Not literally… but based on the Ah-Ha Moments I’m about to share with you, it’ll make more sense. I’ve been in a few deals this year that are larger than your typical HCM technology deals. One opportunity in particular kept me up at night. I’ve gone through the sales process (twice), showed them the product (three times), provided a cost matrix and even discounted heavily. Then, out of nowhere, the prospect tells me they won’t be making a change for at least 12 months. My jaw hit the floor… I did everything humanly possible to win their business and it only bit me in the butt.
I did what every salesperson has done in their life… I was executing ‘continuations’ through out my sales cycle and not ‘advances’.
“An advance is a significant action that requires energy by the client — either during the call or right after it — that moves the sale toward a decision.
A continuation is a situation where the sale will continue yet no specification has been agreed upon by the customer to move forward.”1
Ultimately, the fault comes back to me, the salesperson for not having the prospect put enough skin in the game. I thought, based on their reaction and continuing the process, I was making great progress. Boy was I wrong… and it hurt! I let my cycle get in the way of asking the buyer, throughout the process, how their buying cycle was coming along…
“We must always remember that despite our sales cycle, the buyer has their own buying cycle. Ignoring their buying cycle and focusing only on the steps of your sales cycle may cause you to invest your time unwisely.”2
You can say that again! I got a little excited about being part of a big deal where the outcome was in my favor… at least I thought so. No other competitor was being brought to the table. It was just me against the incumbent and it was mine to lose. Looking back, once upper management switched the CFO, half way through the process, I should have stopped the process instead of throwing myself further into the opportunity. I had already devoted so much time with the company, what’s another few hours to do everything all over again?
Being overly optimistic has a way of kicking myself every once in a while. Thinking I could catch the new CFO up to speed and get them in my good graces was one of those times.
“The trap I repeatedly see professionals fall into is wasting huge amounts of time on prospective business that will never close because they have misjudged curiosity and interest (and sometimes simple politeness) as indicators of good sales opportunities.”3
Once I read this part, I texted James… Ya, we text 😛 He gave me some reassurances, which made me feel better. But man, time is such a valuable asset. If you’re reading this right now, I’m sure you’ve felt the same pain at some point in your career. It sucks. I have the absolute best intentions when I meet with prospects and clients. Everything I do is for the greater good of our partnership. I’ve done everything I can to portray this in my partnerships and when they give up on me/my company, it hurts.
Adding value has been a HUGE talking point through out my first year of writing, talking and teaching.
“It is critical that we add value on every single sales encounter. This is a relatively new development in selling. Twenty years ago it was not as importation that sales people deliver anything beyond information about their products and services. Because of the internet all of that has changed. It is now vital that we make the sales experience itself valuable for clients.”4
If you haven’t figured that out by now, you’re definitely behind the ball. There are many consumer review sites, most people are on LinkedIn or social media and word of mouth is extremely powerful in a condensed area or territory. If someone has had a bad experience, there’s a good chance someone else will have a free ear to listen.
Finding ways to differentiate yourself from other companies and other sales professionals is important to stay ahead of the curve. Always providing value is a MUST today!
Long Story Short; Because I didn’t make the prospect ‘have any skin in the game’, they were able to walk away from the buying process without even blinking an eye. It felt like a slap in the face because I’d bent over backwards for 6 months and nothing came of it. It might be hard… but don’t always be a giver. Make the prospect give you something in return. Ya, they might say you… but then you can determine how serious they are about working with you.
There’s definitely more from me to come!
The Perfect Close by James Muir