Have you ever had a great initial prospect meeting, followed up diligently and then despite your best efforts, can’t get the sale to close? It’s a frustrating part of sales and it happens to almost everyone. Here are some tips to help you keep the sale moving.
Be direct and authentic. Your prospects will appreciate it. Here are some questions you can ask. “I’m hoping you can shed some light for me here. We had a great meeting last month and you asked me for a proposal. I haven’t heard back regarding next steps. Please help me understand where you are in the process.” Or, “What is holding you back from making a decision?” Or, “What is standing in the way of us working together?” Or, “You said that X was important to you. If we don’t move forward together, how will you achieve your goal?”
In the absence of real information sellers tend to fill in the story with their own “head trash”. The reason for the delay might be different than you think. Keep an open mind and positive attitude with all communications with prospects. One seller concluded a decision maker chose a different vendor when, in reality, the project was put on hold. Another seller assumed he lost the sale when the decision maker just hadn’t had a chance to review the proposal due to a heavy travel schedule. A third seller figured he was getting the “run around” when in reality the prospect’s child had been in a bad car accident. Give your prospect the benefit of the doubt.
Develop a timeline of what needs to be done, by when (i.e. procurement process, legal review, etc.), in order to have the program operational by the prospect’s desired date. Use reminders about staying on track with the timeline (or the consequence of missing the timeline) as a helpful benefit of working with you. If your prospect values PR, offer to include him/her in a press release when the deal closes. As a last resort you can offer added value or limited time concession(s) for signing by a certain date.
The assistant can be your best friend and source for help on moving the deal forward, insight on what is happening “behind the scenes”, information about the best time to connect with the decision maker, etc. You never know what you might find out from an Admin you trust! Test the waters first to see if he/she is open to sharing. In certain situations you can ask if there is someone else on the team who can move the ball forward. For example, if the C-level person is too busy then perhaps a VP or Director can complete the order.
Offer to help.
Start the paperwork (i.e. new vendor forms, PO, contract, etc.) and ask the decision maker to review for terms, conditions and deal points so there is no delay at the time when the decision is made. Ask if the deal points reflect everything he/she wanted. If the decision must be made by consensus, offer to create a meeting or conference call to get the others on board. Be a resource for additional research, data, ROI models, etc., anything that will prevent a deal from stalling.
Send an email with the subject line “Are you ok?” Let the prospect know it’s no problem if he is not ready to continue the business conversation but you wanted to be sure everything is ok. Most prospects will respond to this kind of email. You can also say, “I miss you.” as a way of gently reminding the decision maker that your conversation is still in progress.
Create a stronger relationship.
Invite the prospect to join you at industry events. Continuously provide the prospect with information that will benefit him/her. Demonstrate you care.
Reflect on what led up to this point.
Review all the communication that led up to this point with fresh eyes. Perhaps the relationship with your prospect was not as strong as you thought, he was not as interested as you hoped or your solution was not as good a fit as you believed. Were your emails clear, concise and about your prospect? Was your call to action so clear that your prospect absolutely knew what you wanted him to do? Did your proposal strategically lead your prospect to conclude that your solution was the right answer? Take steps to correct what might have gone awry.
Keep your pipeline full.
Your prospect may not be ready to buy just because you are ready to sell. Having many “A” level prospects in rotation will ensure that you will continually close. Some prospects close immediately, some in 3 months, some in 6 months and some next year. The best way to avoid the peaks and valleys of business development is to keep the top of the funnel continually full of great prospects. If you find it challenging to keep the top of the funnel full, either because you don’t have time or don’t enjoy this part of sales, find someone who can do this for you. This part of sales is too important to ignore.
Most importantly, remember prospects are people too. They have their own hopes, dreams and desires. The more closely you align yourself with your prospect’s goals, the more successful you will be. Lastly, if you want the business, work for it!