How "Quid Pro Quo" Selling Works

Last Updated Jun 22, 2009 12:56 PM EDT

Quid Quo Pro Selling
I've recently been writing about selling "Quid Pro Quo," a concept popularized by sales guru Bob Beck, author of the book Mutual Respect. Beck believes that small companies must always demand that their clients make some kind of sales concession for every action that the sales professional takes. The bigger the requested action, the bigger the "quid pro quo" that needs to be demanded.

Beck told me a story a couple of years ago that really illustrates this point. It also gives a perfect example of a corporate bureaucrat trying to use a smaller vendor as free labor. In this case, the "contact" was using Beck's firm to create the the impression of open bidding, when in fact one vendor already had a lock on the deal. Beck's aggressive stance not only neutralized the corporate leecher, but won his company the business. Here's Beck's story, based upon my notes:

I was VP of sales for an $8m a year software firm competing with a software giant for an accounting application to be installed at a $20 billion manufacturing firm. We found out that our competitor had recently sold another application to the customer and thus had the inside track on future sales.

Our customer contact called us to ask if we'd come to Singapore to give a 3 hour presentation to the company's IT bigwigs. We were told that our competitor would also be given 3 hours to present their solution. I pointed out to my contact that the other company clearly had the inside track due to the prior sale and, furthermore, they were deployed internationally and could service the application remotely, while we were only deployed in the U.S.

I told him that we wouldn't go to Singapore unless, in addition to the CIO presentation, we could meet with the CEO personally. (That's the Quid Pro Quo, in case you didn't notice.)

The customer contact pretty much hung up on me. Then he called back the next day to explain that his firm was really looking for best-in-breed software and would be willing to handle the support of our application internally. Once again, he asked us to come to Singapore to present to the CIOs, but told us that, unfortunately, CEO would be too busy to meet with us personally.

I assumed that if the CEO was not willing to meet with us personally, there wasn't any chance that we'd actually get the business. So I repeated that we wouldn't go to Singapore unless we could meet with the CEO. The customer contact hung up on me again, then called back the next day and said that the CEO would meet with us for breakfast on the day following our presentation. So we decided to go Singapore -- a big expense for a small firm like ours.

When we arrived, we discovered that our presentation had been scheduled from 5pm to 8pm, after a full day of meetings, while our competitor had been given the entire following day - 6 full hours - for their presentation. Though I was fuming, I was already in Singapore, so I did the best I could with my presentation and decided to address the issue during my meeting with the CEO .

Next morning, I'm eating breakfast with the CEO, who is clearly not particularly interested in what I have to say. My customer contact was at the table, too. I told the CEO that I wasn't sure we were interested in selling our product to his company. This got his attention, as you can imagine.

When he asked why, I explained how we had been mistreated in the matter of the presentations and clearly, based upon the asymmetric presentation schedule, had been misled into thinking that our company had a chance to get the business. The CEO said that he'd deal with the customer contact later and shared that several CIOs said that our presentation had been very strong.

In the end, the customer contact was transferred out and we got the business.

Note: Bob Beck had been discovered borrowing material from other sales trainers, so I'm not sure where this material came from. (See the post "Noted Sales Guru Caught Plagiarizing.") Regardless of the original source, it's valuable information, IMHO.