A young salesman that works for a client of mine asked me why prospects that initially seemed very interested would stop returning his phone calls after he gave them a presentation and demo of the product and provided ball-park pricing. Let’s look at what happened to see what wasn’t working for him.
The conversation would go something like this:
Prospect: “I saw your product on your website, and it seems like it might be a fit for us. Would you give us a demo so we can see if we’re right about that?”
Salesman: “Sure, let’s schedule an hour later this week and I’ll show you the product. I’m sure you’ll be impressed.”
The presentation and demo take place as scheduled, with the salesman doing his best to show the prospect all the features and benefits of the product.
Prospect: “That looks pretty good. What will it cost us?’
Salesman (reluctantly): Well, I really don’t know enough about your situation to give you a good idea of price.”
Prospect: “Well, we really just need a ball-park idea so we can decide how we might implement. We won’t hold you to it.”
Salesman: “Well, OK… the range is between $25,000 and $40,000, depending on a number of variables we haven’t defined yet. We should schedule another meeting to explore what you really need, and then I’ll be able to give you a more precise number.”
Prospect: “OK. We’re really busy for the next couple of weeks – I’ll get back to you to schedule the meeting.”
Salesman: “OK, if I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks, I’ll give you a call as well.”
The sales opportunity then goes into what I call an “infinite sales cycle” – repeated phone calls and emails get no response from the prospect, and what looked like a pretty good opportunity in the beginning ends up being a frustrating time waster. So, what went wrong?
What happened is that this opportunity went through an entire sales cycle in two sales calls. Here’s what really happened in the conversation….
Prospect: “Can I see the product?”
Salesman: “Sure. Look at this.”
Prospect: “How much is it?”
Salesman: “25 – 40K.”
The prospect finds out everything they want to know from the salesman, and the salesman doesn’t find out anything from the prospect. The salesman doesn’t know what problem the prospect is trying to solve, what the cost of not solving the problem might be, and what the prospect is trying to accomplish. He has no chance of demonstrating any value his product might bring to the prospect. He’s letting the prospect do his work for him – and the prospect is likely not competent to evaluate the product and its effects on his operation. The prospect ends up with no compelling reason to move ahead with an evaluation, and decides not to spend any more time on it.
This is a tremendous disservice to both the salesman and the prospect – the salesman doesn’t get an order, and the prospect is missing an opportunity to solve what might be an important and expensive problem. In my next post, we’ll see how to avoid the short sales cycle problem and actually help the prospect solve his problem and help him accomplish his goals.