Around 6 months ago I received a phone call from a company based in Essex. They were a business provider who was keen to deploy a new CRM system for their whole network. We were talking around about 100 companies and so my ears pricked up and I started to smile thinking about the potential revenue opportunity.
As an experienced salesman, I did the right things. I listened to what they were looking for, I asked the right questions, I checked who would be making the decision and when they were looking to make it. I didn’t try to close the deal too early but agreed set actions to be completed and agreed a date to speak next.
I followed up with the contact and also engaged with other colleagues that he brought into the deal to discuss how the system could be implemented within their network.
Whilst I knew that there was work to still do, I remained very hopeful that something would happen because of the conversation. I marked the lead down as a 50% chance in our account as it was a deal I had a good chance of closing but which needed further work still. I made the calls when I was reminded to (CRM systems are perfect for telling you to do that!) and engaged and chased the prospect and yet 5 months after those conversations, the deal has not yet happened.
The long and short of it with them is that other projects have got in the way and so it’s dropped down the priority list. They didn’t expect this at the time but because of some changes in their business it has meant the project had to be mothballed for 6 months. I believe it will still go ahead and I have a plan in place to make it happen but the delay has been frustrating.
I know many of you reading this will have been in a similar situation. You will have had opportunities which looked great and which you were excited about but which didn’t then result in anything. Or maybe you have had prospects who gave you all the buying signals and said they were keen to move forward but then didn’t.
It is incredibly frustrating when this happens. You do (and should always) question the approach you took and whether you asked the right questions of the right people but sometimes to even the best salespeople, prospect delays occur.
I believe that there are 4 main reasons why prospect delays occur and so here are those reasons and some ideas on how you can try to overcome these challenges to secure the business you want!
I call these the 4 P’s of Delay! Look through your prospects and the ones which have delayed and see if the points below resonate! If they do, look at some of the ideas and questions I suggest. I have provided details on the first 2 below with the next 2 to follow next Friday!
This one is the one that caused a challenge for me and it’s a key one with a lot of prospects. We all know that sometimes the best laid plans come unstuck and much of the time this won’t be down to you. You can have done everything right in your approach to the lead but because of other circumstances out of your control, the project and deal is put lower down the priority list.
The key thing to do when this happens is be understanding with your prospect and don’t show frustration. As in my case above, the prospect themselves is likely to be frustrated by what has happened. They have been given set objectives and plans to deliver on and then suddenly the rug has been pulled underneath them.
The most important thing is to have an honest conversation with them about the project and try to understand why other items have become a higher priority. What other challenges have they got on their plate? Is there anything you can help them with to get these other items out of the way?
Ask the difficult questions within these discussions about whether the project is likely to be restarted as what you don’t want is to be hanging on waiting for something that will never happen. If you have built good relationships with them and validated their initial answers then they will appreciate your honesty and will not want to keep you hanging on.
If you can engage with the highest person possible at the prospect company then of course do that but sometimes CEO’s will change the direction of their leadership team due and you need to sometimes take that on the chin.
Ask the prospects where your project sits on their priority list and why it sits there? If it got bumped before, what are the chances of it being moved again? Sometimes projects can get stalled because of budget changes and so maybe look to clarify financial year ends and whether the budget still exists or is being reserved for the project. If it is then it’s a good sign that your still on track but if its not then maybe that should prompt some other direct questions to your key contact about the likelihood of the deal happening.
There will always be reasons in other companies that you are not part of that projects get de prioritized. The key thing is if you have not been given a final no, don’t give up. Keep it on your pipeline but maybe set new dates that are further into the future so that you don’t look to rely on that deal happening to make this month or quarters numbers. Use automated campaigns to remind yourself to contact them and take the action to do this.
To win in sales and convert prospects, you often need a lot of determination and persistence!
This is a really important delaying tactic and its one you need to be careful of. When you have toothache or backache do you want to wait to go to the dentist or chiropractor? No you don’t! You get the first appointment you can and you accept that you must pay for the service because you want the pain resolved.
Finding out the real pain behind a prospects reasoning for looking at alternative solutions is sometimes difficult. The reality is however, if you are not solving a real pain for them as a company or for them as a person then you may well find they delay speaking to you.
Ask yourself the questions
- Does my product or solution solve a real pain point for the prospect?
- Could they do without what I offer?
- Can I guarantee to solve their pain?
- How quickly can their pain be resolved by choosing me and my company?
Think about their role, the other challenges they face and put yourself in their shoes. Sometimes prospects may make daft decisions and I always laugh when I look at the cartoon below as we all forget to sometimes take a step back and see how a problem can be resolved.
Identifying whether you are a vitamin or pain killer to their business can and should be done within your early discussions with the prospect. Asking questions as to why they are looking at alternatives and what time pressures they are facing to implement something new are key.
Ask them to be honest and rate the issue they have on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being very important and 1 being a nice to have. If they answer 1 then you can still secure the deal but it might take you longer as you will need to show the value of what you offer over time. Regular automated emails that are relevant and targeted which focus on how your product solves issues and creates time can slowly chip away at a prospect. Showing them examples of other businesses similar to them who have deployed your solution and have gained results can help them see that this is something they need to be considering.
If they do indicate or open up that this is a key pain point for them then if you ask the right questions such as ‘if we can show you that this will solve your problem, can we move forward with a contract of business’ then you should be able to assess whether they are keen to act or whether they are just time wasters.
The key here is to ensure you are really identifying their issue and the importance of that issue in their day to day life. Do this and you can bring them over the line.
So here are my first 2 P’s of Delay. Do you experience these challenges when you engage with prospects? If so, what works for you to get through these delays and get the business? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with me