One of my 8 core questions on a project is:

Who are the decision makers that will decide if this project moves forward?

Once I know that, I require all the decision makers to be part of my introduction call with the prospect. This is a crucial step you can’t overlook in your client vetting/pitching process.

If the CEO and/or the department head is the decision maker, I don’t let prospects push off a meeting with those people just because they’re busy. Well, not if I want to have a successful project.

Different Priorities

In my vetting process, the biggest thing I evaluate is the priority of the project to every individual. Is this something the business owner really doesn’t value and has pushed off to an employee?

If it’s not worth their time to participate in a call, then will they be willing and available to make necessary decisions to get the project done?

Is this something that the CEO is really passionate about, but the person tasked with the project isn’t truly behind?

The only way you’ll get a sense that any of these things are at play is if you talk to all the decision makers on the project. If there is dissent within the ranks, chances are good that the project will fail.

Focusing on Outcomes NOT Time

I was just talking to a friend (the inspiration for this post) who recently had trouble getting his client’s focus off the time spent and onto the desired outcomes.

My friend charges weekly and kept getting pushback on his fees and pricing. The prospect kept asking questions like, “So if we only use 2 days out of 5 do we get a refund?”

My friend continued trying to refocus the prospect on the outcomes but faced resistance. I really doubted this project would materialize because my friend was only dealing with a person responsible for one layer of the approval process — a person only in charge of approving a scoping session, but without the power to approve the whole project. This ‘project representative’ was acting as the gatekeeper for the true decision-makers, which my friend was not getting access to.

After demanding a make-or-break call with the CEO of the company and the project manager — at the same time — the company ended up booking my friend for $40k over 2 months, and paid the bill in full, up front, in 24 hours.

This was after 3 weeks of ‘objections’ from — and multiple phone calls with — the first approval level.

Don’t waste your time. Make sure you get all the decision makers on a call as early in the sales process as possible. If you can’t get them committed to it then it may be a project destined for failure.

photo credit: gadgetgirl70 cc