Written by Tim Sernett, Accounting & Finance Advisor for SMBs | Owner-Financial Optics Inc | Entrepreneurship enthusiast | Dad | Sports nut

“We’ve decided to go in a different direction.”

That phrase actually makes my stomach turn. If you’re a small business owner putting yourself out there selling your business’s services or products, I’m guessing you can relate.

For me it’s particularly painful if the rejection comes after we’ve actually presented a proposal. Maybe I take it too personally.

It’s a hard thing to hear though, because if we’ve reached the point of presenting a proposal to a prospect, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into it.

If we’ve actually gone through our ‘due diligence’ process and presented a proposal, then it means we feel like it’s a good fit for both sides, and we’re excited at the thought of onboarding this prospect as a new client. Yes, those are the hardest ones to take.

Then there are the times I hear that phrase (or similar) when we haven’t even gone very far into our proposal due diligence process. Those are a bit easier to take, but it makes me wonder if our process comes across as too involved…too much effort?

But then again, maybe that’s a good thing. Our proposal process is extensive for lots of good reasons. Why?

  • Our service involves taking over an important business process and is deserving of some upfront time and effort to get it right. We’re not just proposing a fee for a one-off project. We’re managing a key process for the long haul.
  • Just the nature of what we do means we work very closely with our customers on a daily/weekly basis, so we kind of want to like you (and vice versa). If it’s a good fit, everyone is happier, and we’ll have a better chance of helping you use the financial info to move your company in the right direction.
  • We ask for a lot of information so we know what we’re getting into. More importantly, we want to determine a price that’s fair for both sides and represents value. Poorly priced service agreements never end well…for either side.
  • There are plenty of bookkeeping services that just want to post transactions and honestly would rather not talk to you. That’s not us. We’re not in this to simply manage a data file. We care about your success. We care about what the accounting data file is telling us about your business, and we care about how we can use that info to help you build a better business.

Trust me. I get it. Business owners want answers fast. How much does it cost? Will it really work for us, and how? (Spoiler alert, yes, it will work for your business.)

But hopefully I’ve made a case for taking just a minute or two to gather the information we need to get it right up front. And maybe I’ve convinced myself that if a rejection comes early in the process, it’s probably a good thing. That prospect most likely wouldn’t have been a good fit for our business.

If you’re a B2B service-based business, what’s your sales process like? Is it quick, get ’em in the door fast, work with ’em and hope for the best? Or is it more involved upfront to establish long lasting customers? Am I asking too much of potential customers?

Depending on how much feedback I get on this post and our approach, who knows…maybe I’ll decide to go in a different direction.