When a deal stalls, it’s tempting for the salesperson to unknowingly put themselves first. We’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another. You might repeat the close, not so subtly threaten the prospect with an expiring discount, or roll several requests into one conversation.
These techniques all make sense, at least from the sales person’s perspective … but not from the prospect’s perspective and they’re probably more likely to turn stalled deals into cold ones.
So how can you bring a stalled sales deal back to life? Here are our tips …
1. Don’t repeat your close.
If the prospect gave you a soft yes, and then nothing, never follow up with the same close. Your next request should be a different, lighter close. For example, if your contact was supposed to introduce you to someone in Purchasing, but didn’t, then your follow-up question might be, “When do you want to start implementation?” This is an easier request that doesn’t require action.
Even though your original question didn’t receive a no, it might have if you’d continued to push. Your objective for each email or phone conversation is not to get a yes or no. The goal is simply engagement. When a deal is stalling, your focus is one… and only one thing: Get your prospect on the phone talking.
2. Don’t corner your prospects.
Nobody likes to feel trapped. When you’re working towards a goal in sales, give your prospect ample exit opportunities. If you’re coordinating a demo and your prospect is unwilling to confirm a date, let them know they can reach you by phone or email if they need to change the demo date or time once it’s scheduled.
Exit opportunities make listening to your pitch seem like an option for them, help you get a firm date on the calendar, and decrease the likelihood of your prospect backing out at the last minute or disappearing entirely.
3. Don’t use multiple closes.
Only use one close at a time, and always be direct. As a rule of thumb, don’t include “not” or “and” in your closing language. For example, let’s say your goal is to get the right people in your demo, including Martin, the decision maker. Many of us are tempted by the compound close — asking multiple questions at once. Compound closes sound like, “Could you invite Martin to our demo? And is there anyone else who needs to be there?”
Instead, ask two questions. Start with, “Should Martin be invited to this demo?” After your prospect has responded, “Yes, he should. I’ll reach out to him today.” follow up with, “And is there anyone else who should be there?” You’ve broken a compound question into two manageable questions, making it easier for your prospect to answer both.
4. Close something light, first.
Start every deal by closing for a phone number, an intro, or a meeting…… something relatively small and easy to agree to. This introduces the idea of the customer saying yes to you. Once you’ve made a small “close,” move on to bigger asks like asking to speak with a decision maker.
Remember, never close the same thing twice. If you ask, “Could you connect me with your boss?” and don’t receive an answer, ask, “Who’s going to be the primary contact after the sale?”
You’ve followed an unsuccessful close with a lighter ask, and you’ve avoided asking the same question twice. Once you receive a successful answer to this light request, you can continue asking questions to lead the prospect back to your initial question.
5. Keep the prospect focussed.
Make sure every close includes “you” and clearly identifies a finish line. Instead of saying, “When’s a good time for us to meet?” ask, “When are you free to meet for 30 minutes this week?”
In the first example, you say “us.” This is problematic for two reasons:
Firstly, if they’re not your client, there is no “us” yet.
Secondly, you haven’t provided a timeline. If your prospect doesn’t really want to talk to you, you’ve made it easy for them to push the meeting back for several weeks.
In the second example, you keep the question prospect-centred by asking when they’re free. Then you define how long your next meeting will take (30 minutes) and when it should happen (this week). It’s a clearly defined request that keeps your prospect feeling valued and in control.
6. Send a new quote.
If the end of the month or quarter is near and your prospect still hasn’t closed, especially if you’ve offered some form of discount to buy by a particular date, wait until there are about three days left and send a new contract.
Sending a new contract with non-discounted pricing can be the wake-up call they need to move forward. A new contract makes the new price real and looming. Even if they still can’t close before the end of the month or quarter, this keeps the conversation going and allows you to extend the discount when appropriate.
7. Expand the audience.
If you’re only talking to one contact, it gives the buyer too much power when a deal is stalled. If you can, start new lines of conversation with other contacts at your prospect’s company as this makes the conversations between you and the prospect more public. More people will be included in the sales process and this makes it harder for the prospect to disappear.
8. Demonstrate urgency.
If you have a sense of urgency, demonstrate it to the prospect. If you’re frustrated at their lack of response but wait two weeks to reach out, you’re not demonstrating urgency.
Increase the frequency of your attempts to reach the contact. You can make multiple calls in one day, but you must leave a voicemail. If you don’t leave a voicemail, your calls could be interpreted as passive-aggressive.
9. Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a colleague or teammate if they can give you a hand with the deal. Let them know that the prospect is out of the loop and hasn’t responded to your emails or calls. Then, ask them if they can call the prospect and say they’re a colleague of yours, and they’re checking in on your behalf. This gives the prospect another opportunity to respond and get the deal moving again.
These strategies turn stalled deals from frustrating to promising — and finally get you over the finish line.