When a Sales Call Goes Bad

I am going to talk a little about identifying a call that is failing and what you might do when that happens.

I found myself on the losing end of a failing call tonight.  The prospect was no where near where I thought he was.  He seemed unable to grasp even the most basic parts of our recommendation.  This can be a very disconcerting feeling, especially when you are not prepared for it.  But there’s the rub, you should always be prepared for it.  Don’t presume the sale.  Ever.

There are things to learn from this.  First on the part of the business owner I can share some advice that might help us all.  People who are slow to make decisions tend to be among my least successful clients.  I am not entirely sure why this is true, but it is true.  People who suffer from paralysis by analysis often suffer from compromised decisions.  Time is wasted and often the meek make weak decisions.

Our prospect tonight went overboard on what he thought might go wrong.  Certainly, make an informed decision, but make a balanced decision, too.  Even worse for this business owner, meeting him tonight felt like meeting someone who was not a part of any of our meetings.  Maybe he wasn’t.  Being in a meeting is one thing.  Participating and using a meeting is another.

This business owner was ready to make decision, but a bad one.  Tonight, in fact, I refused to take the requested order.  This is a business that wants to advertise in the New York DMA on a Grover’s Corner budget.  Literally.  He shed 90% off of his budget and dumbed-down his goals so much that the program would fail.  Someone else can sell him the underpowered waste of money he’s looking for.  I won’t.

I asked him instead — as politely as I could — to call me when he was ready to advertise in New York.

There is more important advice for salesmen that I can share from my position.  As a salesman you need to push value at every opportunity.  You need to stay engaged with your prospect and never take a sale for granted.  If you can justify it, you can sell it.  Make sure you can justify your proposal…and make double-sure your client is following.  Presumptions derail the best plans.

But sometimes a client simply doesn’t get it.  You can justify your sale perfectly, but they cannot see it.  Or perhaps they will not see it.

Perhaps they don’t have the resources or understanding…maybe they don’t see the need…possibly they are intimidated.  A variety of hidden issues can prevent the sale.  Rarely is it the stated objection.  And you can bet your last dollar if the client is trying to out-think you, you don’t have agreement.  He’s looking for holes, he’s looking for an out.

When you get to this point, you have lost control of your sales call.  It happens to the best of us, but in the end it is how you recover that matters.

Sometimes a dud is a dud and you’re not going to make a sale.  In cases like this look at how you failed to pre-qualify your lead and set the agenda.  “Will you be ready to do business with me if what we talk about makes sense to your business?”  Then make sure you’re presenting features and benefits of your product to answer that question in the affirmative.

But again…sometimes you just don’t make the sale.  Sometimes you don’t have what the prospect wants or needs.  Sometimes someone outsells you.  These are facts.  Wasting time, however, is something you can learn to control.

If you start to lose your prospect, as I did, and he wastes your time, you have to act to cut your losses.  Determine if you need to stay in the game.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of being frank.   Tonight my lead imploded before my eyes.  I recognized that, but chose to hang on and play along instead of regaining control.

Legitimate concerns and questions…yes, of course, you answer those, they reinforce your sale.  Those are good.  Overcoming objections is a salesman’s job and it shouldn’t be a game.  It is straight forward.  Let experience and your own understanding tell you when you’re in an incoherent loop.

Many times you have bring the client back to why you met in the first place.  “Can you still see how this can help your business?”  Or maybe call the question:  “I don’t think you understand.  Do you mind if I ask if there is something you haven’t told me that is raising these questions now?”

I generally believe if you’re still talking, you’re still selling, meaning dialogue is good.  If you’re client is asking and answering questions, you’re still in the hunt.  But if you are simply chasing scattered “yeah buts”, that isn’t a very meaningful hunt.  Stop wasting your time.

As far as this sales call is concerned, I will call this client again.  I won’t expect him to call me.  I will ask if he’s thought more about the proposal.  Yes?  No?  Can I answer any questions?  If he refuses, I will send a short letter thanking him for his time, hit on a key benefit of our proposal, and ask him to give us an opportunity to work together.   He will be in my future follow up file.

There are many, many other leads out there.


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