As any of you who have ever carried a quota know only too well, getting to the apparent end of a long sales cycle and being told that you have been selected is no guarantee that you are going to walk away with an order - now, or at any time in the future.
Now, of course, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the prospect has lied to you, or that your competition can still out-execute you and go home with the business. But those are the obvious explanations.
I want to offer 5 more reasons that may help to explain why you can still lose a deal after you have been told you’ve been selected - and suggest some remedies.
1: Your Champion Has Inadequate Political Power
This is a classic, isn’t it? You’ve been getting on so well with your champion within the prospect. He or she has been sending you all the right signals. They have even been coaching you in what to do. Now they tell you that you’ve been selected, and you can expect an order shortly.
Don’t break out the champagne just yet. It turns out that your champion genuinely wants to go with you, but lacks the political power to sell you through the internal approval system. They may not even be aware of the hoops they are going to have to go through.
Assuming that your champion has your best interests - as well as theirs - at heart, you need to help them. You need to uncover not only how decisions are made, but how they are ratified. Ask your champion to consider similar recent situations. What happened? Who had the power? And how was it applied?
2: The Economic Case Isn’t Strong Enough
In most cases, having a strong Return on Investment (ROI) case is a necessary, but not a sufficient reason to buy. You also need to ensure that the potentially painful economic consequences of staying as they are have been identified and accepted. Unless there is a strong reason to act, the probable outcome is that they might just as well do nothing.
3: Sticking With the Status Quo is Less Risky
Which leads neatly to the third reason. Change carries risks. Risks that they may not have chosen the best solution. Risks that they may not be able to implement the solution effectively. Risks that the solution may not deliver the desired outcomes.
Today’s salespeople must be develop a keen awareness of the comfort of sticking with the status quo. They may not need to go as far as Stephen Elop of Nokia did in announcing that the platform they are standing on is burning, but they need to help their prospects anticipate and deal with the challenges of change.
4: The Prospects’ Priorities Have Changed
Your offering may very well be the best available solution to a well defined problem. The economic case may be sound. You may have assuaged your prospect's fears about the risks and challenges of change. But you still won’t get the order, because other problems have a higher priority.
If you’ve involved in long sales cycles for complex, high-value products or solutions, you need to take particular care to ensure that the problem you started off solving remains at or near the top of the priority list for your prospect. Deals often assume a momentum of their own, and can easily end up drifting on like the Marie Celeste in still waters that are flowing nowhere.
5: You Lose to Something Completely Different
The final Pythonesque twist comes when they spend the budget you thought had been allocated to your project on something completely different. On office furniture instead of a new server. Or on a social media campaign instead of an ERP system.
Yes, the priorities may have changed, but it’s also possible that your champion has simply been outsold. You owe it to them (and, let’s face it, there’s enlightened self interest in this for you, as well) to ensure that you’ve equipped them in every respect to make the best possible case on your behalf.
And if you haven’t, frankly, you deserve to lose.
Best Practices Checklist
Are you selling complex, high-value B2B solutions? I've captured many of today's best go-to-market practices in a 20-point self assessment checklist. You can download it here. Please take a few moments to complete it. I'm sure you’ll find at least one idea that could help you drive better sales performance.
p.s., if you found this article interesting, why not subscribe to our blog?