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Q. In a situation where I have made contact with the decision maker, I have provided samples and prices but it needs to go to the prospects’ quality control department.  Assuming that I have not been able to pre-schedule an in-person appointment or specific call back date for results, I end up wasting a tremendous amount of time to get one of three answers:

  1. No thanks.
  2. QC still not done.
  3. Yes, I’d like to plan an order.

I repeatedly call back and leave voice mail requests for an answer with no response.  Any ideas of how I can be more effective in this scenario?  Many sales people simply keep returning physically to the customer to try to get an answer, but I don’t think this is any more effective than phone calls.

Copyright MMX, by Dave Kahle

A. Let’s look at the situation from the customer’s point of view.  He probably has more important things to do than test your product.  Your project has become a low-on-the–to-do-list item.  He’ll get to it when he gets to it.

Why isn’t it any big deal to him?  Because you haven’t made it one.  In your proposal to him, you haven’t hit any sufficiently sensitive and intense hot buttons to motivate him to push the project out of the mode of standard operating procedures and attach some urgency to it.

Let’s say you’ve shown him that you can save him 3% on one component of his product.  Yawn.  That’s nice, but you aren’t going to unleash any torrents of energy devoted to pushing your deal through.  And, really, from his perspective, does it make any difference if he decides to buy it today, or he decides to buy it next month?  Probably not.  As a result, your deal continually gets pushed down the ever growing and changing list of things he has to do.

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So, the problem is that your customer isn’t motivated to push your project ahead of other things he has to do.  And the reason he isn’t motivated is because you haven’t given him a reason to be motivated. 

The place to address this issue is not after you have made the proposal, it is before.  Do two things.  First, in your information collecting, concentrate on finding the prospect’s hot button.  Find some things that the prospect is already passionate about.  Then when you make your proposal, show how your product helps him reach those goals and helps him achieve the things he is already passionate about.

The issue is motivation, and you don’t interject motivation, you discover it.  Discover what he’s already motivated about, and link your product to it.

Second, give him some reason to act by a certain date.  Maybe you have a special price promotion, or some service that he would value, etc.  There should be something the customer gains by acting by some date.  So your proposal should be “X” if he orders before some date, and “Y” if he orders after.  That gives him a reason to push your project up the to-do list.  Then, when you call and get voice mail and leave a message, you can remind him of what is at stake if he makes the decision by that date.

If you are able to put either or both of these pieces into play, you’ll find that most of the frustration with projects that linger forever is eliminated by preventing it on the front end of the sales process.
Good luck.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.

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