have suspended the project, we will contact you when we get back to it;
Unfortunately, we are not interested.

Every salesperson has heard these answers.

Often, the reason for refusal is the lack of a real need on the part of the customer, a weak product, or just bad timing.

However, sometimes the reasons for rejecting an offer are less obvious, although customers rarely tell us about them directly.

What are these reasons?

To better understand them, let us quote the story of Will Smith and how he rejected one offer. An offer that could have been the role of his life.

 

How Will Smith rejected the role of his life

It was 1998.

Will Smith established his position as a true Hollywood star with his freshly recorded “Men in Black,” a movie which none other than Steven Spielberg convinced him to do. Nevertheless, when two less widely-known directors offered him a meeting, he decided to accept it.

The day of the meeting came. The directors entered the room, and the first thing that struck him was that they looked quite characteristic. One quite strong, with a beard and a baseball cap, the other smaller, wearing glasses and earrings.

They started to talk about their film, gesturing wildly. They focused on special effects.

Their pitch closed with more or less these words: “Imagine you’re fighting, then jumping, stopping in flight, and the camera shows you from all sides.

The plot of the film itself remained a mystery. Will Smith was very confused and, with little thought, rejected the directors’ offer. After all, as a freshman Hollywood star, he could afford it.

He did not know then that these two directors would soon be known to the world as the Wachowski brothers. And their film, “Matrix,” would become one of the most famous films of the last millennium. [1]

How is it possible that the Wachowski brothers could tell Smith about such a multidimensional film as the Matrix in such an unintelligible and unattractive way? Especially since they wrote the script and knew it through and through?

 

Contrary to appearances, such situations are not so rare.

Sadly – many offers, not just for films, but also business offers, are rejected for similar reasons. 

 

Today’s technology allows us to simulate what the famous Matrix scene with Will Smith would look like as Neo. Source: Shamook YouTube chanel

Reason #1: The curse of knowledge prevents the client from understanding you

In B2B, we often need to provide the customer with a lot of information to complete the sale successfully:

  • What is the business value of our offer,
  • What exactly are we going to deliver,
  • At what time,
  • How,
  • Under what conditions
  • For how much, etc.

And here is where the curse of knowledge stands in our way.

The curse of knowledge is a psychological effect, which means that if we know something, we get the impression that others do too. [More about the curse of knowledge is written here]

It usually takes harmless forms. When we watch the program “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and we know the answer to the question, we are surprised that the player is even thinking about it. It’s so obvious, right?

For a football fan, it will be “obvious” which football club Robert Lewandowski plays for, for a fan of the Lord Of The Rings, it’s obvious who Faramir was, for an amateur traveler, what the capital of Madagascar is…

As Polish host of “Who Want to Be a Millionaire” Hubert Urbański says:: “That’s the joke of it, that you can find questions that are easy for us and difficult for someone else.” [2]

However, the knowledge curse is very dangerous in the case of marketers and sellers. It can destroy the potential of even the best product.

 

Why?

Marketing and sales materials are usually created by experts. People who know the product through and through. People who may, therefore, get the wrong impression that certain things are “obvious” and there is no need to talk about them.

The result is that they release sales material that omits a lot of important information.

Just like the interactive whiteboard presentation I took part in. The salesman talked for 1.5 hours (!) about how many plugs the product has, how much power it uses, and how to connect it to the phone, but he did not explain how it could help me run my business and why I should buy it – at all.

The Wachowski brothers fell into this trap. The plot of “Matrix” was evident to them, so they focused on discussing the technical details of the film – special effects and individual scenes.

Will Smith, not understanding what the “Matrix” was all about, rejected the offer to play a role in it. In the same way, the client often rejects an offer without understanding the “big picture”, which is seeing what such cooperation can bring him.

 

Often the customer has difficulty in understanding marketing and sales materials. If he wrongly connects the dots we draw for him, he may reject our offer. Even if our product could help his company.

Reason #2: You don’t get to the right people on the purchasing committee

The situation becomes even more difficult with the fact that, in B2B, there are usually several recipients of our materials.

According to Gartner’s research, on average, 7 people are involved in B2B purchases. [3]. These are often people in different positions.

Let us take the CRM system as an example. Apart from people from sales and marketing, the president, purchasing, IT, legal or the finance department may be involved in the process of its purchase.

  • 7 different people.
  • 7 different goals.
  • 7 different levels of CRM knowledge.

Although there is usually one decision-maker, every person involved in the process has more or less of an influence on it. It is, therefore, worthwhile for marketing and sales materials to meet the needs of at least some of them.
Especially since products must meet many criteria – RODO compatibility, functionality, ease of integration, the convenience of use, etc.

Example criteria for decision makers when purchasing a CRM.

If our offer does not include information on data integration or RODO, people responsible for these elements may delay the purchase process… or even sabotage it.

Especially since meetings of the purchasing committee usually take place behind closed doors.

 

Reason #3: Most sales take place when you are not there.

This is best illustrated by an experienced industrial sales manager, Neil Rackham, who wrote “SPIN sales”:

 

I’m convinced that the reason I managed to sell the system for many millions of dollars was that I spent a lot of time making sure that people I talked to knew how to sell for me. I was like a theater director. I worked during rehearsals – I wasn’t on stage when it was time for the show.” [4]

 

Interestingly, this is a statement from over 30 years ago.

Today, customers are even less willing to involve the salesman in making decisions. On average, purchasing committees spend only 17% of their time on meetings with suppliers. [5] And 60% prefer not to treat a salesperson as their main source of information. [6]

Therefore, it is our customer contact person who will convince others to choose us, which means that he or she will de facto be selling. As if he or she were our distributor.

Our contact person’s role is to make the whole Purchasing Committee connect the dots precisely the way we want them. Misunderstanding our offer can sometimes be worse than not understanding.

 

It is our contact person who will be under fire from questions about ROI, integration with other systems, FAMILY, etc. If we don’t prepare him or her for this and provide the right marketing materials, he or she will fail.

And we will hear “thank you for the offer, we decided to cooperate with another supplier” or “for this moment, we have suspended the project, we will contact you when we return to the topic”.

That is why it is so important that our contact person on the client-facing side understands our offer well. And he or she can explain it neatly and convincingly.

It’s up to us to make sure he or she gets it right.

 

Reason #4: Your offer does not stand out from the (numerous) competitors

Let’s go back to Will Smith.

When he talked to the Wachowski family, he was already a star. But the Hollywood world is merciless. One, two bad decisions, and you fall off the pedestal. In such a situation, playing in a film by unknown directors, which you are not convinced of, sounds very risky. It makes more sense to wait for something that will be an obvious hit.*

*Fifty thousand scripts are made in the US every year. Only 150 of them are produced in Hollywood. That’s less than 0.3%. [7]

 

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, the buyer feels the same way.

He has many offers to choose from, and he has to know exactly how the product will help him just as Will Smith can afford to reject an offer whose benefits are not entirely clear to him.

And this is the fourth reason why our offer can land in the basket. Multiple suppliers’ offers and minimzation risk.

As they say, no one was fired for buying IBM products. So, if we don’t have a position like IBM or Microsoft, we have to make up for it with clarity and consistency of message. Especially today, when no one has time to analyze 50-page offers. And according to Gartner, customers who found the vendor’s sales materials consistent, bought from them 4.5 times more often on average! [8]

 

If the Wachowski brothers had been able to talk about the plot of the Matrix, Will Smith would probably have accepted the role. However, they presented it in such a way that their film seemed to be just “another action film.”

The same goes for business. If our offer seems to be “just another offer from a company in this industry,” it is difficult for customers to choose us instead of the more secure market leader option.

 So the situation is more or less like this:

 

 

If your offer is rejected the next time, think about whether you have taken care of these 4 elements.
This is not an easy task. But the trend is clear and difficult to fight. That’s why we can only adapt to it.

 

That’s also why we’ve built a list of questions that will help you prepare an offer that fits these realities.

Among the questions, you will also find good examples of offers from companies such as Wells Fargo, CallPage, IBM, Microsoft or Brand24, which will help you get inspired.

If you would like to receive such a list, please enter your e-mail address below:

 

 

Bibliography

[1] Will Smith interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm2szuXKgL8

[2] Hubert Urbański himself mentions this effect (without calling it that) when they ask him about the most difficult question in Millionaires [link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhMD6I4O5jc].

[3] Garner’s reasearch about decision making in B2B: https://blogs.gartner.com/hank-barnes/2016/09/27/in-enteprise-tech-sell-broadly-is-the-only-answer/

[4] Rackham, Neil. SPIN Selling: Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff (p. 85).

[5] Garner’s research about shopping time spent on meetings with the seller:
https://www.gartner.com/en/sales-service/insights/b2b-buying-journey

[6] Forrester’s article about the client-seller relations https://go.forrester.com/blogs/the-ways-and-means-of-b2b-buyer-journey-maps-were-going-deep-at-forresters-b2b-forum/

[7] Number of scripts produced in Hollywood: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/how-hollywood-chooses-scripts-the-insider-list-that-led-to-abduction/245541/

[8] Gartner’s research about buyer’s behavior: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-sales-should-know-about-b2b-buyers-in-2019/

[9] Graphic metarials used to promote the article: Actor Will Smith lights up the stage as he hosted the 2011 Walmart Shareholders Meeting; Walmart Stores; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Will_Smith_2011,_3.jpg

 

 

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