You’re in a meeting with a current or prospective client, and you think it’s going pretty well. You get to the end of the meeting and just as you’re thinking about how best to wrap it up, the other person says ‘Can you just send me a capability statement?’ (or a brochure or something along those lines).

Nearly all people who are responsible for sales in B2B environments still think this is a good sign. They think ‘YES! They want to find out all about me and my product as they obviously want to buy’. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this is simply not true. Your response should actually be ‘UGH!’ because it’s usually just an easy way to try and get rid of you, and most likely means you haven’t had a great meeting. Think of how often you do this yourself when someone calls you trying to sell you something. How many times have you asked them to ‘send you some details’ so you can get them off the phone?

The principle is exactly the same, except this time you’re on the receiving end.

In client relationships, your central, unrelenting focus has to be on building trust. Sending a generic document is not going to build any trust, even if your client has asked you for it. You’ll just spend hours and hours of work creating a document that doesn’t differentiate you from your competitors, and that clients rarely actually read.

Ask THREE questions

So what should you do when faced with this question? I think the onus is on you to push back on the request and say ‘I can absolutely give you a statement of capability, but in order for me to give you something that will be useful to you, can you please answer these three questions about this particular project/issue/area of your business’:

  1. Can you please help me understand the business context? i.e. the reason why you’re doing this/what are the outcomes you’re trying to achieve?
  2. Can you tell me a bit more about the project itself?
  3. What are the three most important things for you to get right on the project?

Once you understand all of these questions, you can go away and pull together some stories of where you’ve helped other organisations who had similar issues, and then provide the client with a document that talks to exactly what they are looking to do now, and also looking to achieve in the longer term. That helps build trust.

Even better, weave those stories into your answers in the meeting as you ask the questions – if you do this well, at the end you can ask the client whether they still think they need that capability statement after all.

Even if you honestly believe that your client does want to receive and read a detailed capability statement from you, this is still a good approach to take as it ensures the document will be truly tailored to them and their needs. And as we know from all of the current literature on sales and content marketing, people don’t want to receive generic sales documents anymore.

As RogenSi found in their 2015 Global Report, What it takes to win business:

‘Customers are drowning in information, but thirsting for insight. The in-depth understanding of the customer’s situation and challenges must be heard and felt in every communication and interaction. Smart sales professionals will need to have the courage and curiosity to create compelling, customised communication – great storytelling – that will help shift buyers’ thinking and buying behaviours.’

Wise words indeed.

Have you recently been asked for a capability statement? How did you respond and what was the outcome?