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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

In complex sales, your fiercest competitor is often “do nothing”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 17-Sep-2013

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It’s bad enough when, after a long, complex and resource-intensive sales campaign, you end up losing to the competition. But at least you’ve got the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere in the process you were probably outsold, or failed to acknowledge a competitor’s advantage that was always going to be difficult to defeat.

Do absolutely nothingBut what about the growing number of apparently well-qualified sales opportunities that fade away with the prospect deciding to “do nothing” at the end of the day? You might attempt to derive some comfort from the fact that at least you weren’t beaten by anyone else. However, that’s a pretty unsatisfying conclusion.

According to research conducted by CSO Insights, “do nothing” decisions have become increasingly common - and in today’s risk-averse buying climate you can understand why prospects behave in a deliberate and conservative manner. But what causes “do nothing” decisions, and what can you do to avoid them? Here are 3 common reasons:

The issue was never important enough

You can persuade prospects to talk to you - often at length - if you have something that is interesting to say or offer. You can get them to conduct a serious evaluation if what you have to say or offer is interesting to them. But unless you’ve identified an issue that is critical and urgent, chances are they will stick with the status quo.

Successful selling requires you to satisfy the following questions, in approximately the following sequence:

  • Why should the prospect change at all?
  • Why should the prospect change now, rather than later?
  • Why does your approach offer the least risk of all available options, including “do nothing”?

If you haven’t successfully answered all three questions, you probably deserve to lose - and you’d be better off recognising that early, and changing your sales strategy or qualifying out, rather than throwing resources at a dead or dying cause.

Your “champion” was never influential enough

It doesn’t matter how supportive your champion is - or even how positive the whole buying decision group are - if they lack the power and influence to get their recommendation approved by the final authority.

It doesn’t matter that you’ve beaten off all the obvious competitors - at this point, the real competition are all the other things the prospect organisation could do with the money and resources that could be spent on your project. This isn’t just about creating a positive ROI: it’s about emerging as the best of all the options open to them.

Not spending the money at all is one obvious choice - and if you haven’t equipped your champion to make the strongest possible case for change, it's an uncomfortably likely outcome. But the real competition could be a completely different project, potentially in a completely different part of the business.

You can be sure - particularly if your project is budget and resource-intensive - that someone in authority is going to ask something like “can you tell me again why we need to do this, and why we need to do this now?

If your champion doesn’t have a good answer, you’re probably toast...

Your sales people weren’t smart enough

It’s bad enough when sales people get outsold by the competition. But I'd argue that it’s no better when they get outsold by the status quo - and that’s where sales managers have a key role to play in curbing the sales person’s natural optimism and enthusiasm.

Tell me again, why is it that the prospect actually needs to do anything” and “what else is going on within the prospect that could compete for the budget and resources” are two questions I suggest every sales manager should ask of every sales opportunity.

And if you don’t like the answer, make sure you do something about it. Stimulate your sales people to think "out of the box" and put themselves in the prospect's shoes. Is their current approach really strong enough to challenge the lure of the status quo?

Topics: Complex Sales