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How I knew I was going to lose a $200k deal
By John Barrows | April 17, 2019

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 of losing a deal 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 was what told me I was going to lose a $200k deal 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 had 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, our 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, and I felt pretty good about my chances of winning their business for this round of training. Ironically, this round of training was focused on negotiating skills.

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 misses 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 then schedule a 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 kill 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 and e-mailed her until I got her on the phone. She gave me the typical reason for needing more time in how 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 give me a yes/no decision. 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 e-mail 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 another deal I was working on at the time that was about $100k and could potentially lead to a much bigger longer-term opportunity. 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 $100k deal and put myself in a much better long-term position.

As one of my mentors M. Jeffrey Hoffman once told me – the worst sin in sales is not to lose a deal, it’s to take 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.

If you’re looking for help in objectively understanding the “health” of any opportunity in your forecast and what you need to do to move it through or out of your pipeline, we’re offering a 20% discount on the “Driving to Close” online training program. This program will help you develop a customized scorecard you can use to apply to your deals and help you know exactly where you are and what you need to do to improve your close ratios.

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