Save a Sale

Save a Sale

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You’ve been keeping an eye on your sales, and you’ve watched them drop by almost 50% since the start of the recession. Some months are better than others, but on the whole your sales force is closing fewer deals than they lose.

So, how do you turn the tables? Having a keen eye for when a sale is going sour takes savvy. Here are five red flags and strategies for saving the sale:

1. If a potential client seems indifferent

A client who is interested in doing business with you should have questions and concerns. If they don’t outright reject you but don’t have any questions either, be on the alert.

To resolve this problem, create more of an advisory relationship with clients. You can let them know that you’ll help either to solve their problem or point them in the direction of another business that might be a better fit. Offering to help people find other vendors might seem counterintuitive, but it can go a long way to earn the trust you may need to win over a client. People will share more with an advisor than a sales person. It’s more of a dialogue than a broadcast.

2. If there’s no hard deadline for a decision

Having urgency around a sale is important. Early in the process, ask potential clients about their timeframe. You want to prioritise those companies that have a hard deadline.

Find ways to firm up deadlines. For example, limited-time offers or discounts create urgency around a sale. The only way you get someone engaged is to find their buttons. Perhaps point out what the competition is doing, or identify the financial risk involved in not acting quickly on the sale.

3. If you aren’t dealing with the decision-maker

You may start out talking with a junior-level employee who is vetting options, but beware if you aren’t put in touch with the decision-maker after a few conversations. It’s probably a sign the company isn’t serious about buying.

Getting past that roadblock can be challenging. The bigger the organisation you are dealing with, the more layers of management you are likely to have to penetrate. Create a presentation that your initial contact can easily show to upper management. You also might request a quick conference call with the senior-level person involved. It’s a sticky situation because you need to be respectful of the person you are talking to and not undermine them.

4. If your price is too high

People generally object to a price because they believe they can find the same product or service for less or because you’re trying to sell more than they need.

If your competitors are offering a lower price, focus on how you can provide added value. But if you’re offering more than a client needs, you may need to scale back the initial proposal. You also could offer creative payment alternatives, such as incentives on the first purchase if the customer continues to buy more.

5. If you’re asked for a proposal instead of a conversation

When potential clients ask for a proposal before agreeing to talk with you, it’s usually a sign they’re simply gathering price quotes from vendors.

Before submitting a proposal, ask what the client is looking for and what criteria will be used to make the decision. Reaching a verbal understanding on those issues increases the likelihood that you’ll get the sale. The problem with a proposal is that there is no chance for them to tell you what is wrong with it, as opposed to working through all the nuances verbally.

Jane Porter
Jane Porter is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in publications including BusinessWeek Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Brown University as well as a masters of fine arts in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.