Now is a good time to revisit lost proposals. Why? Because the circumstances might be different in 2021 and your prospect might be willing to pick them up again. New budget year. Capital costs are lower. The need for being more competitive, profitable, and valuable is higher than ever. And as with any sale, you can find new ways to reframe the benefits, this time emphasizing the non-utility-cost financial and non-financial benefits rather than limiting the conversation to utility-cost savings and rebates.
Another tactic that works well is “hypothetical selling.” If you can’t sell in the present, you could set up a sale in the future. Ask your prospect a question like, “Would this project be something that you’d approve immediately if your budget weren’t frozen?” Then just sit back and take a sip of water, giving the other person some time to think about it and respond with an honest answer.
What they say might surprise you. “Yeah, actually I was ready to do this. I was ready to pull the trigger, but then my boss and the budget committee needed to approve it and the project stalled.” So, where do you go from there? It’s plain and simple. First, acknowledge the prospect’s disappointment at being foiled in the approval process. Then, ask what steps need to be taken in order to get the job done so that they will be prepared to pull the trigger as soon as the budget freeze is lifted. While you’re on the subject, you should ask them how soon you could start that process of preparation. You might be able to get started that day.
Of course, if they say, “Well, actually, even if the budget hadn’t been frozen, I still would have had to address ‘x’ and ‘y’...” Guess what? Now you have new information and know that you need to check some additional boxes even before taking the tack of hypothetical selling.
Hypothetical selling is particularly effective because the prospect’s guard is down. They have already told you and you have already agreed that you’re not going to sell them anything today. Now it’s just a conversation between two equals. This leaves a lot of leeway.
I’m not guaranteeing that this process will be easy. While hypothetically selling, keep in mind that there are differences between objections, resistance, and rejection.
- Objections. An objection is actually a question. Think of it as a stepping stone to an answer. The more you prepare for this, the better. That’s why I recommend maintaining an Objections Archive.
- Resistance. Resistance is what stops a transaction from moving forward. As long as you don’t invalidate the objection, which would increase your prospect’s resistance, you’ll find it easier to come to a mutual agreement.
- Rejection. Rejection is blunt. In comical terms, it’s the guy who says, “Don’t ever call me again. I’m going to get a court order so you can never email me, visit me, call me, or mail me anything because you’re an idiot.” This isn’t likely to happen, because it’s knucklehead behavior. I’m simply reminding you that rejection is absolute. In most cases, what you think is the end of the game actually isn’t. Just because someone says “No” doesn’t mean “Never.”
The good news is that complete rejection is uncommon. Objections and resistance are parts of the sales process that you can prepare for. If you proactively and preemptively address a prospect’s doubts and concerns and diffuse them, you can move forward with a better tack.