Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: Even Losers Can Win

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No one likes to walk away from a potential deal, particularly if youve invested time and resources in preparing the perfect pitch and cultivating a relationship with a potential customer or client. But sometimes, despite our best efforts to make things work, we have to recognize that the client just isnt that into us—and were wasting time on a sale that will never come to fruition. 

About 15 years ago, I was chatting with Pat Sullivan. Pat created the bestselling contact manager software ACT!, as well as the leading mid-market, customer-relationship management software SalesLogix. I'll never forget some very wise words he shared with me over dinner. "Kenny,” he said, “there are two winners in every deal: the first guy who gets the deal, and the next guy in line who knows he's not going to get the deal so he moves on to close another deal!" It's a mouthful, but I repeat this mantra weekly to sales team members across the globe. 

Its simple: if you know you're not getting a deal, don't keep going after it. To avoid wasting time on fruitless pursuits, keep an eye out for these red flags. 

The Client Cant Answer the Key Ws (Who, What, and When) 

When does the project need to be done by? Who else needs to be informed or involved in major decisions? What will success look like, and what are the key deliverables? If they cant answer these questions, theres a good chance they havent seriously considered why theyre even talking to you. It may be best to suggest postponing the conversation until they can answer these questions—otherwise, you might be wasting time on a dead lead. 


There Is Radio Silence 

Have you called, emailed, texted, sent carrier pigeons, and still no response? Chances are, when a prospect goes dark, its best to let them go. Sure, they may eventually respond if you continue to reach out, but its not worth your time to spend hours pursuing potential clients who clearly arent interested. End the relationship in a professional way by sending a “breakup email,” then move on to the next deal. 


The Money Isnt There 

Its familiar to hear something like “I cant afford that” or “I don’t know what the exact numbers are” as a sales representative, but its important to recognize when a company truly doesnt have the resources to afford your product or service. Do your homework before approaching a potential client to save the heartache of an ill-fated financial match from the start. If, after your initial conversations, it becomes apparent that the prospect doesnt have the budget to work with you, politely let them down and even consider steering them toward someone with a lower-priced offering. 

Everything Is Always In Flux 

Is the prospect constantly requesting changes in the terms or amounts you originally discussed, or generally asking a lot of unusual questions? Chances are this means they dont have a clear vision of what they really need, and may be stringing you along while they try to figure things out. Its a waste of both of your time—and a waste that you dont have to endure. Politely but firmly let them know that you dont believe your product is right for their current needs, and leave a door open for them to work with you in the future once theyve solidified their strategy. 

Move on Swiftly and Efficiently 

Too often, salespeople get fixated on a deal thats crumbling in front of them, and they try to do whatever they can to save it. Quickly moving on from defunct deals sets you up for future success with focused, organized, and authentic prospects. By keeping an eye out for these red flags, youll avoid killing your mojo and wasting your time so you can focus on whats important: sealing the next big deal.

About the Author

Ken Sterling is the senior vice president and chief learning officer at BigSpeak. Ken’s main focus is marketing and partnering with our Fortune 1000 clients to create specialized consulting programs with effective leadership development objectives. Ken is also responsible for BigTechnology, our initiative to develop best-of-breed learning management systems for our clients.

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