The Takeaway is a Powerful Position

businessThere’s something terribly alluring about learning you can no longer have something you want. Once someone says no or takes it away all you can think about is getting it, right. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the sales bag, but it just might be a strategy you should practice from time to time.

The idea is that you start down the path with a prospect and at some point you stop pursuing them and tell them you’re no longer interested in having them as a client. In my experience there are a couple very valid reasons for doing this and it’s not about manipulation. By taking a deal off the table you send notice about what’s important to your business and give the prospect the chance to accept that and continue or reject that and move on.

In fact, in some cases you’ll lose a sale, but the best reason for practicing the occasional takeaway approach is that it will help keep you from attracting the wrong kind of clients. You know, the ones that think the buyer is always right and that your job is to jump through hoops, bend to their will and, oh, cut your prices.

By practicing some filtering in your sales process you determine instances when taking a deal off the table will reveal if this is a client worth the work to build a long term relationship. Being prepared to say no to a prospect is a practice that is much easier to do when you feel confident you won’t starve to death, but it’s one that you must start to develop a sense for early on.

The red flag takeaway – In the hunt for new business we often ignore red flags and gut feelings about prospects and charge ahead sometimes agreeing to deals that don’t make sense with clients that aren’t ideal. Sometimes clients treat you like a vendor because they think that’s how the game is played – this is a point where you need to take a deal off the table with the suggestion that their demands don’t align with how you’re able to provide value. Two things happen – they walk away shocked or they suggest you start over – either way you’ve got a better client and can proceed with a caution in place.

The turn the tables takeaway – This one happens a lot with larger organizations. You attract a department head that wants and appreciates with you have to offer and starts the process. Then purchasing jumps in and throws an RFP process in the way, a set of out of date insurance requirements and the need for a dozen or so of your past clients to also submit detailed documents. Sometimes jumping this hoop is worth it if it’s simply an administrative hoop, but it can also be a place where you take the deal away so you don’t get pushed around by the lawyers. If your original contact jumps back in on your side, go for it, if not, you probably were going have even more roadblocks just to get paid.

The you’re not worthy takeaway – This one isn’t as much a takeaway as it’s a position. This one is tricky and you can certainly overplay it, but the old “I’m not sure I want to be in a club that would take me” is at play here. Over the years Guinness has employed this message to embrace the fact that their beer isn’t for everyone. I saw an ad over the weekend that ended with something like – It’s probably not for you. This exclusive snob appeal can work well and it can back fire, but take a lesson in the polarizing aspect of this approach. Sometimes the best way to get a loyal following is to build an equally rabid group of detractors.

Image credit: jm3

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  • Tom McCallum

    Excellent blog.

    If I ever feel that a potential client is going to look at it as more of a vendor than partner relationship, I look pretty quickly to whether or not I should use one of these types of takeaways.

    In my business, I charge premium rates for access to my services, so it makes no sense at all for me to be considered a a commodity, so if they think of me as a vendor/commodity/bolt-on/outsource then the takeaway comes in pretty quickly.

    Being considered a partner, a member of the client team, or otherwise someone of value, not just a paid resource.. these are the ways to go to create (and be paid for) value… but if you have any doubt during the client development phase, use one of these takeaways and you'll soon find out their level of interest in having that type of relationship.

  • ducttape

    I think that really is the point – the takeaway is simply a tool to help gauge the long term viability of the relationship.

  • Ken Montville

    “Being prepared to say no to a prospect is a practice that is much easier to do when you feel confident you won’t starve to death…”

    For me, this is the crux of the matter. All the takeaways are good ones and it is satisfying to be able to use them. More often than not, though, the need for the income overshadows the better judgement to sever the relationship.

    I find it never works out well anyway and it really sucks the energy out of me but I plow ahead anyway.

  • Rich D.

    I wish I could do a few more “takeaways” in my wedding photography business. I've had brides with no red flags who suddenly become the queen bridezilla months before their wedding dates.

    I re-set the ground rules of our working relationship and explain that they can follow the rules, or I will release them from our contract. They realize that I will not accept their drama, and they shift their outbursts to other people. That's fine with me.

    Although I've never done a takeaway, the threat of one has helped my business — and my sanity.