• Bill Petrie

When it's Time to Say Goodbye

To buy or not to buy - that is the question.

Whether personal or professional, I’ve never been a big fan of goodbyes because it signals the end of something in a final way. Many times, goodbyes aren’t voluntary and are usually made more difficult by an inherent sadness that lingers like a bitter aftertaste of an over-hopped IPA. However, there are times when goodbye is the best outcome.

As any salesperson worth their salt knows, the most difficult part of the sales process is getting a prospect to sign on the dotted line. Of course, prospecting, showing value, and building rapport are also challenging. Still, the final step of closing the deal is the most onerous and arduous of the sales journey – one that is exacerbated when prospects are allowed to delay making a decision.

Take, for instance, something we experienced at brandivate every salesperson can relate. When we launched the company in July of last year, we were fortunate enough to have immediate revenue opportunities – something critical to any startup. Some of these came via our marketing efforts, others through relationships, and still others by way of referral, and, as you might imagine, each potential client excited us.

Throughout the next few weeks, we were able to speak with all of the prospects with predictable results:

  • We closed some who became clients

  • A few just wanted a better understanding of the value we could provide

  • Two were seeking services that we didn’t offer

However, there’s one prospect who we remember the most, simply because it’s the one we spent the most time, energy, and effort on.

Just like any client sales journey, we held an initial meeting to understand what problem the prospect was seeking to solve. Without getting into great detail, this company had a severe marketing problem – mainly because in their over 50 years in business, they’ve never had to do any marketing to support the business. However, with the pandemic, sales had slipped, and they were seeking different avenues to connect with potential clients. Candidly, we were excited because this falls under the “ideal client” category: they had a defined pain point, and we firmly believed we knew how to solve it.

As you might predict, we eagerly put together a proposal that outlined what we would do, a list of clearly defined deliverables, the suggested term of the engagement, and, of course, the cost of the rendered services. That’s when the brakes got tapped.

The prospect requested a meeting to review the proposal, and we gladly accommodated. After our meeting, they seemed eager to move forward until their silence told us otherwise. We reached out, and another meeting was scheduled where we were asked to adjust the proposal for a one-off project so they could “try before they buy.” Since there was no working history with the prospect, we gladly redid the proposal for an agreed-upon project and delivered it to the contact, where it was again met with silence. More phone calls, several meetings, two more proposals, and several months later, the prospect verbally agreed to start in January after the holidays.

When we did reach out in January to finally close the sale, the prospect asked for another meeting as they were unclear of what work we would be doing for them. As mentioned above, a detailed list of defined deliverables was part of each proposal. At that point, we knew it was time to say goodbye to this particular prospect. We politely declined the meeting and expressed that we believed it would be a loss of time – both ours and theirs – to have another meeting. We closed the email by expressing our gratitude for the opportunity and that we would be ready to engage with them when they decide they are ready.

Goodbye never felt so good.

To be clear, the fact that the prospect danced with us for over six months without becoming a client doesn’t make them bad people at all. Perhaps we didn’t communicate our value in a way that made them feel comfortable with the cost of services. It’s possible they merely weren’t in a place to make a decision. It could be they never intended to do business with us, and they were too nice to say no. Regardless of the reason, it was time to move on and say goodbye.

As salespeople and business owners, we have to protect our most precious commodity: time. Every salesperson and business owner has that gut feeling when they know the sale won’t be made, and it’s time to move on from a prospect, but it’s still so frustratingly painful to say goodbye. We want to believe that just one more phone call will work because they told us to check back in two weeks – even when we know that in two weeks, we will be asked to follow up in another two weeks.

There comes the point in every sales journey where the person being sold needs to decide: to buy or not to buy. After every question is answered, every objection refuted, and every concern addressed, a decision has to be made – and if the prospect doesn’t make it, the salesperson must. Regardless of the sales cycle’s length, there has to be an ending, whether driven by the prospect or the salesperson.

Express appreciation for the opportunity, let them know you’re available to answer any questions should they pop up, and say goodbye. No following up, no emails to just “check in,” and no messages to see if anything has changed – if you have built rapport and it was meant to be, they will contact you. By saying goodbye, you respect yourself, the prospect, and the sales process because there has to be an ending.

Goodbyes are still tricky, but many times knowing when to say it is the most powerful sales tool to grow your business.

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