In Sales, Should you Leapfrog?

leapfrog over your sales leadYou received an inbound lead. After weeks or even months discussions, exchanging emails, doing online tours, giving on-site presentations, maybe doing a free trial or two, you feel the sale is about to close.

Then suddenly, crickets.

No return phone calls. There are no responses from your emails.

Nothing. Silence. Dead silence.

You thought everything was going well. Your inbound lead asked all the right questions. He showed interest in your product or service. In short, he was making all the traditional buying signals.

Now what?

You now face an impasse that most salespeople fear – do you leapfrog over your lead and contact higher level, and perhaps better, key decision makers?

Or, do you continue to be patient, make more phone calls and send out more emails, with the false hope that your contact will finally respond and say those magic words that we all want to hear “Let’s order.”

My answer – if you have honestly made every attempt possible to reach your lead, and he hasn’t responded to your repeated efforts, it’s time to leapfrog.

But first, let’s back-up – Why is leapfrogging even necessary?

Several factors come into play

First, you are dealing with the wimp factor –

Your inbound lead is a wimp. Straight-up. He may be afraid to talk to people in upper management. Maybe he doesn’t want to interrupt busy bosses. Or he’s worried they will reject his idea and possibly demote him, or worse, fire him. Perhaps he never had permission to speak to you in the first place, and now he’s caught between a rock and a hard place – a persistent salesperson (you) vs. a dreadful manager.

Like it or not, many people are employed in toxic work environments. They have to deal with layoffs, lousy morale, unpleasant bosses, endless gossip, etc. In those malicious environments, some employees are afraid to speak up or offer ideas.

Second, you were never working with the key decision maker –

Yes, people lie. Sure, they tell you they are the decision maker and puff up their responsibilities and role, but when push comes to shove, they play “duck and cover” when you start insisting on a decision. Of course, maybe you should have asked tougher questions in the beginning about how decisions are made, and if others are involved in the decision-making process besides your initial contact.

And third, you are getting drawn into office politics –

Never underestimate the power of office politics when it comes to hurting your chances of landing a sale. You may think everyone loves your products or services, and that the world revolves around you, but that’s rarely the case.

For example, several years ago I was trying to sell a password security software program to a major hospital. While the IT Director admitted to me that my company’s software was better than the competition, he had to purchase the other program over mine. Why? Office politics. Because my prospect was hired recently as the IT Director, he didn’t feel he earned enough brownie points or confidence yet in upper management to recommend a higher price – but better – program. As a result, he purchased what he knew to be an inferior, but a cheaper product, to keep his job.

On the other hand, around the same time, I was also working with another IT Director at a major university. He held his position for nearly 20 years. His colleagues and upper management respected him. So, when he recommended that the academic institution purchase my company’s software, he faced very little opposition or objection.

leapfrog over your first leadHow do you leapfrog?

First, research and find out who you think the key decision maker is.

Second, send him an email briefly describing your conversations with your initial contact (but don’t chastise him).

Third, in the same email, explain the value that you are offering the company.

And finally, propose the next steps – e.g., schedule a phone call, meeting, online tour, etc.

Then wait a few days and follow-up again. Send another email. Make some phone calls. Leave some voice mail messages. You know the drill.

Sometimes the critical decision maker will respond quickly. He may even ask your initial lead to contact you to continue the sales process with firm marching orders on how to proceed with you.

Or, maybe nothing happens at all. In which case, you may have to go higher up the ladder until you reach someone who will see the value of what you are offering and continue with the sales process.

Yes, you may offend your initial lead. Yes, you may not get the sale.

But when you’re hitting a brick wall, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea to pursue.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

In Sales, How to Deal with the Hand-off

the hand offYou spent weeks, if not months, working with your client to close the sale. Just when you think you finally see dollar signs in your eyes, your client decides to hand you off to someone else.

What just happened?

You just got handed over to someone else who may or may not give a damn about what you are selling. In fact, he may never even have heard of you or your company before.

Why did this happen?

First, your client wasn’t a serious buyer. Sure, he may have told you he was the decision maker, but he lied. Don’t be surprised. It happens. In fact, it happens all the time.

Second, maybe your client is interested, but he’s too busy working on other projects, or suddenly, a personal or professional crisis occurred, and he has to break discussions with you temporarily. Because what he’s going through isn’t your business, he hands you off to some flunky or low-level employee to keep you busy for a while until he gets his affairs in order.

Third, he honestly wants a second opinion from an outside expert or consultant, so he decides to have an outsider hear what you are pitching. This happened to me once when I was selling password security software. After months of free trials and online tours, the decision maker wanted to cover his ass, so he decided to bring in a cybersecurity expert to review the software I was selling. Was I confused and hurt? A little. But then I put myself in my client’s place – because this was going to be a significant order for him, he wanted to get a second opinion before signing the dotted line. If I were in his place, I probably would have done the same thing.

So, rather than get my feelings hurt, I decided to treat the outside consultant with respect. I repeated all my online tours. I provided him with all the information I sent to my client. I patiently listened to all his questions and answered them accordingly. In a couple of months, my efforts paid off – I won over the consultant, he became my advocate, and I got the large order.

How to avoid the hand-off?

First, make sure your client is the decision maker. And in most cases, the decision maker isn’t always one person. Sometimes decisions are made by a series of people in upper management or even by a committee.

Second, try to get a time commitment from your client. What is his deadline? Is there a sense of urgency on your client’s part to making a purchase? Or, is he just window shopping.

And finally, if you do get handed off, don’t panic. Depending on what you’re selling, the sales process could take a long time. Be persistent. Be professional. And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea. And who knows, your current fish that you’re trying to reel in may just voluntarily jump on your boat when you least expect it.

A hand-off doesn’t always mean you’re getting the backhand. It just means you have to work harder to seal the deal.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book: Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

 

Decision Makers, Part 4

decision makers in the sales processWhile the experts in the previous videos may have different tactics on how to find the decision maker, it’s clear how important it is to find that person. If not,  you may end up wasting precious time that you don’t have.

This is what I’ve done to find the right decision maker –

1). Do some research. Before making sales calls or following up on inbound requests, I take a few minutes to research the company on LinkedIn, the company’s website or if available through my employer, a lead generating tool.

2). Just ask. Hey, this isn’t the time to be shy. Your income is on the line here. Some questions I ask are –

a). Besides yourself, who else is involved in the decision-making process?

b). Can you explain to me how your company makes these kinds of decisions? Can you go through the process with me?

Once they review the decision-making process with me, I may ask – what role do you play in the decision-making process? If they tell me bluntly that they are the decision maker, wonderful! If they hem and haw, I will dig further.

3). My gut feeling. Sometimes my gut tells me that my prospect isn’t telling me the complete truth. It happens. I’ve had situations where I discover that the prospect is just doing his own research, and he even hasn’t told his boss what he’s doing. I don’t get angry. Instead, I try to bring him on board as an advocate for my employer’s products or services. I work with him and slowly try to build a consensus with him and others on his team. This is especially true if you are dealing with a large company that has a long sales cycle. You just have to be patient.

4). More than one decision maker. Contrary to popular belief, these days there may be more than one decision maker. This is especially true at large companies. While one person may sign on the dotted line (usually someone in finance), it may take several discussions with several key players to reach that point. You just have to be patient.

When it comes to finding the right decision maker, take your time but be persistent. It will be worth it.

Decision Makers, Part 3

Tracey McCormack, Founder & CEO of McCormack Media Services, argues that these days many companies may not have a single decision maker, and that you need to build consensus within a company before a buying decision is made.

Here is her video –

John D. Mongillo, of Groovtoon Films, has some pretty blunt advice on why it’s important to find the right decision maker and what you need to do to accomplish this goal –

Decision Makers, Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I shared with you two videos from experts on how to find the right decision maker.

Below are more videos to help you –

Tom Hopkins, author and sales trainer, offers his suggestion on how to find the right decision maker –

Alan Gordon, the author of The Big Book of Sales, does an excellent presentation below on how to find the right decision maker –

Decision Makers, Part 1

One of the biggest mistakes sale people make is not always talking to the right person – the decision maker. You may spend days – if not weeks – talking to someone. You have done a presentation or webinar or two. Maybe the prospect has done a trial or two of your product or service. You have great rapport. You feel that you and the prospect are hitting it off well and you can almost see the money coming in.

And then it happens – he’s not the decision maker! In fact, he may not even be an employee, but an intern hired by someone to keep him busy or just do research.

You want to scream. You want to hit your fist against the wall. All that time wasted – but it could have been avoided if you have just taken the time to find out who the decision maker is.

Below and in the next few posts, are videos from YouTube on how sales experts would find the decision maker –

Rachel Gordon, a sales executive, suggests that you simply have to come out and ask who the decision maker is.

Here is her video below –

Jill Konrath, author, and speaker offers three ways of finding the right decision maker.

Here is her video below –