The “Column Fodder” Principle in Action
I received this story from a client who had recently gone through a Solution Selling® workshop: What follows is a recreation of the events that took place. The names have been left out to protect the successful.
“I was given a potential lead for a large customer by my CEO. I made the call and was easily able to get an appointment. I was excited about this meeting. Early in the meeting, I was told that they had already been given samples and pricing from my competition – at least it was nice they were upfront with me. What they didn’t know was that I was familiar with the “column fodder” principle. They wanted to know what I could do for them. After a brief discussion, I determined that they were going to use me to negotiate with my competitor. During our discussion, I saw one of the decision makers writing in a notebook from my competitor. At that point, I realized that I had nothing to lose so I decided to react with what they probably would not expect. I closed my notebook, put it in my briefcase, and stood up. I thanked them for their time and said I didn’t want to waste any more of THEIR time as it seemed as if they already made their decision to go with my competitor. I said that if they wanted to have a “fair” side-by-side comparison and look at our capabilities to give me a call. I finished by saying that I didn’t want to be just another vendor they use, I wanted to be their exclusive vendor. Needless to say, they were stunned and asked me if I was really leaving. I turned, opened the conference room door, and left. One person followed me and asked again why I was leaving.
Again, I explained that it seemed that they made their choice and I didn’t want to waste THEIR time.
Also, I didn’t want them using my capabilities and prices to leverage a better deal with my competition. He told me he respected my decision and asked if they put the project on hold and gave the time and access I need, would I work with them. I said yes. They did. I did. And, after we worked through an evaluation, I made the sale. Did it go 100% according to Solution Selling® principles? No, not 100%, but I was able to use the concept to navigate through this situation to turn around a Column Fodder situation to re-engineer their vision and win the deal!”
Epilogue: By understanding where the buyer is behaviorally and procedurally, we can make an educated business decision what to do. It may be difficult to muster the courage to walk out, but now I know the power of understanding and applying the Column Fodder principle to my advantage. I can’t wait for another one!