Reengaging Stalled Prospects
One of the biggest challenges salespeople face is reengaging stalled prospects. There are many reasons that deals stall, but they can be boiled down to two primary reasons: no planned objective for the sales call and/or not enough value created during the sales call.
Lack of Planned Objective
The first reason deals stall is that the salesperson doesn’t ask for or obtain an advance during the sales call.
Too often the salesperson doesn’t obtain a commitment because obtaining a commitment that would advance the sale is not their primary objective for the sales call. If your objective for a needs analysis is to uncover and understand the prospect’s needs, you have a weak objective; it does not advance the sale. Your real objective is to uncover and understand the prospect’s needs so that you can use what you have learned to obtain some commitment to advance the sale.
A subset of this category is choosing the wrong objective in the first place. If you find out there are five people on the purchasing team and your objective doesn’t include engaging the four not sitting across the table from you, you need a stronger objective.
Lack of Value Creation
The second reason deals stall is that not enough value was created during the sales call for the prospect to justify advancing the sale.
An especially good example is the sales presentation. When the sales call is a presentation, the salesperson often believes their objective is to present the solution. It’s not. Their objective is really to create enough value during the presentation to obtain a commitment to some activity that moves the deal forward. Expect a stall if after you present you hear: “Thank you for your time. We really enjoyed your presentation.”
The first way to make an improvement in your sales effectiveness is to not let deals stall in the first place. But once you have left the site of a customer interaction without that commitment to move forward, you run an increased risk that the deal will stall. Then you are forced to do the heavy lifting of reengaging the prospect.
THREE WAYS TO REENGAGE
Obtain a Low Level Commitment
One of the easiest ways to reengage a stalled prospect is to ask for a low level commitment. This is easier to do if you haven’t yet presented a proposal or pricing. If you left the scene of the sales interaction without a solid commitment to some activity that advances the sale, you might try something like this:
“Hi Jane. I am reviewing the information you shared with me on our last meeting, and I have a few questions I’d like to go over with you before we present our solution. Can we get together for 20 minutes on Thursday so I can make sure that what we put together exactly meets your needs?”
If you can obtain this lower level commitment, you can use your scheduled meeting as an opportunity to create enough value to justify asking for a higher-level commitment.
Ask for an Honest Assessment
If you have presented your proposal and pricing and left that sales interaction without a commitment to a scheduled action that advances the sale, it’s a bit harder to reengage; you have already revealed your ideas and your pricing, and you missed the best opportunity to use the leverage of value creation to advance the sale. So now what?
Sometimes it is easiest to lay your cards on the table. It might sound something like this:
“Hi Tom. We haven’t been able to move forward with you on our proposal since we presented it to you and your team. This makes me think that we went wrong somewhere. We believe we created a great solution, and we strongly believe that we are the right partner for you on this project. I am hoping that I can ask you for 15 minutes of your time and a candid assessment of what we missed and what we can do to reopen a conversation with you and your team. What does Friday morning look like for a short conversation?”
This approach uncovers all kinds of unspoken concerns that, if resolved, can get a deal back on track. If you can obtain the opportunity to listen to an honest assessment, your objective then has to be an opportunity to use that feedback to modify your proposal and presentation and to present those changes.
Ask the Prospect How to Reengage
Regardless of the stage in which the sale stalls, sometimes it is easiest to ask the prospect how you can best reengage them (knowing that you still have to obtain a commitment from them that advances the sale). Here’s some language:
“Hi Robin. We feel very strongly that our company is the right choice for you and your project. What is the best thing for us to do together now to get back on track with you and your team?”
Listen carefully to the answer. Regardless of the answer, you have to follow up with something like this: “That’s interesting. I’d love to get together and talk about that with you and your team. What does Tuesday look like?”
Sometime the prospect needs something from us as a salesperson that we may not have known enough to consider, or that hasn’t been shared with us. If you can get them to share with you, and if you are creative enough and resourceful enough to help them with their challenge, you can sometimes create enough value to move the deal forward. And sometimes just caring enough to try means you are the right partner to move forward with.
Reengaging a stalled prospect is never easy. It is easier to not let them stall in the first place. But even the best salespeople have stalled deals in their pipeline. Consider these ideas, and use the questions below to build your re-engagement plan. Then get busy doing the heavy lifting.
1. Do you have a defined, achievable objective for every sales interaction? Does that objective include gaining the prospects commitment to advance the sale?
2. Do you have a plan to create enough value during every sales interaction to justify your request to move the sale forward? Do your prospects feel that value creation enough to commit to moving forward with you?
3. How often do you leave a sales interaction without a commitment by the prospect to take some action?
4. Which of your stalled prospects would easily agree to a low level commitment that might be leveraged to create enough value to obtain a higher-level commitment?
5. Which of your stalled prospects would agree to give you an honest assessment of your presentation and proposal? How could you leverage that willingness to obtain a commitment to get back on track?
6. Which of your stalled prospects would tell you what you need to do in order to reopen the conversation?
7. What is your best method and language for reengaging a stalled prospect?
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