Playing The Sales Waiting Game
You’ve had several good conversations with a new B2B prospect. Their representative seems increasingly interested in what you’re selling with every new meeting. The more you both talk, the more your offering seems like a perfect fit for the client’s needs. The representative is gathering her team to discuss it and bring it to their management. You feel like it’s only a short time before you’ll close the deal. You’re justifiably excited with anticipation of the new revenue that will soon be coming in!
Time goes by. Then more time. Then some more.
You call. Leave voice mails. Send e-mails. Then more emails. And more voice mails.
Where once the client got back to you right away, now it can be weeks before you finally receive a terse reply saying they’re still deliberating. Perhaps the reply includes an apology and an excuse, like, “Been putting out fires here,” or “Haven’t been able to talk to my management yet,” accompanied with, “Haven’t forgotten about you...”
Eventually, months go by and what seemed like a sure thing is now practically a cold lead again. And you are in the unenviable position of saying so in your next sales and marketing meeting. Not to mention facing the hard reality that a nice fat revenue check isn’t coming in after all.
Timing, Readiness and Goodness of Fit
The successful close of a sales opportunity depends on many variables. Three critical variables are timing, readiness and goodness of fit.
Timing: Are you presenting your offering at the time when the prospect actually has a real need for it?
In your conversations with the prospect, you might honestly feel that the client really needs it. And, your client might actually feel that they really need it. BUT, if the pain of NOT having your offering does not exceed the pain of other, more urgent issues the prospect is facing, your offering will get pushed to the back burner. In other words, your offering is nice to have, not a must have. There are just more painful problems to be solved right now.
Readiness: Is your prospect truly ready to go to the effort of implementing your offering? The more complex and more expensive your solution is, the more critical this variable becomes. For instance, many of today’s so-called “plug-and-play” cloud-based enterprise solutions still require a fair amount of I.T. involvement, user training and preparation. All of this can be summed up by the term “onboarding.” And if the onboarding process is too involved, the prospect will opt out of purchasing the offering. They’ve just got too many other urgent things to deal with.
Even if a client is able to onboard the offering properly, they may still not be able to properly operate it to realize the value it promised. It will end up unused, and the client will eventually consider the purchase a waste of money.
Why does this happen? Probably because the offering is just too complicated to use without some outside help.
The way to mitigate this is to provide comprehensive, ongoing support as part of the purchase, from onboarding to day-to-day use. Make it almost painless for the new client to install, learn and use your offering. This will encourage adoption and help make your offering indispensable.
Goodness of Fit: If the prospect isn’t feeling the pain solved by your offering, then it’s game over, no matter how much the prospect claims to like your offering. In other words, your offering isn’t a fit for this prospect. This is something you must determine as quickly as possible to avoid wasting their time and yours.
For sales and marketers, it is easy to become smitten with a new lead that expresses initial interest in an offering. It may feel like this lead is qualified from the get-go, bypassing all the usual phases of the buyer’s journey and graduating straight to the opportunity phase.
When that lead eventually rejects our advances, we feel disillusioned and dejected. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We just need to recalibrate our expectations.
In the best of circumstances, a B2B purchase decision can still take months. That’s just the speed at which most companies move. In most cases, it could take as much as a year or more.
Meanwhile, a prospect may even go ahead and buy a competing offering. That doesn’t mean you’re out of the game, though.
Whether the prospect defers or buys another offering, you’re still in the game. It’s just that this game is a long-term one.
So, when a prospect begins to show interest, start not by working toward the close, but by building a relationship. Make friends. Become the prospect’s trusted advisor. Accurately gauge the prospect’s timing, readiness and goodness of fit.
Stay in touch and consistently provide value in the form of honest, expert advice. Build a long-term relationship. When the prospect is finally ready to buy from you, you’ll have earned that prospect’s trust and long-term loyalty. Your offering will then be much harder to displace going forward.
Meanwhile, keep your expectations in check and you won’t be disappointed. Nurture as many good long-term prospect relationships as you can. It’s truly a game of hurry up and wait. Hurry to provide value. Wait to earn trust and a purchase.
It will be well worth the wait.