We have all had an opportunity get stuck. We thought it was on its way to becoming a sale, but it hasn’t yet. The prospect seemed interested. He even said, “We are going to do this.” But no calls have come in. Responses to emails have gone unanswered or slowed down. What happened? What next?
First, understand that a sale is basically a decision. All decisions are based on emotions. We decide first, then we justify with logic. When you decided to marry your spouse, you made that decision emotionally. When you bought your house, you made that decision emotionally. Logic comes later to solidify the decision. A stuck sale usually means that emotion is no longer present in the process. We just have to bring it back.
Revisit the sales conversation
One of the most common sense things to do is to revisit the sales conversation, to talk again about what you already talked about. Have another conversation with the prospect to revisit the things that they told you that were emotional. It might sound like:
“When we met last, you mentioned that you were really upset with your current provider. I sense that maybe you weren’t as upset as I initially thought.”
This will likely cause the prospect to either tell you if you are right, or go into a rant about how bad it is and that they really need to move forward and make the change. Either way, you will be able to move forward in the sales process.
Close the file
When my kids were younger, I found that one of the most effective ways to discipline them was to take away things that they really valued. If a rule was broken, that new toy might go back on the shelf for a while. Since we are all really just giant kids, this same tactic tends to work just as well today, even though we aren’t really punishing anyone.
This tactic works best when the prospect seems to have disengaged. Maybe he isn’t returning calls or emails. Maybe he’s missed a deadline that you had set. Whatever the issue, “closing the file” might work for you. Simply take away whatever you have offered the prospect since they appear to have lost interest.
“Since I haven’t heard from you, my gut is that you are no longer interested in doing business, so I am going to go ahead and close the file. This means that our proposal is no longer valid. If this is not what you intended, please contact me immediately.”
If the prospect still has interest, he will contact you very quickly and apologize. If he isn’t interested, you can move on to prospects that are. Either way, the sale is moving toward closure.
Ask the tough questions
If your prospect is still relatively engaged but isn’t doing things that move the sale close to closure, you might want to get things going a little differently. This tactic is not for weak salespeople or worrywarts. It is completely the opposite tactic from what most people do, but it does have the correct effect on your prospect.
The tactic is to be completely honest with your prospect, but to do it with a lightly negative tone. Since you want your prospect to act, it is best to be honest by asking some tough questions.
“This is taking a really long time – you aren’t really interested in doing this, are you?”
“I’m worried that you are delaying things because you don’t want to tell me ‘no.’ Is that the case?”
After questions like that, if the prospect doesn’t get things moving again, or at least tell you why they aren’t moving, it is time for you to move on. They just aren’t that interested, and your time is better spent elsewhere.
Even though all of the tactics above are extremely effective, why are you dealing with stalled sales at all? Is your sales process the culprit? Could you have prevented these issues from happening in the first place? If you don’t know, have someone look hard at how you are selling and get some recommendations on what can be improved. It is so much easier to keep a sales opportunity moving forward than to get them moving after a stall.