Inc. CEO Project Annual Summit - Thriving In A Brave New World, November 18 - 19, 2020.

Even if you can't get a promise of a sale, here's what you can do to keep the ball rolling.



Many organizations have had difficulty landing sales lately--especially closing deals involving larger and more complex products and services. The pandemic has slowed everything down to a snail's pace.


That's caused some companies I know to throw up their hands and shut things down. They figure it's too hard to try right now. But I challenge you to think differently about the challenges we're all facing. If you can't land a sale right now, see if you can get the next best thing--a promise for a sale.


Let's say that you have done all the work to push a potential sale as far as you possibly can. The client has agreed that they want to move forward, just not right now. There are a variety of reasons someone might not be ready to buy today. That might be a result of future uncertainty or lack of budget or maybe even that some other project is ahead of it in the client's pipeline. But if they are still interested, the project makes total sense, they want to solve that problem and are willing to promise you a sale in the future, that's not the worst place to be, even if it's not exactly a guarantee.


I remember my sales manager days and when the sales team brought me a promise of a sale, I would immediately discount the likelihood of closing that sale to 50 percent or less. But a 50 percent chance of closing a sale is much better than a zero percent chance.


What happens if things have gotten so bad that you can't land an order or a promise in a difficult economy? You still have options, if you're thoughtful about how you might put yourself in position to gain strategic position in the future.


1. Build Relationships

You can make efforts to build deeper relationships with your existing and potential customers. Rather than thinking like you would in transaction mode, where you are trying to land a sale above all else, your goal here is to consider how you might give something for free to help build a longer-term relationship with that client. Maybe that's loaning them an engineer to help solve a problem or maybe even allowing them to use your product for free for a period.


The hope, of course, is that your customer will remember the good deeds you did when things turn around and they're ready to spend again. I have found that the deeper my understanding of their situation and company is, the more problems I can solve and the more I can sell. You can monetize deeper relationships through better service to clients.


2. Give Something Away to Gain Position

If you have the right kind of product, giving something away right now could even make it easier to trigger a sale down the road.


For example, I'm involved with a company that offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product. Typically, the sales process for the product can be long and sophisticated. So, the team developed a "light" version--software with fewer features but including some of the best ones to hopefully hook the users to its appeal. The company also offered the light version for free--all with the intent to get as many new users as possible to install the software.


Using this approach, the company gained more than 100 new potential clients, who, later, should be ready to upgrade to the more robust product which they would be willing to pay for. Even if just 50 percent of those users converted to the paid product, it would represent a huge leap forward for the business--in a time when no one was selling anything.



That's why, even if you might be struggling to land sales orders these days, your next best option is to get a promise of one in the future. And even if those promises are hard to secure, you have options for putting yourself in excellent strategic position to land sales in the future.


Jim Schleckser

jimschleckser@incceoproject.com