You 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.
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.
How 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.