Interruptions are a part of a salesperson’s life. It’s unfortunate but true that your product or service isn’t always going to be at the top of your prospects’ minds. Things come up, such as budget changes, terminations, resignations, and even business failure.
But if you handle it correctly, an interruption won’t spell the end of a deal. Regardless of which type of interruption you’re dealing with, here are a few strategies to get your stalled sale back in motion.
1) Check and double-check everything you’re told.
Make sure the information you’re getting is consistent. If different contacts tell you different things, ask questions until you determine why. Are some people misinformed, or are certain stakeholders trying to actively derail the process?
It’s crucial that your coaches -- the people at your target account who help you identify next steps -- aren’t “yes men.” The truth is far more important than getting a “yes.” If a deal is truly closed-lost, find out as soon as possible so you’re not wasting precious time trying to revive a sale that’s already dead.
While you should always cultivate contacts who will tell you what’s going on and why, sometimes people may be afraid to come clean or won’t have the full picture.
Probe for supplemental facts by asking:
“Is there anything else I should know?”
“Does that mean that X,Y, and Z are true?”
“Can you explain that to me in a bit greater detail?”
Once you understand why the deal has stalled, you can begin to formulate a recovery plan.
2) Set a next meeting or follow-up date.
If you ask your prospect when they’ll be available to reconnect and they tell you, “Oh ... call back in a few weeks,” the wrong response is, “Okay, sounds great!”
To retain control over a sales process, move from the arbitrary to the specific. An arbitrary next step date indicates a lack of focus on solving the problem. Hold your prospect to a specific date, and don’t accept a vague explanation to justify a postponement.
3) Use a “takeaway close” to give non-serious buyers an out.
If I’m getting brushed off by a prospect, sometimes I’ll ask, “Were we a bit premature in getting this process started?”
Especially if your offering is complex, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that your point of contact has gotten in over their head. This “takeaway close” separates serious buyers from overwhelmed prospects, as it provides an easy way out to end the process professionally.
How do you tell the difference between these two types of prospects? When you pose the question, a serious buyer will say, “No, we need your product -- but X reason is why we can’t do it right now.”
A non-serious buyer, on the other hand, will breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Yes, we started this conversation a little too early. Let's back up.”
4) Focus on the end goal.
In the course of your discovery and qualification calls, you should have uncovered what your prospect’s pain is -- and when they need it fixed by.
So if a deal starts to stall, refocus your prospect by asking them, “Wait, didn’t you say you needed a solution to [pain point] by [date]?” Sometimes the end goal gets buried in the minutiae of a sales process, and rehashing deadlines can help.
If priorities have shifted and your offering is now a nice-to-have instead of a need-to-have, your prospect will use this opportunity to let you know. But if they’re merely distracted, reminding them of how serious their problem is just might be the push they need to get the buying process back in gear and sign a contract.
Interruptions are a true test of a salesperson’s skill and persistence. If you let them, interruptions will quickly kill a deal. But handle them the right way, and your deals will be back on track in no time.
How do you handle interruptions in the sales process? Let us know in the comments below.
Originally published Sep 22, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017