Peter Cohan

Stunningly Awful Sales Outcomes – the Opportunity That Just Wouldn’t Close

Getting Critical Dates from prospects is very often neglected, but is surprisingly significant…  There are typically three reasons why a sales opportunity goes to “No Decision”:

  1. Customer agrees there is a problem, but doesn’t perceive it as Critical
  2. Customer doesn’t see the Value
  3. There is no Critical Date by when a solution needs to be in place (from the customer’s viewpoint)

Let’s look at number 3…  Far too often, customers just can’t seem to “pull the trigger” and make the purchase.  Let’s explore…

We ask, “Isn’t the problem important for you to solve?”  Customer responds, “Oh yes…!”

We ask and note, “Don’t you see the value – and that you are losing more and more of that value every day…”  Customer sighs and says, “Oh yes, the value is terrific – and I hate losing that value every day…!”

We then ask, “Then what is holding you back from making the purchase?”  Customer responds, “I don’t know…!”

They agree the problem is huge, they see the value, but they just can’t take that one additional step to make the purchase.  Why?  People are willing to live with the hell that they know – forever – unless they have a Critical Date or Event that forces them to make the change and implement.  (Anyone ever procrastinate writing a college or university paper until juuuuuuust before the deadline?)

Sadly, most sales teams think in terms of their own quarter-ends as the “Critical Date” – and it is a Critical Date, but for the sales team, not the customer!

During Discovery, ask if the customer has a date by when they need to have a solution in place (and why).  Here are a few Critical Dates and Events could serve as examples for discussion:

  • Any major changes in your business expected in the near future – acquisitions, divestitures, new building, a move, reorganization or major new hires or retires?
  • Any compliance or regulatory events on the near horizon – audits, compliance reports, new regulations going into place?
  • End of life or end of support for existing software or equipment?
  • End of your fiscal year or quarter?
  • Does your budget go away if not spent by a date?
  • Project deadline?
  • New project expected?
  • Kickoff or quarterly meeting?
  • Selling season(s) – e.g., Summer Holidays, Halloween, Winter Holidays?
  • Tax season?
  • Board meeting?

Critical Dates can be hard to get if you haven’t made it a habit in your Discovery conversations…  

When speaking with my prospects for Great Demo! Workshops, once a customer sounds like he/she is seriously interested in a session, I’ll ask something like, “Do you have any plans to have the team together in the next few months – for example, for a sales kickoff meeting, quarterly inquisition, or similar event?”  This helps to precipitate the customer’s thinking about when specifically to schedule a session.  I’ll note that “other customers in similar situations added a day or two to their meeting plan – which saved them substantial travel costs, since the flights would already have been in the plan for the original meeting…”

Based on the nature of your customer’s business, you might suggest a few of these and see if there is a reaction.  What you’d like to hear would be, “Oh yeah – I hadn’t thought of this in terms of BLANK – great suggestion!”  At which point you’d gently (but firmly) pursue it…


Any other suggestions?

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