You finally got the meeting with a prospect you’ve been after for months. It went great! You asked about their pain points, had a great conversation about how your product would be the perfection solution to their problem, and the prospect agreed. After a firm handshake and promise to speak again soon, you headed out to your car with a big smile on your face and used your Salesforce app to advance the opportunity to “verbal commitment” on the spot. But now it’s been three weeks and your emails and calls go unreturned; no P.O. and no idea why. What happened?
Unless your B2E product fulfills a mandate or other urgently time-driven purchase request, you are going to experience a lot of highs and lows from prospects. Educators can get very excited about new ideas and the prospect of launching a new program. But when the heat of the moment passes, they return to their busy schedules, think about all the moving pieces of their school or district’s curriculum plan and technology plan, ponder unknowns that might be coming down the pike from state or federal policy, and debate adding one more thing to their teachers’ plates. They perseverate and they stall. Sometimes indefinitely.
What can you do to move them to action?
- Push for buying signs beyond “enthusiasm.” Smiles and promises are not good indicators that you have succeeded. Setting an implementation or training date, identifying the funding source for the purchase, conducting a teacher orientation, or presenting to the prospect’s supervisor are things that happen with an imminent sale. If they are not moving forward, your sale isn’t.
- Always set the next appointment before you leave. This is awkward so you have to make yourself do it. The prospect’s time is up, they like you, you’d rather shuffle out on a happy note than get a “no” on asking for a second meeting. That’s fool’s gold. Open your calendar and ask your prospect to do the same. Put a follow up conversation or live meeting on your calendars on the spot. If they are hedging, you are going to remind them all the positive things that were just discussed.
- Ask to get in front of teachers. Whether you sell at the school or district level, the real boss is in the classroom. You’ll sell more and with a higher retention rate if you insist upon meeting with all or a representation of teachers as part of the early sales process. Sometimes this will convert into a pilot or other form of sampling. Handle this smartly for your business. Keep it short, contained, and highly managed.
- Talk money. Most reps have no problem discussing price, but few ask pointed questions about how the prospect plans to fund the project they are bubbling over about. I estimate this lack of planning is what leads to half of all stalled B2E sales. Right after you quote your pricing, say, “What funds are available to cover that?” or “Most of my clients use X funds for their purchase. Will that be the same for you?” You can also ask if there is already money budgeted to solve the problem that you’ve been discussing, or suggest purchases they can eliminate next year when they move to your solution. This part of the conversation is almost a consulting assignment for you to get that prospect visualizing how they are going to get this purchase accomplished. Don’t risk leaving them to figure this out on their own after their enthusiasm has died down.
- Set up a reference check. Some prospects will ask you for references, but many do not. You’ll be more successful when you generate the comfort of “safety in numbers.” Make it a routine step to schedule a call between each of your prospects with a current customer. Startups I know that is hard for you, but you can create a webinar with your best early customers and send the recorded link to your prospects. Depending on the hosting software, you’ll get a notification that they’ve watched it or you can keep reminding them to do it. When your business is more established, you’ll thank yourself for all the extra service you provide them because you can ask for these favors.
It’s critical to stay on your prospects, taking nothing for granted. Purchase orders rarely just “show up” one day. You need to maintain constant contact with your pipeline in order to earn those orders. Try some of the fresh follow-up ideas in “10 Things You Can Say Instead of ‘Checking In’.” And don’t lose heart! While ours is a long sales cycle, the same spark that ignited your prospect’s interest can be rekindled when all the pieces come together. Remember that assembling teacher consensus, budget management, and district approval is part of your role in helping that opportunity come to fruition.