Being a sales professional can be incredibly frustrating at times. You can do everything a good sales rep would do – researching, networking, and progressing prospects down the funnel – but sometimes whatever you do you are still missing sales targets.
There are lots of potential reasons a prospect decides not to buy from you, but knowing the real reason after the fact doesn’t help you to overcome the issue and make the sale.
By looking out for certain warning signs you can pre-empt the triggers that cause sales leads to drop off the radar. These warning signs can also help you spot gaps in your sales message or process so you can adjust your technique to meet the needs of your prospects.
Let’s take a look at some of the common triggers which lead to a dropped sale and the warning signs that a prospect might display…
1. A prospect makes a contact request or downloads a whitepaper, but then seems irritated at the follow-up
Lesson: Initial sales call may be too early. The prospect may need more information and time to review, and you need to more closely understand their needs.
So you’ve got a compelling whitepaper that is genuinely useful to prospects, and you know that a lot of current customers downloaded the whitepaper before they made a purchase decision. So it follows that if you could nurture everyone who downloads the whitepaper along the sales funnel you will end up with more customers.
Except it doesn’t quite work like that. People download whitepapers for all kinds of reasons, including researching their needs, understanding the market, and learning more about your company. Each of these three examples would put prospects at different positions on the sales funnel – researching needs indicates the prospect is early in the process, market understanding comes at the comparing options stage, while finding out about your company indicates that they are close to making a sales decision.
Take the time to understand your prospect’s journey so far, what information they need and what needs they have, before contacting them. You will then be able to build on that knowledge, either through well-timed blog posts or via a friendly phone call. Skipping the research phase may mean your message misses the target and is irritating prospects instead of helping them.
2. A prospect sounds interested on the call but then never follows up
Lesson: The value of your service has not been communicated in the right way.
If you’re finding prospects are dropping out following your initial call, they will likely have found a solution they perceive to be cheaper/better value elsewhere. Alternatively they may have ditched the idea altogether, but that is more likely to be due to changing business conditions which we’ll cover in the next section.
Assuming you are losing prospects to your competitors there are a few things you can check to ensure you’ve communicated your offering in a way that aligns with their business and its needs.
Check the stakeholders
A good rule of thumb is to seek stakeholders as high and broadly placed within the prospect organisation as early as possible. If you communicate with just one point of contact, you are relying on them to communicate the right message in the right way to all the other key stakeholders. By simply offering to chat through things with other stakeholders on their behalf can be both helpful and get you in front of all the key decision makers.
Check your positioning
One of the most common reasons competitors are able to steal away prospects is because they have better positioned their solution to the needs of the client. Find out as much as possible about your prospect from different sources of information. You may discover from their company blog, for instance, that they’re launching into a new region and this could allow you to adjust your positioning to emphasise the ease of use across multinational teams. A top tip is to always check with prospects their reasons for engaging with a different supplier as it will give you a good idea of how your competitors are positioning themselves.
Book next advancement in while on phone
All kinds of things can happen to a prospect between calls that might make them lose focus on your solution. By booking in your next advancement – a call or meeting, for example – before you put down the phone you are gaining a certain amount of buy-in that will keep you front of mind.
3. Prospect drops out at the point of conversion
Lesson: They could not build a business case for your solution.
Ultimately, the decision whether to buy or not all comes down to the business case – is the solution going to save more than it costs and will it create additional value? If the economics stack up and you have done everything else well then you should be able to close the deal easily.
If you are finding prospects dropping out at the final hurdle it is usually because they had too hard a time proving the business case internally. Again, going as high and broad with stakeholder involvement can help by addressing needs and concerns at every level of the organisation, rather than relying on a single person to sell your solution to their line managers.
As long as you are effectively needs-mapping key stakeholders and decision-makers, your key task is to ensure that the solution aligns with each of their needs. These needs may change for a number of reasons, usually a large shift in organisational priorities.
Mergers and Acquisitions
A merger or acquisition could be a trigger as the overall strategy may change. The new business may already have a solution which they could implement, for example, or a new set of needs may change their requirements.
Staff changes is another common trigger. If a stakeholder leaves the organisation, you must quickly build up an understanding and rapport with a completely new team member. On the other side of the coin, a new hire may be brought in who can manually do some of the work your solution covers. In this case you may need to reposition your solution to emphasise other benefits.
Company financials are also liable to change dramatically, disrupting your sales process. The prospect may have gained a new client and therefore need a more powerful or scalable solution – the perfect opportunity to upsell. Bad financial results or losing a client poses a challenge in realigning your solution to their new needs.
However, both scenarios pose an opportunity. If you can show how your solution overcomes their difficulties or capitalises on their successes then you will cement yourself as a valued partner. Neglecting to take account of these changes – because you didn’t know about them – will often lead to a missed sale.
4. Customer consistently rejects upsell
Lesson: The relationship has not been nurtured (well) enough.
Missed sales don’t just happen with new prospects, they can also happen with existing clients. On paper they might seem the perfect candidate for an upsell, but instead of welcoming the opportunity to expand the service they reject your advances.
A common challenge is in trying not to seem pushy with the upsell. Coming in at the wrong time, or with the wrong pitch, leads not just to a push back, but potentially a damaged relationship. While it is important to make regular contact with clients, the timing of the message must be right. If you offer a new service just as they are scaling back, you’re not going to get anywhere.
The key to timing your communications is information – if you know what is going on in their business then you will understand their business, to the point that upsells become incredibly natural part of your relationship.However there may be other triggers that are impacting your ability to upsell.
One of the most common issues is a clash of personalities. We’ve spoken before about the benefits of assessing prospects’ personalities in order to effectively communicate with them, and the same applies to existing clients.
Clashes should be pretty easy to spot, but it is good practice to elicit feedback both internally and from the client. Miscommunication is the most common culprit and sometimes that can’t be rectified, it’s simply a part of how people see and interact with the world. In this case, you might get better results by engaging a different member of the team who you think you would get on with better.
Natural rapport should be pretty easy to spot, but looking out for behaviours such as mirroring can help identify the influencers within an organisation. Mirroring behaviours include things like unconscious mimicking of posture, phrasing, and facial expression and is one of the strongest indicators of influence and dominance – definitely something to look out for.
Realisation of value
Another thing to consider is whether the client is realising the full value of your solution. Post-sales training is essential here. If the client isn’t utilising features of your product or service then they likely won’t be getting the full value from it, and they are unlikely to want to spend more on you.
With in-depth training following the sale, and at regular intervals afterwards, you ensure that your solution is always delivering full value. It also gives you a good reason to get in touch without selling them anything which builds trust in your relationship.
Of course, this is not an extensive list of possibilities, only the most common. Share your experience of blocked sales with us @ArtesianS or in the comments below.
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