Even Catchers Walk Away from the Plate
Think You’re Losing a Sale, Do it Fast
Think back for a moment. Remember the last time you had a valuable conversation with a key buying influencer in a targeted organization?
Your instinct told you everything was on track. But then the anticipated sale dragged on for months. Why?
Your prospect found it easy to justify doing nothing. He took the path of least resistance, and stayed with status quo.
If you only had known, you might’ve walked away early on, and saved limited time and resources. Steve W. Martin, in a September 2012 posting on the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled, Top Reasons Salespeople Lose Business, identifies seven drivers of lost sales.
To me, this a litmus test on when to walk away. Let’s look closer.
Incumbent Advantage. Never go head-to-head to replace the incumbent’s product or service with a similar solution. Unless fired by the client, the incumbent always get a last chance to improve. In complex sales, change is costly. Focus on a different issue, then come in the back door and solve it. Once inside, and you’ve proven your value, explore the landscape from the position of strength of a (more) trusted advisor.
Inability to Remove Risk. If you approach your prospect with a compelling value proposition, one that he recognizes and can quantify, you’ll minimize perceived risk in the decision making process. As we teach in MERGE, slow down to succeed. Recommend your collaborative consulting process. The only sale at this stage is to close for the engagement to work your process. Small decisions first, then tackle your larger solution. This approach builds trust. If he won’t commit, walk away.
C-Level Access. Virtually all complex sales pull in the C-suite executives with the power to approve. That’s why you must identify how your product or service solves a strategic issue in the company. If you’ve closed for the engagement to work your process, the C-suite will be ready. If not, you may have to walk for now. And try a more directed approach to their issues.
Business Solution Focus. If you’re an advocate of the MERGE process, you should never fall into this trap. Never lead with your products or services. Use a logical, sequential process to lead prospects to your products and services. That means do your research and approach the company with a tangible value proposition they can touch, feel and measure.
Ineffective Messaging. A well-designed communication and marketing strategy influences the prospect’s receptivity to your value. It signals quickly to her whether you’re the right firm. However, she and her management team may keep you in the race to learn more, and to use your bid to negotiate a better deal with the firm they prefer. By getting engaged early to work your process, you’re more likely to avoid the competitive bidding war, and those dreaded RFPs or illustrations. If you get stuck there, it may be time to walk away.
Poor Pre-Sale Resources. When you do your homework and bring your best resources early on and consistently to every meeting, you can minimize the risk of a lost sale. In last week’s blog we discussed how Bain & Company does this particularly well. Prepare with meticulous attention to detail, and provide generous resources. Find the right balance. Know when to invest in preparation and resources. Know when to stop.
Out-of-Range Pricing. The cost of complex sales rises annually. That’s because better informed and more demanding prospects keep pushing sales cost up with ever-challenging vetting procedures. When you adopt the MERGE process, you can more readily uncover the “acceptable price range” to your prospect. By knowing this early on, you, too, can make a more informed decision whether to stay in the game or cut your losses.
In the end, losing a sale fast causes far less pain than losing one over months of watching your time and resources drift out the door. Time is the great leveler of people. Everyone wakes up to the same 24-hour day. But how many of us can say we use our time to create a life well-lived? Know when to walk away.
See you on the upside,