They say there are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. If you’ve ever lost a big sale and wondered, “What happened?” then, in no particular order, here are the top five reasons why.
Reason #1: The project is not “mission critical”
The prospect is talking with you for one of two reasons: either he has an objective he wants achieved or a problem that needs solved. If the objective isn’t urgent enough, or the problem not painful enough, you risk losing to a decision to do nothing.
“Is this project ‘mission-critical,’ or is it a back-burner issue?”
“What would happen if this project didn’t move forward?”
Reason #2: You didn’t meet with the final decision-maker
The decision-maker isn’t always the owner or CEO. So long as the person you’re meeting with has the final authority to make a buying decision, you’re good. If you’re being prevented from meeting with that person, you’re facing a losing proposition. The only person qualified to explain the value you provide is you. You’re better off walking away from a meeting than waste precious time presenting your solution to someone who is not empowered to hire you.
“Who else needs to be involved in this decision?”
“I’ll need to meet with them. Are you able to arrange that?”
These questions ought to be asked over the phone, when setting up the meeting, rather than waiting until you get there, only to find you’re not talking to the right person.
Reason #3: You were denied access to all the decision-makers
Oftentimes, there are other influencers or decision-makers who must give their approval. Whenever more than one decision-maker is involved, it’s critical that you meet with all of them. You may spend two hours with Partner A, explaining exactly how your services can bring him 10 new clients a month at $3,000 each. But when he goes back to Partner B, all he’ll say is: “Hey, Joe, this web guy wants to charge us $1,500 to build our website,” to which Joe will respond, “Are you outta your mind? Forget about it.”
Again, you are the only one qualified to explain the value you provide.
“When making a decision like this, who else must sign off on it?”
“I’ll need to meet with them. Are you willing to arrange that?”
As with Reason #2, ask these questions over the phone when setting up the meeting.
Reason #4: You were asked to submit a proposal and told, “We’ll get back to you”
When this happens, you have a couple of options. The first is to do what they ask, otherwise known as the “Prepare a Proposal and Hope Method for Obtaining New Clients.” Your other option is to first get the client’s verbal agreement to hire you, and then write up a proposal to finalize it. After all, Proposals are for Wimps.
“What is your process for coming to a decision?”
Forewarned is forearmed. If their process requires a proposal, you’ll have to deal with that at the end of the meeting. If a proposal is not mentioned, by all means, don’t offer one!
Reason #5: The prospect didn’t commit to a decision deadline
Prospects who are serious will have no problem revealing their timetable. Not-so-serious prospects will want to avoid being pinned down.
“What is your deadline for making a decision?”
“If you decided to move forward, when would you like to start?”
Sales ought to be based on mutual commitments. If a prospect won’t commit to answering your questions, don’t be so quick to dash back to the office and prepare a 15-page proposal, only to find yourself wondering, “what happened?”
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.
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