You presented a proposal to ACME Corporation ten days ago. The meeting was cordial and things seem to have gone well. An agreement was not reached. Now comes the waiting game.

When will it close?

Why hasn’t it closed?

Have you ever made a presentation that ended without a decision?

“Let me think it over.” “I need to run this by Bob/Sue/Kenny/Jen.” “Call me in two weeks.”

This is a problem prospects share with me consistently. It’s important to emphasize that there isn’t one cause for this problem. Let’s consider what may be happening when running into this stall.

HubSpot brought to my attention the phrase “the buyer’s journey” which has significance when deconstructing the cause of the stall. This is how they explain each step of the journey:

  1. Awareness – Prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity. They are doing research to understand, frame, and give a name to their problem.
  2. Consideration – Prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity. Is committed to researching and understanding all of the methods to solving the defined problem or oppurtunity.
  3. Decision – Prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. Is compiling a list of all available vendors or products in their given solution strategy. Will ultimately whittle down the list to make a final purchasing decision.

Salespeople can be fooled into thinking they meet a prospect at the Decision stage regardless of where the buyer is in their journey. Salespeople want decisions. Affirmative decisions. Close the deal. It’s in their DNA. Lack of “journey” understanding can lead to a premature proposal and stalls.

The qualification and discovery process is meant to uncover vital information. You must understand where the buyer is in their journey in order to add context to if, how, and when they will make decisions.

When I meet a prospect and they share a story similar to the ACME Corp. proposal, I ask the following:

  • When did you first meet the people from ACME?
  • What specific problem or challenge did you identify in your discovery conversations with them?
  • If a problem is stated, did you ask them this question…on a scale of 1-10, how important is it to take action on this problem?
  • Are they looking at solutions other than yours?
  • Have you determined if there is a single decision maker or will it be done by a team?

Get to the truth…faster.

You see the importance of seeing things from your prospect’s perspective. I advise my clients to begin as many conversations as possible when the prospect is in the awareness phase. It’s not always possible, but helpful in getting the process started on a positive note. This stage focuses on problems, potential causes, and level of urgency to address the problem. It does not focus on price or selling.

I help my clients gain mastery in this stage. They succeed because they build rapport, qualify effectively, propose at the right time with the right people, shorten the sales cycle, and get more yeses (and some no’s). They don’t get maybes, stalls and time wasters.

Previously in this 10-part series:

Must Have Sales Skills in 2018:

#1 Know your communication style

#2 Question your way to the sale

Complete the form to receive a 30 minute complementary coaching session, which includes a review of your communication style and how to use it to your benefit in sales.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Michael

 
Two things in my DNA lead to a career in sales. My curiosity and my love of building relationships with quality people.

I believe the best sales organizations invest in the development of their people. You improve the sales process when you improve the people involved. I have seen firsthand sales organizations that did not believe in the professional and personal growth of their people. The result? Friction, confusion and underperformance.

Consistent sales growth is one of many challenges a business faces. In my role as a consultant I have the opportunity to dig deeper to uncover issues related to strategy, communication, and professional development.

To quote Daniel Pink; "we are all in sales now." My promise to you is to develop the people in your organization who serve your customers. It's no longer just the Sales Department. Your sales strategy must be crystal clear, and communicated respectfully throughout your entire organization.

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