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Preventing Opportunity Leakage
Have you recently seen promised orders or projects literally evaporate into thin air? It's a phenomenon I'm seeing frequently these days - and I'm personally experiencing it too. Time to put on the thinking cap ...
The situation starts like this: You meet with a targeted prospect who has a high likelihood of being able to use your product or service. After discussing their needs and sharing some information about what you can do, it's clear that this prospect is interested - very interested.
"Yes," they say. "That's exactly what we need. It's absolutely perfect."
Now you know that big companies seldom just sign on the dotted line, right then and there. There are other people to include in the decision and an approval process that needs to be followed. Plus there's always some big meeting scheduled in the next few days that needs to be taken care of first.
So you agree to get back together in two weeks to move things along. And inside you're smiling - a really big smile. It's a perfect fit, funding isn't a big problem and your prospect is excited about what you do.
What could be better in today's tight economy? You're gung-ho, eager to get started. In fact, you're even beginning to think about how you might spend the extra money that will soon be yours.
On the appointed day you place a phone call to your soon-to-be customer.
"Hi Bob," you say. "Just getting back to you to set up a time to get together so we can move this project along. I'll be in the office this afternoon, so let's try to get that date on our calendars. Talk to you soon."
... and then you wait for the call to be returned. And you wait. A day passes, then another one. Pretty soon a whole week goes by and your prospect still hasn't called back.
Or maybe they do. But on your voicemail you hear:
"Thanks for calling. We're swamped right now. We have a huge meeting coming up in the next week that everyone is scrambling to get ready for. Can you call me back after that."
Your heart sinks a bit, but hope still flames eternal. You wait another week and then call again ... and again ... and again. But your calls go unreturned. So do the emails you send.
The worse thing is that the longer this goes on, the less likely it is that you can rekindle your prospect's initial excitement. And before you know it, your pending contract has evaporated into thin air as other pressing matters creep up on your prospect's radar screen.
If this has happened to you recently, your frustration is probably off the charts and you're stymied. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, so let me suggest some alternative approaches that may help you win more sales.
After going through this situation more than once myself, here are several things I'll be implementing in my upcoming sales calls. Try these approaches to prevent opportunity leakage.
1. Focus on the Pay-Off to their Business
When prospects get excited about working with us, a big mistake we all make is to take their eagerness and urgency at face value. After all, they've told us that it's just what they need.
Next time this happens, don't assume your prospect is sold and their need is urgent. Instead, ask these questions:
• Why do you think this product/solution/service would help solve your problems? Tell me more.
• How does it help you achieve your objectives?
• What happens if you don't do anything or delay action? What other problems are created then? How does that impact your ability to achieve your goals?
• What value do you see this solution providing your business? What is the financial impact?
• Why else is it important? What other benefits does it provide?
By asking these questions you learn a whole lot more that will help you in the sales process. Preparing effective presentations and proposals is much easier - and they're more on target.
By answering these questions, your prospects solidify the value of your offering in their mind. Their own responses remind them of the urgency of moving ahead - and why it's so critical to take action now. You're not selling them; they're selling themselves.
2. Establish a Firm Follow-Up
It's just too hard to connect with people these days. Everyone is so busy and uses voicemail to prevent unwanted interruptions. And unfortunately, that's exactly what most sellers are. Today's buyers have way too much to do.
Before you leave the meeting, take out your calendar and set up an exact date and time to get back together. Get the time blocked off on your prospect's schedule for either a phone call or visit.
Even if it has to be rescheduled (which it most likely will be), having an official appointment significantly increases your odds of connecting again.
If you're tired of business that fails to materialize, give these new ideas a try. I know they'll make a difference in reducing opportunity leakage.
And finally, if you're like me, you can write an article about your frustrations and hope the people you're trying to reach read all the way to the end. So Bill, Ivan and Jon - if you got this far, I'm talking about you! Let's get together again soon.
Jill Konrath, sales strategist and bestselling author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling, is a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings, kick-off events and professional conferences.
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