Why go to the trouble and effort of bringing your customers big, creative deals when the batting average for such deals hovers well below .100? Why expend the creativity, vision and ambition to develop these "Black Swan" deals if the vast majority of your business will flow in through normal transactional channels? To really understand the rationale, you need to factor in The Downstream Effect. The sales organization that consistently pushes smart ideas up to the customer is winning even when it doesn't land the sexy 'Black Swan' deals. It's getting regular access to primary upstream decision makers and self-branding along the way. When well-executed, the process itself has value to the marketer. They learn and grow along the way -- they enjoy the process -- and they subtly but measurably reward companies who make the effort. Here's a checklist to follow if you want to prepare your sales team to bring quality ideas to clients and enjoy the benefits of doing so...
While this week is clearly prime time for ghosts, rest assured they are with us all year long. If you’re in sales, feeling haunted is an everyday emotion.
You have what seems like a breakthrough meeting with a client… full of promise. Then you’re ghosted. The customer asks you for case studies, more details, even some deal points. Then you’re ghosted. You and your team labor over an RFP submission for which your site, service or platform seems perfect. And then you’re ghosted.
Once your would-be customer has vanished into the mist, it may be too late to do anything about it. They’ve likely disappeared because they either weren’t serious about your offer in the first place, or for some reason no longer are. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get closure. And it certainly doesn’t mean you couldn’t have prevented this from happening in the first place. First, prevention:
- Before you agree to the follow-up work and exit the sales call with your customer, get them to agree to and schedule a specific date when they’ll accept or redirect your offer. Ambivalence here is a red flag. Stay in the conversation and keep qualifying.
- Also, while you’re still engaged, ask specific questions about the process. What will happen with this proposal once we send it? Tell me about the approval process? What’s your timeline? What role will X (decision maker) play in the approval? If you’re patient-yet-persistent in this conversation (don’t answer the questions for them!) you’ll be amazed how much more qualified your opportunities become.
- If your proposal or RFP submission contains pricing or availabilities, include an expiration date in your response. Something as simple as We can honor these rates and features until November 30, 2023. Then refer to that expiration date often… in your cover note, in your follow up emails, in your text messages. You will have manufactured a deadline that gives shape and form to your follow up. We are three days from the date we need a response: Are you still interested in us holding this open?
But what if you’re being ghosted right now?
- Stop using meaningless safe words in your follow up. You’re not checking in or bumping this up in the inbox. You’re seeking a specific answer.
- Invite the client to tell you no. No is better than maybe, but you’ve got to earn it. If you’ve moved on, we will close out this opportunity and focus the resources on other customers.
- If all else fails, withdraw your proposal. As we’ve gotten no response or communication for X weeks, it seems that you’ve gone in another direction. So, we are withdrawing this proposal and will look forward to working with you on the next one.
If all this sounds a bit radical, consider what all these weeks of aimless checking in and guessing are doing to your price integrity, your standing with the client, and your ability to accurately forecast. Now that’s a spooky story!
Original Illustration by Eric Sands.
Monday Oct 30 - Doug Weaver