You’re walking out of the conference room with a smile on your face. You just delivered your best handshake with just the right amount force to three executives that want to buy your shit! Few things rival this amazing feeling. They seemed more excited than you are, you can’t wait to tell the rest of the team.
Fast forward to your next team meeting, everyone has butterflies in their stomach from the news you just delivered.
“Brondo Corp. is going to be placing the biggest order in company history!”
High fives all around! The truth is you’ve done a great job up to this point. Of course there’s more work to be done yet, but it’s not always up to just you.
Deal cycles are extremely fragile. There are a million different things that can derail what you set out to accomplish. Priorities change, companies restructure, budgets disappear, competitors emerge, prospects over promise, or oversell their actual influence. Those aren’t the worst of them though. There is one thing that will guarantee failure: Time (it’s not on your side).
“Time kills all deals” -Said every sales manager ever.
Time kills everything, actually. Humans, startups, modeling careers, and especially deals. Given long enough one of the events above, or something else, will kill your deal. Have you noticed that some sales opportunities seem to just stick around forever? Just like every lean methodology we want to get to a decision in our sales cycle as fast as we can. How quickly can you complete the feedback loop? We want a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’, but never a ‘Maybe’. Here’s where the pendulum comes in.
Coming out of the meeting, the prospects are excited and so are you. You should be excited, the pendulum is swinging towards ‘yes’. The meeting could have easily gone the other way.
“This is our product value proposition number one. Would that be something you might be interested in?”
“No, not really. That’s not an issue for us.”
Strike one. Yes, you should be counting. The more you hear the word ‘no’, the higher the likelihood that a follow-up meeting will be a waste of time. Every sales cycle is different, so you may have more than three strikes in yours, just make sure you know what your red flags are. Red flags = a deal not done.
Two points on red flags:
- Be first to call a deal dead. Point out the issue to the prospect and see how they react. If they make it a non-issue you might be out of the woods. If they agree that it is a deal breaker, good for you, you saved yourself some time!
- Have you ever broken up with someone and they almost immediately want you back? It’s not quite the same, but some prospects will want you back because they want to feel important or because they feel bad for you. Separate the serious from the pleasers and the validators.
Back to ‘Maybe’
Regardless of how good that first meeting might be, sometimes the honeymoon must come to an end. Not all sales fairytales end with a definitive answer.The worst thing that can happen is indifference for your services or product. ‘Maybe’ is the absence of momentum. It’s the pendulum paused and no conclusion in site.
If your deal stops moving towards closing and you’re not sure why? You’re probably headed towards ‘maybe’. This is why some deals seem to go on forever, but never close.
“Did they say that it was a done deal? That they’re ready to sign-off?”
“Well, no. But they never said they wouldn’t do the deal…”
It’s hard to know sometimes whether you're moving forward or starting to stall out. Here are three great ways to get past ‘maybe’ and keep your deal moving:
- It may seem obvious, but get more data!
If you’re unsure of something, find out. Find out more about their internal processes or how they vet vendors of your type, for example. Try your best not to assume things that could potentially alter your chances of getting the deal done. Don’t be wrong about what direction your pendulum is swinging because you didn’t get all the information.
- Test urgency with an event.
This isn’t always very high percentage maneuver, but urging a client to move forward by sharing with them a real or fabricated reason (white lies not big ones) for them to sign. You can try urgency around pricing, promotions, timing, competition, and any other hot buttons that might make sense for the deal.
- Not getting real responses back? Send the break-up email.
If you remember the cut-and-run protocol for red flags above, this is similar but the intent is to get a positive response. When a client goes dark or isn’t really giving you what you need to qualify the opportunity, send them a break-up email. It should be short, to the point, and empowered. By empowered, I mean the opposite of desperate. Nothing can be worse than communicating with anger, disdain, or disappointment in this situation.
Hey Customer — I hope the day is going well for you. I just wanted to drop you a note and say it looks like we’re not going to be able to partner this time around. I totally understand that you’re probably just too busy right now. Let’s chat when this becomes a priority again.
This approach will get you at least a response 90% of the time, now you just have to figure out who’s being real with you when they get back in touch.
Just like that, the pendulum keeps swinging.