One of the greatest challenges for a salesperson is figuring out when to move on. This can also be a challenge for the manager of that individual, if they have one.
As a manager, I believe you have to trust your salesperson. Nobody knows the client or situation like they do. Sometimes, they can be too close to it. Unless it's a habitual dilemma, you must trust them to cut the cord at the right time.
If the client has seen all that you, your product or service can do and can't act, you have to ask yourself these questions:
- Have I completely demonstrated how we can help?
- Are we addressing the real need?
- Do they have the resources or money?
- What else do I not know?
- Is there a higher power or influencer?
- Are they capable of moving forward?
- Is there a condition or objection?
Lack of action means something, but what is it? Often, there is something behind the scenes. There is a point where you have earned their trust and have the right to find out what that is. As a manager of a sales force and being directly in the field doing production, I can offer these reasons why this dilemma takes place:
The salesperson wants it more than the client
The salesperson may see the fit, or that customer has a need for their solution. However, this can be like telling a person to stop smoking, they have to decide to quit. You have to get to the root of why they aren't taking action.
The salesperson doesn't have a strong pipeline
Often, a salesperson re-engages a former client who said "no" or "not yet" because it's easier to re-engage than to build something new. A cold call is much tougher than a warmer call. This doesn't mean the salesperson shouldn't check in. I believe at least twice a year something changes, but be careful to not spend too much time with people who didn't advance before. There is a difference between a condition and an objection. A condition is something that has to happen. An objection is something to overcome. Here's an example.
Condition: We're in a contract and can't do anything for two years.
Objection: We are happy, and why fix what's not broken?
A good question to ask is, "Am I continuing with this client because I don't want to start from scratch somewhere else or with someone else?" A solid pipeline always keeps you focused on who you should be talking to and spending time on.
The emotional tie
Sales are built on relationships. This often makes it hard on the client to break up. It can also be a challenge for the salesperson who really knows that they can help this person if only they could break through. Establish an upfront contract with the client that an informed "no" is okay.The goal is to always be moving forward or getting to the "no."
The Hubert O'Shea theory
Sorry, you have to read the book "Stop Selling" to get the full background on why this is labeled as such. Every salesperson has a client who looks the part, says the right things, engages, remains active, and are easy to re-engage. You like them and have a great relationship. These are the most frustrating clients for the manager/salesperson relationship. The manager says that they can't do it or that they won't pull the trigger, to move on. The salesperson will say, "But this time is different," or that they're "so close." These situations can be a triumph or the biggest waste of resources. This one will break your heart over and over again. Each time you believe something is different, but each time they have a new excuse for maintaining the status quo.
Not enough information or rushing the process
Doctors use an MRI before they go into surgery. Salespeople often engage when the client agrees to continue. In order to start the exchange of information, do we clearly have the desired needs in place? People only buy or change when they see that doing/using/changing will address whatever the goal is. As an example, you can talk ROI all day long, but if quality of life or getting back time is larger, you're addressing the wrong solution/need. The early exchange of intel is so critical. In the book, I refer to the sales process like building a fire. If you don't have the kindling, it's hard to start the fire. It's also important how you place the logs. There must be room for the oxygen to get between the logs. Usually, you have too much information to present. How you assemble and what you present is based on that solid intel.
The never give up concept
Tenacity can be a great quality. However, a salesperson must know when to throw in the towel. They can continue on so long that they fail to develop their pipeline, build a new one or simply end up losing their job. Salespeople by nature are competitive. The sales process is not winning or losing. You can only educate them to a point of a decision. If they don't buy, move on. This doesn't mean that every sale is a short process. There is never a magic time frame. However, when you know you have exhausted all of your resources, you need to take a step back and determine if it's time to break up. There is "no" and "yes," but dealing with "not yet" is the tricky one. This is where those same questions come into play
One of the hardest things to do is to walk away after you have invested all this time and effort. That's why breaking up is so hard to do.