There are many reasons why your sales opportunities might stall. Here are 8 of the major reasons, and what to do about each.
- Your value proposition isn’t sufficiently compelling
- You didn’t identify the outcomes your client required
- You didn’t follow your sales process
- You allowed your dream client to control the sales process
- You were stuck with influencers and never engaged with the real decision makers
- You didn’t leverage the value you bring
- You didn’t ask for the commitments you need
- You didn’t build consensus across all decision makers
Your value proposition isn’t sufficiently compelling – this often happens because you focus too much on your ‘stuff’, your offering, rather than your prospect’s situation, challenges and desired outcomes. Focus more on them, and what they need to fix, achieve and/or avoid. Use words and phrases that build emotion in them – a combination of discomfort about their current situation, and sense of urgency to act, as well as creating curiosity in them about what is potentially available to them if they act.
You didn’t identify the outcomes your client required – at least, it doesn’t seem so from their perspective, so be very explicit in referencing the outcomes they need and want. Think about what they want and need to fix, achieve, and/or avoid as well as why they need these… a combination of results and motivations. For B2B clients the foundation with be their “Big 3” of growing their revenue, reducing their costs and/or managing their business risks. For B2C clients it’s about 1 or more of the “5Fs”: Feelings, Finances, Fitness & Health, Family & Friends and Faith & spirituality.
You didn’t follow your sales process – a sales process is about effectiveness, repeatability, and helping you stay out of those traps that wait for all unsuspecting sales & marketing practitioners. Sometimes the sales process demands what may seem as unnecessary extra work and research, especially where you believe you know the situation well from previous experiences. In too many cases people don’t even have a sales process. There’s clear evidence that having a sales process results in greater sales revenues, even more so when it is used consistently.
You allowed your dream client to control the sales process – this is a tricky one, because you don’t want to annoy your dream or ideal client. It’s also tricky because in a really good engagement the client goes where they need and want, not necessarily where you would like them to go… your job, the job of your sales process is not to win you the sale, but to help the client get the most value possible in the circumstances. If that can’t be in partnership with you, your process must get you out of the opportunity quickly. So your process must lead the client to your solution, freely, ideally with them actively involved in creating the solution with you. Control the process to ensure they are on track, and to drive momentum in their own decision process. You can’t control things enough to ensure you win the sale, not without getting a bad reputation as a pushy, smarmy sales person. Such a rep can really harm future sales and growth.
You were stuck with influencers and never engaged with the real decision makers – influencers are often very keen to talk with you, to show you they’re involved and important. Which may or may not be true. The real decision makers tend to stay back a bit, and even have no engagement with a seller at all. Don’t confuse involvement with authority. Real decision makers can be awkward and challenging, with good reason. Conventional sellers tend to avoid such awkwardness and challenges. Don’t be one of them!
You didn’t leverage the value you bring – on a superficial level your offerings bring value, more than enough perhaps to gain the attentions of a prospect. Make the most of this and more by working with the prospect so they can see for themselves how your offering contributes to realizing their desired outcomes. And show them how you can help them accelerate through their decision making process. Help them make sense of the overwhelm they are likely facing. This, more than your offerings alone, can be the true differentiating value in the mind of your prospect.
You didn’t ask for the commitments you need – ask! It’s no more difficult than that. Ask for the prospect to commit to something that makes sense given where they are in their decision making process and the authority they have. Ask for something that you can measure or observe, and that if carried through, would really move the prospect forward, with or without you. It can’t be as fluffy as committing to another meeting – that can be easily canceled. If a meeting is the next thing, get dates, times, venue, key agenda items and attendees listed, agreed and committed to. If the client is going to test something, or research something first or next, ask them for a summary of their findings, and by a certain date. Make it concrete!
You didn’t build consensus across all decision makers – in most purchase decisions there’s more than 1 person involved, being it B2B or retail/B2C (e.g. a spouse!) get them onside, or at least, not against the purchase. Help them see why the others need the solution in question and how eventually this can be a plus for them, or at least not an additional problem for them, which sometimes they erroneously assume is the case – that any solution will cause them problems.
There are other reasons opportunities can stall, and we’ll look at some more in a subsequent posting here.