Resources  >> When a Buyers Says ‘We’ve Gone in a Different Direction’

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  |  September 14, 2015

When a Buyers Says ‘We’ve Gone in a Different Direction’

Originally published by RainToday.com

When I work with thought leaders on their sales approach, a conversation about the dreaded “we’ve gone in a different direction” decision eventually comes up. Based on those conversations (and the times I’ve used this excuse myself), here are the most common (and hidden) scenarios behind that statement and how you can best respond.

1. Something Is Wrong Here

Decision makers have a fuzzy picture in their head about their needs and often compare your offer with that picture. If your conversation validates that perspective, you quickly become the front runner. But that status can change as the buyer learns more about your approach and scope.

Example: A peer referred me to a vendor, offering a strong recommendation. I liked the provider’s work and our initial conversation. He was even willing to help me pro bono so I could experience what he could do for me. While I was grateful for the gift of time and talent, I quickly saw that his approach wasn’t working for what I needed. I brought my concerns up a couple of times, and he explained his system and why it was effective. His explanations made sense, but I still wasn’t on board. Instead of debating him, I told him, “Thanks for your help, but I’m going in a different direction.”

Your next best step in this type of scenario depends on your timing. If a potential client brings up any concern, make sure you have dealt with it effectively. Have the “take the temperature” conversation. Ask them, “Given what I’ve told you, do you still have this concern? Did we cover this, or is there something else we need to explore?” This discussion will head off the concerns that lead to “different directions.”

If the assignment was already awarded to someone else, I go for the “just curious” approach. You could say, for example, “Hey, it sounds like you’ve found the perfect match. Just curious: if you were me, what would you keep in the proposal, and what would you have changed?”

2. Competing Priorities Put Your Deal on the Back Burner

Another driver of the “different direction” excuse: outside forces. Budget cuts, political pressure, new initiatives from the powers that be — all of those impact a buyer’s decision. A lot can change during the sales process, and competing priorities have a huge impact on decision makers’ timing and budget.

Example: I talked to the owner of a rapidly growing business who wanted to extend his brand past his core business. I was the front-runner. In the end, though, I didn’t get the assignment. It wasn’t because he worked with someone else, but because some operational issues came up that needed his focus and budget.

Your next best step is twofold: 1) get the inside scoop on what put your deal off so that you can 2) find out if the opportunity is still alive or postponed indefinitely. Yes, this dynamic is out of your control. So the next best thing is a heads-up and next steps. You get both based on the rapport you’ve established. Insightful conversations on the front end will get you critical information in this stage.

Tip: It’s tempting to want to keep in touch in case the decision will be made later. Buyers rarely want to close the door either, so don’t settle for the general, “Hey, call me back in three years” response. That is a wild-goose chase waiting to happen. Instead, ask direct questions about the timeline, such as “Is this challenge temporary or is XXX (enter the project you’re working on) critical enough to address when this fire is put out?” or “On a scale of one-to-10, what priority does your issue have? Back burner forever ¬†or next in line?” The answers will tell you a lot.

3. I Don’t Know Why, but the Answer is No

Needs and expectations are a moving target for many buyers. They think they know what they want until they experience what is possible. New information constantly coming in makes comparing you with the alternative a challenge.

Towards the end of the sales process, all alternatives look very much alike. The differences are so slight that the decision becomes very subjective. That is why many buyers can’t tell you why they chose someone else. They have no facts to share, and they don’t want to appear as if they just flipped a coin.

Example: Years ago, I had narrowed my choices to three web designers. They were all great and would’ve done a good job. But there was one person I just didn’t like. I couldn’t put my finger on why; she just seemed too pushy. So I gave her the old “we’re going in a different direction” line. Her response was obnoxious, thus clarifying why I didn’t like her. I dodged a bullet.

Tread lightly in this kind of scenario If buyers can’t explain why, it’s because they don’t want you to know that they don’t know. Bow out gracefully, and keep in touch. Many projects go awry, and you want to be waiting in the wings. Thank them for the consideration, and reach out periodically. Because I’m known for my analysis, I occasionally pass along research and studies (along with my color commentary). I’ve found that follow-up conversations happen when the project goes south.

Get More Information

“We’ve gone in a different direction” means different things to different decision makers. And it doesn’t always mean never. When you acknowledge the buyer’s situation and ask just a couple more questions, you can open the door to these opportunities when the time is right.

 

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.