Preaching to the Converted: They say they're interested, but they're not buying. It's time to turn your sales contact into a coach

By Colleen Francis

We all get bogged down by slow-moving deals. But few things are more frustrating - or time-wasting - than a sale that stalls despite the enthusiastic assurances of your client contact, that internal supporter who stresses, "We really are interested in your product - but you have to be patient!"

These supporters may seem like helpful allies, but in reality they're unwitting enemies. It's not that they want to string you along and block access to the people who can make the purchase. In fact, they may sincerely want to take the deal forward. But chances are they don't have the power or influence to make it happen. To get a derailed deal back on track, you need to turn your supporter into a coach, someone who can show you how to get the deal done.

But here's another problem: in debriefing hundreds of sales cycles, I've noticed that too many salespeople mistake supporters for true coaches. How can you tell the difference?

Coaches exhibit these five qualities:

They trust and confide in you

They have the trust and confidence of the people in power

They have a personal stake in this project

You ask them to be a coach, and they accept

They translate words into action, and agree to a plan that helps you both move the sales cycle forward

If your contact is not a coach and your deal is stuck, you have three choices:

Let it ride, cross your fingers and hope it will eventually go your way

Go over the supporter's head to jumpstart the deal

Go to your supporter to get the deal moving

Hoping and wishing and praying are never the best sales strategies, so forget about the first option. Option B risks sacrificing the trust and rapport you have built with your contact and their colleagues, which could cause the deal to fail. What you need are the choices and the strong relationship provided by Option C.

That means turning your advocate into a coach. Try the following plan to get stuck deals back into action:

SALESPERSON: "I have enjoyed working with you on this project, and I think you have a great vision. My concern is that no one else here really supports this to the extent they are willing to take personal ownership to get it done. If this project fails, will any one other than you notice?"

SUPPORTER: "Oh, yes, there are many."


SUPPORTER (after a long and uncomfortable silence): "I guess, really, there's no one."

SALESPERSON:"I'm sorry to hear that, but if it's reality, we need to deal with it. What should we do?"

At this point your advocate has two options:

You're right and there's no genuine interest in investYou're right and there's no genuine interest in investigating the deal, in which case you should politely close the file and move onto other prospects; or,

The supporter realizes they must take you to those interested in the deal and able to push it along, i.e., "I guess I need to take you in to see my boss!"

Knowing how to transform supporters into coaches is the first step to resuscitating dormant deals. Using your coach to get to the decision makers will ensure the sales cycle gets rolling again. Now it's up to you and the coach to win over the boss.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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