When Good Prospects Can be Worse Than Tough Prospects

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ 17:01 PM

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I was on the way to a meeting and the traffic was stop and go - not moving for a minute, then back up to 30 MPH, and then back to a dead stop.  I've been driving since 1972 and have driven in all kinds of conditions.  Pitch black on a moonless night on a narrow winding road with no street lights; on a 4-lane highway in white-out conditions where you can't see where the sides of the road are, down-hill on black ice with zero control of breaking and steering; snow-covered, two-lane road with cars stranded all over the place during the height of a blizzard, torrential rain when the roadways were flooded, heavy fog when you can't see the hood of your own car; and over a bridge in a tropical storm where the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to keep the vehicle on the bridge.  I haven't driven off-road.  

Comparing the stop and go traffic to the other conditions I have driven in got me thinking about a sales analogy that you might find helpful.

As bad as those conditions may have been, they didn't surprise me, they didn't change, and other cars were not really factors in dealing with the conditions.  While it was challenging to drive in those conditions, I was prepared for those conditions.  The weather forecast called for those conditions. I knew about those conditions before I entered the vehicle.  It was as bad as I expected but not worse than I expected.

On the other hand, stop and go traffic, even on dry roads with sunlight, scares the crap out of me because I don't know what will happen next, when it will happen, or where it will happen.  As white as the knuckles get in the worst conditions, in stop and go traffic I can get lulled into complacency and then, BANG.  Someone slams on their brakes and it's time to brace for impact again.

Good salespeople can handle the toughest prospects because they are prepared for those prospects.  They know what they are walking into and those prospects are consistent.  They are as bad as expected but not worse than expected. 

On the other hand, stop and go prospects are extremely scary.  One minute everything is fine, they're a good prospect, and the next minute everything is wrong and they're a tough prospect.  You finally get them comfortable again, they're a good prospect again, and then BAM, they go off the rails again.  Their inconsistency can be unnerving and even the best salespeople get caught off guard, are truly surprised by the behavior and frankly, don't always know what to do.

So what should you do?

The same thing you should do in stop and go traffic.  Don't get lulled into complacency in the first place!  If the prospect goes off the rails, slow down, take a deep breath, ask them what just happened, back up and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COMPLETELY FINE BEFORE YOU SAY ANOTHER WORD.  Don't move forward if they aren't 100% OK because that's then they're most likely to go off the rails again.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: cold prospect, Dave Kurlan, sales tips

What You Should Know When Your Cold Prospect Suddenly Returns From the Dead

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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Last week I wrote about the deep freeze, why prospects suddenly go cold, and how you can prevent that from happening. That article was instantly as popular as any I have ever written.  I also posted a 6-minute  cold-calling rant on LinkedIn that had more than five-thousand views after just a couple of days. The video, like the article, was about mindset, not scripting and tactics.  And last week I also posted an article about writing a good prospecting email.  It seems that there was a theme to the week and it resonated really well with the readers.

Let's build on that theme and discuss the same prospect that went cold two months ago, and now he calls or sends you an email. 

Hopefully, you had archived the opportunity rather than hoping and praying for its revival.  The biggest mistake that salespeople make at this point is they get excited.  I don't know about you but for me, when a supposedly good prospect goes cold and then returns two months later, it's more like the return of the flu.  This prospect caused you a lot of anxiety, embarrassment with your manager, and wasted time.  Who wants more of that?  I raise that issue because the chances of your prospect going cold again are greater than the likelihood of a sale.

For that reason, skepticism should be your number one strategy.

Why has your prospect returned and why now?  A number of things happened with your prospect since your last conversation and you need to hear their story.  What they share could be predictive of what will happen next and what you should do.  For example:

What They Might Say What That Could Mean What You Should Do
We have one more question They will go cold again as soon as you answer the question Ask them a question.  Why did they call you back?  Do not accept "because we had a another question for an answer.  Instead, mention that they didn't return calls and emails for two months so why now?
We would like a proposal They are moving forward but at what speed and with whom? Ask how many proposals they are requesting.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you? 
We want to meet A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome.
We want you to present They are moving forward but at a snail's pace.   Ask how many companies they invited to present.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you?  
Our [top-ranking executive] wants to talk with you A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome. 

The reality is that in most cases, prospects go cold when you weren't talking with the right person.  When they return from their self-imposed ice age they are still the wrong person so don't expect anything different to happen unless the top executive decision maker is fully engaged.

You could even experience these issues if you are talking with a weak decision maker who needs to build consensus.  Decision makers go cold too if they don't get the consensus they are looking for.

If you maintain a healthy level of skepticism, ask plenty of questions and keep your discussion conversational you will get a much better sense of where you really are and whether you will get the business.

Although the prospect has returned, the opportunity can be reactivated in CRM and the odds are no longer zero, don't become too optimistic.  Your odds of closing the business are no greater than 49%.

Image Copyright 2018 iStock Photos

Topics: dead prospect, sales tips, Dave Kurlan, cold prospect, sales pipeline

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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