It’s a punch in the gut for your organization. A deal is chugging along. If you are a sales rep, you’ve got the proposal drawn up and ready to send. If you are in sales management, you’ve penciled it in as likely to close and added it to your quarterly forecast. Suddenly, your enthusiastic, well-qualified opportunity goes cold. Then, you hear this:
“Actually, can we revisit this in a few weeks?”
“I’ll just need to get sign-off from my boss.”
“We’ll be in touch.”
Even with all the sophisticated sales intelligence available at your fingertips, well-oiled deals that suddenly take a nosedive are all too common. That’s because customers have already embarked on a complex buying trajectory well before they reach out to you. By that time, you’re already racing against the buzzer to figure out what their internal influences and timelines actually are.
Here are some common signs that indicate you’re wasting time on low-hanging fruit or leads that will go cold.
1. You can’t chase down the real decision makers.
A solid deal involves direct access to purse strings and the power, and most sales involve multiple influencers at multiple stages. Even if your initial pitch was spot-on, proposing an attractive package that solves a definite need and moves the buying team forward won’t work until your organization can nail down commitment from all the power players.
You might have a strong champion who advocates for your product internally, but doesn’t influence internal decision making or have a real grasp of requirements from other departments that can surface down the line and delay a deal. They may even indicate strong buy-in from their team, only to give you the run around once you try to schedule a meeting with other decision makers.
If your reps are getting consistent push back when trying to punch upwards and reach key buyers, the deal might be on the brink of fizzling out instead of boosting your bottom line.
2. Meeting their budget means building a bridge to nowhere.
“How much is this going to cost me?” It’s often the first question out of the gate, but it shouldn’t be the only one.
If a prospect comes in with a laser focus on price, they can have blinders on to the total value and business impact of your solution. Conversations that revolve around comparing your product to a different class or category of similar products can turn a lead that initially checked all the boxes into a nightmare when you’re trying to round out an actual contract.
It’s tempting to make concessions on pricing to close business, but it’s also critical to recognize when either party can’t cross the budget chasm. It’s best to know early what those limits truly are. When prospects turn on the tunnel vision around cost, there’s often little light left at the end to save the deal.
3. They’re saying yes—too much.
If a prospect gives you the OK on everything without much feedback, it’s usually a bad sign. It can be a dead deal cloaked in positivity. Limited feedback can mean a lack of due diligence in reviewing competitor pricing or gathering internal requirements on their end. Maybe they’ve already made a decision for another product, and are simply being polite and/or don’t want to waste anyone’s time on research.
Or your solution could be overkill and you are demonstrating features that are beyond their needs or comprehension. A prospect might need a small fraction of what your product does. Some businesses might not be ready for the type of transformation your product will bring to their organization, even if they indicate otherwise.
At the end of the day, even a customer who is completely sold on your solution will need to ask hard questions to show they are doing the research needed to justify the purchase. A customer that simply smiles and agrees is rarely ready to make a purchase.
4. There’s no timeline.
You could offer the perfect fit for a client’s needs and hit the sweet spot on price. If they’re hesitant to define the next buying steps, you’re chasing a shadow, not a sale. Sales cycles can last years, but successful deals have milestones that are outlined and agreed upon by all parties and driven by immediate needs.
Pushing for fine print can help anticipate a timeframe — or lack of one. Does the client have budget they need to use up in a particular period or restrictions around how they can spend funds? Is this purchase connected to larger corporate initiatives or purchases? Are there factors that could potentially impact or delay a decision timeline?
If you can’t get answers to these questions, the client may not have enough motivation to make a purchase. There is no compelling event. If the prospect starts giving you the silent treatment leading up to or on agreed-upon deadlines or booking next steps, you’re at risk of the deal rolling over into the next quarter, indefinitely. No timeline means no deal.
Ideally, your qualifying and discovery process should unearth many of these issues early on, but the answers may not be evident to either you or the client from the start. Know when to walk away from a deal that’s gone too far off the rails and focus your energy elsewhere.