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Has this ever happened to you? You have a great conversation with a possible client. They are indeed the “economic buyer” and are in the market for your solution. They say all the right things to make you believe they see your value clearly and are excited to work with you. You both agree to follow up at a specific time. Then … crickets. No response at all to your emails and voice messages.

It happened to me recently which is why I’m sharing this guest post by Vicki Sullivan that helped me to understand what may have happened and what I can do next time to ask better questions understand what’s going on in the prospect’s world.

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It’s easy to wonder, “What did I do wrong here?” In most cases, whatever happened occurred after your conversation. Here are the top three things that probably happened and can derail even the most interested buyer.

1. Competing Priorities

Many buyers see your value during a conversation because they are focused on the problem at hand. Once your chat is over, however, real life and other problems continue to parade by. It’s easy for them to lose focus and deal with the latest emergency.

What happens is the buyer changed priorities. Something comes up that takes the funds earmarked for your project. The buyer isn’t ready to abandon working with you; they still think it’s a good idea. So, instead of closing the door, the decision makers either ignore you or say, “Yep, I’m interested, but not right now.” The problem is “right now” never comes.

Your best bet: Probe for context. Find out the impact of the solution on the bigger initiative, as well as the area in which you work. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed there are five ways to spend every minute we have and five ways to spend every dollar in the budget. What’s commanding your attention right now? Where does this initiative land in comparison to the other things you’re doing? Is it one of your top priorities, or does other stuff need to happen first?” The answers to those questions will provide insight and help you determine how to proceed.

2. Internal Politics

Yes, some executives make decisions without consulting others. But most of the time, leaders lead by consensus. This is a good idea for two reasons: 1) staff members are the people implementing your solutions, so they have to be on board, and 2) everyone is busy enough without creating a new uproar. So, even though staff members don’t have decision-making power, they still have the power to torpedo your deal.

Common arguments against bringing you in include “we can do the same thing for less” or “we can spend the money in better ways.” Once Cain is raised, the executive faces an interesting decision: go against the folks who will implement the solution or let the staff try it themselves first. In the spirit of being a “good” leader, most folks will give their staff a shot.

Your best bet: Head this off at the pass. Anticipate that you will get blowback from key staff, and bring it up first. Ask the buyer about the role of staff. Probe to see if they need consensus or if the buyer is willing to make the decision on their own. If the former is true, warn them ahead of time.

In this scenario try asking this: “Let’s go to the dark side. I can see some heads exploding when you present the idea of bringing in an outsider. Have you explored internal resources? Do folks already know they don’t have time/expertise to do this?” This question opens the door to a frank discussion about the road ahead and cements the buyer’s view before staff objects.

3. Bright Shiny Objects

Between the Internet and the deluge of marketing messages, many of us have the attention span of a toddler. Your buyers are no different. When searching for a solution, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends or research. And often those trends point to a firm other than yours. This is called Bright Shiny Object (BSO) syndrome.

This barrier is the hardest to deal with because it occurs randomly. The buyer may not know of the new option until after your conversation, so you had no chance to blunt their interest. And by the time you hear about the BSO from the buyer, they have bought into a premise that makes your option less desirable. This is how front-runners get blindsided. It happens quickly.

Your best bet: Assume BSOs are everywhere. Know about them before your buyer does, address them as “myths” in your content marketing, and send the article/white paper/infographic to every buyer after your conversation with them. The best defense of BSO syndrome is a great offense.

Your Biggest Competitor

In sales, people usually focus on what they can control: reaching out, following up, communicating their value, etc. That’s a great first step. The next thing to understand is that your sales conversations never happen in a vacuum. They are a part of a larger universe that takes up your buyer’s focus and attention. Other firms may compete with you head on, but outside forces are the bigger cause of the stalled sale. Asking questions about what’s going on around the buyer can lay the groundwork to common obstacles ahead. Forewarned is forearmed.


Learn More  about The Value Inventory Workshop to align your value with your prospect’s priorities and worldview. Discover your company’s hidden value propositions as well as the silent killers that could undermine your sales team’s success.

Written by Scott Broady