This is a question I am frequently asked by sales people and leader alike - how exactly do you take control of a sale and avoid being at the mercy of your prospects and their own timelines?
There is unfortunately no silver bullet. You need to be structured in your approach, persistent, manage the cycle, deliver value and have them wanting what you have (not just assessing it cooly). Here are the six most important steps I advise everyone takes to avoid "the waiting game":
First of all, make sure that you properly qualify prospects before they enter your sales pipeline. If your typical sales cycle, from qualified lead to closed deal, last 3 months but you have a prospect who says they won’t be in a position to make a buying decision for 12 months - they shouldn’t be in your pipeline. This doesn’t mean you ignore them, add them to your mailing list and set reminders to contact them at the appropriate time. Just don’t distort your pipeline by adding them to it and don’t ‘wait’ for them - just leave them for the time being.
Second, when you have qualified leads, make sure you pitch and position your product before you show it to them and before they do their due diligence. You have to get them wanting what you have, not just going through the motions thinking they should probably take it. Get them excited about it and all the problems it will solve/opportunities it will open up for them. If you need help developing a pitch that does this, I have a few ideas for you here:
Deliver The Perfect Sales Pitch
Third, ask them to qualify why they would be a good customer. Seriously, there are usually plenty of fish in the sea (particularly if you have got a good prospecting process behind you) so don’t be afraid to ask why you should consider them as a customer, or how they will add value to the relationship (besides cash).
Fourth, set up a roadmap with defined activity and owners and stick to it. Is the next step a meeting with extra stakeholders? Set it now, not later. Are they due to test your product? How long should that take? Can you set a timelines with actions that are required by all parties at certain points? If so, do it. Then check in on them before those points are reached, when they are reached and afterwards. You’ve just got to be clear and consistent in your expectations.
Fifth, understand the role that risk plays in any decision. Not just for you, not just for the other company, but for the people making the decision. Make it less risky by a) making the deal easy to say yes to and b) ensuring as many stakeholders are on board so that no single person at your prospect can be blamed if something goes wrong. A common reason deals fail: It’s too risky for the primary decision maker to put his or her neck on the line.
Finally, this relates to a point I made earlier. Make sure you have a solid prospecting/sales development process with enough coming into the front end of the funnel and a great process along the way. This will help to ensure you have a large enough body of prospects that you don’t need to wait for one if they decide to slow down.
Ultimately, you can't force someone to buy what you have. But by ensuring you are doing all six of the above steps, you maximise the opportunity and you do so on your own terms.