The profession of Sales introduces one, to many a tough situation. Yes, the rewards can be plentiful, the glory insuperable and the lifestyle lavish. Indeed, the highs can be very high. Contrariwise, the lows can go very low.
There are a plethora of tough situations, a sales professional endures. One such situation is when a buyer suddenly stops responding through the buying cycle. Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently. Sales pundits have spoken about the toughest competitor in any deal being the apathy of the customer; the decision to do nothing at all.
Let’s recap the story thus far … You committed hours to research and really did your homework this time. You took the time and applied the patience to understand the needs of the prospect. You positioned your solution in a way that solves a major problem for the prospect’s organisation. You established rapport with the entire buying committee – decision makers, influencers and all relevant parties.
Now, you are doing what your sales leaders and coaches taught you – hold your nerve, don’t get impatient, don’t show desperation. And why should you? You are just on the verge of winning the deal. Things have progressed well through the buying cycle. You have actioned all the necessary from your side and have responded to all of their questions. This is a sealed deal. But wait. The one thing you didn’t expect or want to happen next, is happening – radio silence. The prospect has gone dark. Nothing is happening. Your mobiliser in the account said they would get back to you in a few days with signatures from key stakeholders. Day 1 … Day 2 … Day … now a week has gone past.
You reminisce – Things were going well. You had been going back and forth for weeks, and everything seemed to be moving along just fine. You have done this several times before through your sales career. In your last correspondence, you were sure the deal was going to close. You were forecasting it in the last quartile of the funnel. Your sales leadership was across it. You had called it in meetings. You had committed it as a dependable deal. You had even spent part of the commission cheque in your mind.
Just when you thought that matters could not become worse you find out that a competitor is deep within the account and actively working the same deal. You had done the competitive research through the sales cycle at each stage and you were assured, you were the only one – even, the chosen one.
You know that the best salespeople aren’t pushy. You’ve been told this — by your sales coaches and by your leaders. You don’t want to mess this extremely lucrative and important deal by pestering your mobiliser with texts, voicemails and emails. But at the same time, you’re nervous. This deal could make your quarter, maybe even your year. Not getting through could have severe consequences on the professional and personal front.
What do you do? You need to ask yourself — which is greater, the risk of losing the deal or the reward of winning it?
As a salesperson in this situation, the one adage you must combat is that ‘Patience is a virtue!”. This is not the time to be patient. You are in the waiting lounge. This lounge will soon descend into the dead zone.
There are a few strategies you can put into practice to pull yourself out of the waiting lounge and to ascend yourself out of the dead zone. Keep in mind the worst thing you can do is to not act at all.
What precisely you do whilst in the waiting lounge or even in the dead zone will be influenced by several factors – your tenure in sales, your relationship with the buyers and influencers in the prospect organisation, where you are in the sales cycle, how desperately you need this transaction to make your quota etc.
Again, you have many choices on how to progress. The only choice you cannot afford is to do nothing at all. Patience at this stage is not a virtue. Action regardless of outcome is more beneficial. By action, I don’t suggest being pushy or demonstrating desperation. I simply suggest taking the right course of action to know precisely where you stand.
If you truly have a strong rapport with your internal advocate or mobiliser, pick up the phone and call them. What have you got to lose? If you were already positioned to win the deal, this call should do you no harm. If the buying committee has already decided to go with your competitor, it will also do you no harm. At least you will be in the know and can focus your energies and time elsewhere. If the committee was on the fence, you are giving yourself an opportunity to create urgency and move things along the funnel.
The mobiliser may provide you with a behind the scenes update that will help you with corrective action. You could continue to influence the buying committee with content. Maybe the prospect organisation has recently been mentioned in the news. Could that be a trigger you could leverage to engage? Have you bumped into information that adds to a previous conversation you had with them? Maybe your marketing team published a case study, a testimonial, an e-book or some findings that would be of interest to the buying committee. Is it time to leverage a leader in your organisation to reach out to one of their leaders? Could a first string connection on LinkedIn who knows members of the buying committee and you, be the key to unlock the proverbial deadlock?
I don’t suggest that the above can necessarily be executed in each and every scenario. It is plausible that one of the tactics I have suggested might work. Maybe a combination of two or three might open the deadlock. There might be other tactics that I have not aforesaid that might do the trick.
This article is not about a particular tactic or set of tactics that you must pick to reignite the deal that is slipping. It is about the attitude that the sales professional must adopt when the waiting zone begins to seem and feel more like the dead zone.
Remember, the longer you’re stuck thinking about what to do, the more chance you give the prospect to reevaluate their need for your solution — or worse, your competitor to win the deal.
When confronted with this scenario, regardless of the course of action you take, I implore you to be impatient, be very impatient. It is a virtue.