This week I had the privilege to present to a gathering of three Phoenix-area chapters of the Women Presidents’ Organization. My topic was “Whale Hunting Women: How Women Do Big Deals.”
Here’s the best question posed to me about a large account sale.
“What’s going on when we’re pursuing a deal, we’ve identified the buyers’ table, we have a strong internal champion, and we’re getting all good signals; then all of a sudden the buyers go quiet and no longer return our calls? What should we do?”
First let’s talk about what’s going on. Here are some possibilities on your end:
- Your team is not good at this stage of the process
- Your most recent encounter(s) did not measure up to the whale’s expectations
- Your harpooner (salesperson) needs more training on how to break this kind of barrier
Here are some possibilities on the whale’s side:
- Someone higher than your champion has pulled the plug on this project
- Someone who matters has decided not to buy from your company
- Someone in charge prefers the incumbent or a competitor
- The project has been delayed
- The budget has been slashed; or the anticipated budget did not materialize
- An internal team or unit has persuaded the buyers to do this work inside
- They never intended to buy from you, but they needed multiple bids, or they were looking for free consulting, or they wanted to lean on the incumbent over price
As you can see, with so many possibilities, it is not easy to say what you should do. And most likely you are not going to close this deal at this time. So this is not the time to kid yourself about the situation.
But here are some ideas to consider:
- Convene your team (your “boat”) to review the deal so far. Does anyone have insights about what might be going on? Do any team members have a contact at the whale who will return a call or email?
- Try to reach your contact(s) by phone or email. If you cannot get any response for a reasonable period of time, something is going on that is beyond your control. Send an email that says it appears that they do not intend to pursue this relationship with you right now. Thank them for the time to date, suggest that they come back to you if circumstances change, and promise to follow up in six months.
- If you learn that the whale bought from someone else, request a meeting to discuss your process and presentation, asking for their honest feedback about how you can improve.
- Review your sales process steps. Do you find yourself in this circumstance frequently, or is this time unusual? If it’s a common stumbling point, address process improvement and training.
Sometimes the sales process feels really good when actually you are about to come in second. Do your best to understand, and move on as quickly as possible.
If you have found yourself in this circumstance, what advice would you offer?
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