How to keep deals from stalling late in the sales cycle

Imagine you’ve had a few great calls with a prospect. You followed up after meeting the person at a conference, where he briefly demoed your product, got excited about it, and asked to learn more.

In addition to calls, the two of you have gotten to know each other better over an in-depth demo. Then for seemingly no reason, the conversations slow down.He responds more sparingly to emails – or he doesn’t respond at all. Probably not a foreign scenario to most salespeople, right? Here are some common reasons your deal might stalling out be, and a few simple tips to overcome your obstacle and close the deal.

You’re talking to the wrong person

“I just have to check with my boss (or finance).”

That’s a sentence a lot of reps have heard, and one that always makes their eyes roll. Not only do they know the deal just lost momentum, they also know it’s an avoidable road block.

To close deals, you need the sign off from the decision maker, and the sooner you have access to that person, the sooner the sale will go through. A common mistake is getting too far into the conversation without having a clear understanding of who will ultimately be making the decision about whether or not the prospect will buy from you.

To help get a sense of whether or not you’re talking to the right person, ask your contact who else needs to be involved in the conversation. You can feel this out in a few ways, including:

  • “Will you be making this decision alone?”
  • “Who else will be using our product? Is there someone else that needs to be involved in the conversation?”
  • “Would it be helpful if I talked to anyone else in your organization?”

Once you have a better understanding about who ultimately will sign off on the deal, you can open it up if other people need to be in the room. This tactic also means you’ll have multiple points of contact within a company – reducing your risk if one person drops off the face of the earth (or switches roles, gets fired, etc.).

If the final decision maker can’t be part of the meeting (maybe she’s booked up with meetings or is out of town), ask what information she needs to help inform her decision. Does she need a breakdown of pricing? More information about ramp up time? Whatever it is, be prepared, and talk to the right person.

You’re not creating urgency or establishing trust

Sometimes you’re talking to a prospect for the first time and the conversation already feels like a breakup. “It’s not you – it’s me. I just don’t think we need you.”

Ouch.

It’s your job to know your customer and understand their pain points. What’s their biggest obstacle? Personalize your communications to clearly communicate the value in your product and show how it can address your specific customer’s business challenges – not every customer’s challenges. After all, actions speak louder than words.

This is the cornerstone of trust. A prospect who feels like you really get her is more likely to buy from you than from competitor. In fact, it’s the biggest factor in winning over deals from your rivals – 53% of buyers choose a product based on the experience they have with the seller, while just 19% buy based on the product.

So identify at least three pain points specific to each customer your talking to, and refer back to them as much as possible. Your prospect wants to know you’re solving her problem, not everyone’s. If you do that, she won’t be able to deny that she needs your product now.

Your prospect is telling you it’s a bad time, and you aren’t listening

Selling your product is your priority, but buying it might not be your prospect’s priority. Maybe he’s focusing on revamping his website or his budget is restricted. He can’t commit to buying right now, and that’s OK. Don’t let him loose. All you need to do is get an indication of when he’ll be in a better position to commit in the future.

When prospects tell you it’s not a good time, you need to know when your best directive is to sit back and shut up. And just as important, when to follow up.

If a potential customer says he might be ready to talk in nine months, set a reminder and follow up at that time. If it’s a big deal, it might be worth doing a mid-point check in, but the key here is to balance staying connected and not becoming a nuisance. Use your CRM database to make notes about why the prospect originally turned down the meeting, when he suggested to follow up, and schedule a date to reach out again.

You’re going up against a competitor

Here’s a frustrating reason your deal might not be moving forward: the customer is evaluating a competitor. If you’re going head to head against a company in the same space, you need not only to have a great product, but to create an unforgettable experience. Remember that stat we referenced above? Most people buy from people they like, or in other words, they buy the experience, not the product. That means even if your product can run laps around anyone else in your industry, your competitors still have a good chance to win if they emotionally win over the prospect.

One thing that every company trying to create a good experience should have: great content. You need to show you know your stuff – and not just the regular stuff people ask, but anything they ask. An arsenal of content is great because it’s there to support reps when they get stuck, which means they’re less likely to leave a customer hanging when they’re asking hard questions.

To come off as credible, you also need to know about the industry generally. Like we said before, customers want to know you get them – not everyone. If you don’t know all of the ins and outs, bring someone in who can do it better — someone who can talk about specific features or your product roadmap.

And be humble and honest. Prospects are more likely to trust salespeople who know what they don’t know, as long as that rep is willing to figure out the answer.

So while there’s no magic formula to ensuring a speedy, successful sales cycle, you should be able to use this checklist to avoid a few of the common mistakes that delay closing a deal. We hope it helps.

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Leigh Shevchik

Dynamic marketing communications professional and strategist with over ten years experience creating and implementing content plans, social media programs and lead generation initiatives. Outstanding writer, editor and oral communicator who has held project manager and lead editorial roles. Passion for building and leading cross-function teams, project management and market research.

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