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Sales process: Selling to large organizations in complex sales cycles | Sinking ships

Our five-part series entitled Selling to large organizations in complex sales cycles presents an overview as well as the elements of a successful sales strategy. This article is a bonus to round out the series— a “bonus article” as the theme here is to know when to abandon the sale with a prospective buyer as opposed to how to win it.


Why abandon the sales process?

Not every sales process with a prospective buyer will result in a sale (although it would certainly be nice if it did). The key is to look for the signals to understand whether you are making progress or if you are simply spinning your wheels. This is certainly more of an art than a science, as there are no definitive signs. However, if enough implicit signals are coming through, it may be time to abandon ship and focus sales energies on new buyer prospects.

Halting a sales process is one of the hardest things for a salesperson to do—but your time is a precious asset and wasting that time will be detrimental to your overall success.

Signs of a sinking ship

Signs a salesperson can watch for to see whether they are on a sinking ship that should be abandoned:

  • The buyer only says yes: Any sales process will involve its share of challenges. One of them will be the prospective buyer saying no—whether it’s to the initial price offered or some other component, “no” will almost certainly come up. If a prospective buyer says yes to everything, they may not be fully engaged or serious about the sales process.
  • You hear of a single decision-making authority: As we discussed in Part 5 of this series, the number of decision makers in B2B purchases has risen dramatically over the past few years. So, if a prospective buyer indicates they are the sole decision maker, regard this as a cause of concern that they have not engaged others in the sales process.
  • Price does not come up: No matter the product or service, selling on value is most often the best approach. Of course, a part of value is price, and the question of price will generally surface early in the process. If the prospective buyer does not ask about the price or is unwilling to discuss it, this may be yet another sign the prospective buyer does not intend to purchase your product.

Sales process reality: Giving up is sometimes worthwhile

As we mentioned previously, abandoning a sales process at any stage is very difficult to do. Giving up on that investment is never a great feeling. However, investing additional time when signals suggest the process will not succeed is even worse.

Pay attention to the signs and try to be as unemotional as possible when making decisions about time and commitment.


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by Jeff Bilyea