Is Your Deal Slip Sliding Away

Singer Paul Simon wrote and recorded a song called “Slip Sliding Away.” Like many of Simon’s songs, the meaning of the lyrics is often obscure.  But he does say that the nearer you are to your destination, “the more you’re slipping and sliding away.”1 Has this ever happened to you in your pursuit of closed deals?

Perhaps you have been calling on the prospect for several months, and during this time, the prospect has shown some interest in your solution and was receptive to your proposal.  You have met with the key decision-makers and influencers and have not heard any objections from them.  They have seemed very interested and always polite, but you still have not closed the sale. You have tried several trial closes with them but have not received a negative or positive reaction.  They always seem to be delaying the decision. They have not shared much information with you about what is happening with their decision.

Your experience is that in other deals, you have had conversations about finalizing the contract at this point in the sales cycle.  But you have been met with silence when you ask them if they are ready to buy.  So, what’s happening? In my book Above Quota Performance, I state, “If you are not winning, you’re losing.”

They are either not interested in buying, have decided on your competitor but have not told you yet, are satisfied with the status quo, or have no clue how to go about buying from you or your competition, so they are “frozen” in their tracks.  Let’s look at determining which it is.

It is often challenging to have your contact be candid and inform you of the project’s status, specifically if they have chosen someone else.  The contact may like you and honestly does not want to hurt your feelings.  If they liked you and wanted to be helpful, they should be more informative and let you know what happened and why. My preferred approach is to be very direct and have a conversation like this:

“Nancy, I have enjoyed working with you for the past several months and hope that you will find our product/solution the best fit to solve the inventory problem for your company.  If it is not, I would appreciate it if you would let me know now so that we do not continue to waste each other’s time.”

If she responds and informs you that you have chosen a competitor, you should ask her to give you the reasons for their decision – and do not argue with her as she tells you.  You can tell her that this information is very helpful to you because you want to learn from this experience.  And be sure to thank her for the explanation.

If they have not finalized the contract with the competitor, you can challenge some of their reasons after considering a well-prepared response that addresses the key issues.

However, the prospect may tell you they have not chosen the competitor’s product and are either satisfied with the status quo, or that they don’t know how to proceed with a purchase.  The former is the most difficult to deal with; as I wrote in the Above Quota Performance, the “Number One Competitor is Do Nothing.” Or said another way, staying with the status quo.  It is the most comfortable and usually has the lowest risk to the prospect.  There are no changes to internal processes or no new training involved.  However, some make the mistake of assuming it is a low-cost solution.  It is often not.  It could be the highest-cost solution if alternatives result in a more efficient, safer, and optimum process. Suppose the prospect does not understand that.  If so, it is your opening to educate them. If not, this is a missed opportunity.

I have seen several instances where the evaluating team has chosen a product but cannot determine what they need to do internally to “pull the trigger” and make the purchase.  This may seem to be illogical, but it happens. A large capital purchase may not be what they traditionally do in their job.  Then, it is up to you to help them resolve what steps need to be taken and by whom, within and outside their company.  You should use your experience with other companies to inform them of some best practices used by other companies and offer coaching to assist them.

In any event, most deals slipping away can be avoided by conducting a hard qualification at the beginning and periodically throughout the sales process. That will result in fewer surprises and you dropping opportunities that do not meet your qualification standards.