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How I Knew I Was Going to Lose a $200K Deal
Lost sales deal
By John Barrows | December 2, 2015

There are a bunch of key indicators that happen throughout the buying/selling process that help us understand the true “health” of any opportunity we’re working on and whether we’re in a good or bad position to win the deal. However, there is one that I’ve found to be the #1 key indicator, which is “more time to make a decision.”

When I hear this from the client, the hairs on the back of my neck sit up and my Spidey sense starts to tingle. Even worse, if I haven’t met with true “power” yet, I can pretty much guarantee the deal is DOA and I should probably move on – especially if it happens more than once.

This key indicator (more time to make a decision) is what told me I was going to lose a $200k deal recently, before I actually lost it.

I had met with a key influencer (not the final decision-maker), who I had a great relationship with and sold to before. We mapped out the entire plan for an international rollout of one of my training modules. I confirmed with her (in writing) their priorities, timeline, decision process, competition, and everything else.

Based on their priorities and what I knew about the account, my training seemed to line up perfectly with what they needed. Add this to the positive relationship I already had with them and the proven results we got from previous training, I felt pretty good about my chances of winning their business for this round of training focused on a different aspect of the sales process.

We were going through the process together with solid give/get equality. There was a clear, compelling event and urgency due to their timeline and roll-out plans. It was going to be a stretch to make all this happen in the timeline they were looking for, but it was doable and I felt good about my chances … until … I got the dreaded silent treatment when I reached out to her on the day she said they wanted to have the decision made by.

The first time a customer flakes on their timeline, I get very nervous and try to do everything I can to get them on the phone and pin them down for a good reason and a scheduled call for the revised decision date.

The second time they push, I take the deal off my forecast and come up with a new, usually somewhat forceful and direct strategy.

The third time, I call the deal dead and move on. This is exactly what happened with this deal.

She didn’t respond to me on the day they were supposed to make the decision, so I called her and e-mailed her until I got her on the phone. She gave me the typical reason for needing more time, which was that they were waiting on a few more things from the other vendors before they made their final decision.

She revised the date, and we put a meeting on the calendar to get a yes/no. She then pushed that meeting out another week. At this point, I took the deal off the forecast and developed a new strategy to gain access to others in the decision process without pissing off my contact and making it look like I was going over her head.

I gained additional insight and information but then she pushed the meeting one last time and I knew I was dead in the water.

When she pushed the third time, I didn’t send an email or call her to tell her I was moving on from the deal. I just let it go and focused my time on other opportunities that I knew had a higher likelihood of closing.

It just so happened I had a another deal I was working on at the time that was about $150K and could potentially lead to a much bigger long-term opportunity that would impact my entire approach moving forward. I decided to shift my efforts to that one and walk away from the $200K deal that I knew I was going to lose. With that focus, I was able to close the $150k deal and put myself in a much better long-term position.

As one of my mentors (@MJHoffman) once told me – the worst sin in sales is not losing a deal, it’s taking a long time to lose a deal. The sooner we can sniff out that we’re in a bad deal and either walk away from it or just divert our attention to healthier deals the better. When you hear the client needs “more time to make a decision,” start sniffing.

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