Customers use sales people. They use you to educate them about your product/service, they use you to help them get the best deal and they use you to help solve their problem. All are understandable reasons to be used. Proceed with caution if you are being used for reasons that aren't so justifiable such as:
- A prospect asks you to bid work/provide a proposal but refuses to meet with you in person to allow you to present your proposal. You can be tipped off to this type of "using" because when you ask the prospect questions up front about his needs he is vague or short with his answers. In this case, the prospect has already decided to work with your competitor. You are being used to provide an additional bid to help your prospect negotiate a better deal with your competitor. Or, the company may have a requirement to get 3 bids before awarding a contract and they are only trying to satisfy that requirement.
What to do: Tell the prospect you need to hand deliver the proposal and meet with him. Most salespeople hold out hope that we can persuade the prospect in favor of our proposal. If you know you are being used, it is acceptable to decline to bid. You might say, "Thank you for inviting us to provide a proposal but we feel that what we provide isn't a good fit for your needs."
- A prospect (who is not a customer) calls and asks you for tickets that your company gives out to customers for a professional sporting event, like a Dallas Cowboys football game.
What to do: Invite the prospect to go with you as your guest (include spouses if appropriate). This will give you a chance to develop a relationship with the prospect. Just giving the tickets away won't help you gain business in the future.
- A prospect requests a quote with a detailed proposal because he isn't sure what he needs. In this case you are being used for free consulting. The prospect will take your proposal, mark out your price and give it to other companies to bid the same work.
What to do: Give the prospect the benefit of the doubt. Sell your capability and benefits by providing a really good proposal - and, if possible, include requirements you offer that you know your competition isn't capable of providing.
When getting used in these ways, customers are taking advantage of you, wasting your time and don't have legitimate intentions. It happens to all salespeople. Use these experiences to help you determine the most effective way to spend your time to boost your own sales. Work twice as hard to keep your existing customers satisfied as you do to attract new business.