A while ago at a conference I had dinner with two people. The first, (we’ll call her Janine) I had known since we worked together six years earlier. The second person (Ed), Janine and I had just met.
Janine described a sales challenge she was facing. She’d been working with two prospects at two different organizations, one for over a year and one for almost two. The typical sales cycle is 6 to 9 months, and these were both well beyond. She felt she was nearing a sale with both, but for all she knew, “nearing” might mean a year or two to go.
This is a fairly common sales challenge: The sale looks good, but it’s taking forever. Janine happened to be facing two at the same time.
As we talked, I asked Janine a number of questions. She believed that in both situations the buyers:
- were the decision makers,
- had the financial ability to buy,
- had a need,
- saw Janine’s company as differentiated and the preferred solution, and
- understood the business impact of buying from Janine to be substantial.
Her typical sale is in the low-six figures and is highly technical in nature and both of these sales were in the mid-six figures.
Janine had a strong relationship with both prospects. It was unlikely they were considering other providers, the solution was crafted jointly and conceptually agreed upon, and they expressed they were likely to move forward. Still, no decisions seemed imminent. Knowing Janine, I didn’t doubt her read on the situations.
When we got to this point in the conversation, Ed said, “If they haven’t bought by now, they’re not buying.” He then advised Janine to have the “fish or cut bait” conversation with each buyer. She might win and she might lose, but either way she can stop wasting her time and get on to other sales.
My reaction: Probably the wrong advice, but I needed to know a bit more.