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


The Holiday Season is not a slow sales time

Unless you are working in retail, most salespeople consider the holiday season to be a slow sales time. And for good reason. Many key decision makers are taking a long holiday break. Some companies will close down between Christmas Day through New Year’s Day. And even if you are making a lot of sales calls, you are being told to “call back next year.”

But don’t be fooled.

lazy salesman during the holiday seasonHere are five reasons why you shouldn’t slow down during the holiday season –

1). Key Decision Makers may be working – Not all decision makers are taking a long holiday break. For some, the last couple weeks of December may be a quiet time for them to work. They assume that most salespeople are not going to call them, so they give their receptionist time off. Without the gatekeeper present, this is your chance to catch the decision maker off guard. Lonely and perhaps eager to speak with someone, the decision maker may actually take your call and engage in a good constructive conversation that could yield an order.

2). Holiday Cheer – perhaps happy for having a good solid year, the decision maker may be more receptive to taking your call and speaking with you.

3). Your competitors are not calling – Your competitors are under the age-old assumption that the holidays are a “bad time” to make sales calls, so they are taking a long holiday vacation. With your competitors out-of-the-way, you will have a better shot at reaching the decision maker.

4). Build up your prospect list– OK, maybe you are in one of those industries where historically many of your clients are not going to be available during the holidays. So what are you going to do? Drink all the eggnog, pig out on all the Christmas cookies, and feel sorry for yourself? Hell no. Start building up your prospect list. Do some research and start uncovering some hidden gems that you didn’t see before. While you may be riding the gravy train receiving inbound leads, not all prospects are going to call you. Track them down, enter them in your CRM (Customer relationship management), do some research on them, and make plans to call them early next year.

5). Brush up – Now is the time to brush up on your product knowledge. Maybe read some industry newsletters or learn more about what your competitors are doing that could impact your sales. Sure, kick back and watch some classic Christmas movies, but don’t forget to read some classic sales books too.

The holiday season is a time to relax. A time to connect with your family and friends. I get that. But don’t be completely off your guard or do a brain slide. Because while you’re spending time ringing in the New Year, your competitors may be ringing the cash register with all the new sales that you should have received.

Note: If you like my post, please check out 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, 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 –