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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  May 28, 2015

3 Curveballs Buyers Throw That Can Kill a Sale

Originally published by RainToday.com

Most sales processes involve doing your homework and learning about the organization you are calling on. Sometimes, however, the best groundwork doesn’t prepare you for those out-of-the-blue developments that can kill a deal in an instant. Below are three of the most common head-scratching curveballs buyers frequently throw, what causes their behavior, and how to respond to them.

1. Never Mind

At first, buyers sound pretty adamant about what they want — until they wake up one day and decide that outcome is no longer important. What’s the deal?

The number one reason buyers’ ardor cools: they fear the journey ahead. During the strategic planning phase, few consider what it takes to reach the goals. The vision is created in a vacuum. So, it’s a surprise when the buyer drills down and discovers what has to change. It’s like deciding you want a Lamborghini without knowing the price tag.

Example: A buyer called me to position their company so they can compete with a more prominent player. They understood the impact of taking business away from the bigger competitor and were excited about that result. And then they found out what it takes to mount such an effort — in both time and money. The urgency instantly disappeared. They didn’t know if the business gained was worth the extra effort required.

To prevent this surprise from spinning out of control, give buyers two options: the right way and the “good enough” way. Tell folks what it will take, then step back and listen to the reaction. If you hear any kind of resistance, shock, or hesitation, go into “good enough” mode. Explain they can phase in or test the approach first, then make a decision based on that information. Use this option to create some small wins.

2. My Needs Have Changed

Sales 101: always determine what a buyer needs at the beginning of the sales process. Based on those requirements, you provide a proposal. And then, all of a sudden, the needs change, and your options are no longer viable. What just happened?

Again, decision makers are very sure about what they need — until someone else provides them with a new possibility. Based on a new reality, their needs change. And because the buyer doesn’t know or believe you can help, you don’t get the chance to pitch.

Example: An up-and-coming design firm called me about getting bigger clients. We talked about her needs and figured out that she needed a platform to compete with the more established agencies. We talked about my role, and she was excited about moving forward. Then she disappeared for six months.

Later, I discovered she talked to someone who helps authors and was told that a book would make her “famous.” She had no understanding of the amount of work involved (see my previous point) and that I helped one of my client’s books get on a best-seller list. Bummer.

The best way to deal with shifting needs is a one-two punch.

First, cement the benchmarks. In this example, getting bigger clients is the goal. In the spirit of providing value first, we can establish what the best path looks like. Hopefully, the buyer will remember those benchmarks when a new options pops up.

Second, keep the door open. Explain that the path to getting bigger clients has a lot of options. Tell them it will be easy to get confused and that you are available anytime to brainstorm and walk them through the possibilities. By being a resource first and potential vendor second, you stay in position to respond to any changes.

3. This Is A Smokin’ Deal

In the heat of competition, things change in an instant. Many front-runners are tossed aside in favor of a killer discount. Before you even know you are in trouble, the deal goes to the low-cost competitor.

What’s worse is the buyer doesn’t come to you to match the price. It never occurs to them that you would consider that option. And besides, the competitor probably pushed for a quick decision.

Example: One buyer reached out for my help in getting him higher speaking fees. He talked about options and my fees. He didn’t seem hesitant to work with me. Then he talked with a former speaker (who was no longer on the circuit), who said he would give him a 60% discount if he made a decision within 24 hours. In that moment, my fees were too high.

In this scenario, your best defense is education. When you discuss options, be sure to mention what to avoid. Help your buyer make the best decision for them even if it doesn’t involve you. Because I gave the pros and cons in the conversation, the buyer had concerns about the discounted deal, came back to me, and asked for my advice. We talked about the differences, and I left it up to him to make a decision. Within a month, we were working together.

Twists and Turns

The sales process is rarely linear. It is filled with twists and turns. By understanding how these curveballs can happen, you won’t be caught by surprise when they do. Then you can respond calmly and with confidence.

 

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.