The Dreaded Black Hole – When they Stop Taking Your Calls

It must be one of the most frustrating things for anyone in sales, when the customer you though was a definite, stops taking your calls!

Sales Proposals
Everyone knows that nothing escapes a black hole, no feedback, no phone calls, no orders, and no visibility. This is the black hole that yawns as you send off the sales proposal. All you can do is wait!

Avoiding the uncertainty of the post proposal black hole depends on a series of things that must be done earlier in the sales process. Once a sales proposal has been sent, it is too late. Sales closing in B2B situations rests on early initiatives.

Here are some of the rules we normally observe before we agree to formally proposing a solution.

Get definite confirmation that you understand the issues that the customer wants to address. Submit your written description of the situation, goals and objectives to the decision maker and key influencers in advance of submitting a sales proposal. Then ask for a definite confirmation that you have a correct understanding of the needs and that you have not missed anything out.

Develop a complete understanding of the customers evaluation and commit process. Your sales process needs to compliment the customers buying process. If a customer hasn't thought it through there is an opportunity to help them recognise and prepare for the internal hurdles they will need to leap if the project or purchase is to go ahead.
Make a point of agreeing the schedule they are working to so that you can fulfil your part in a timely fashion. Look for opportunities to help the customer address anticipated internal difficulties. Turn the sales process into a buying process collaboration.

Get a definite confirmation from the decision maker and key influencers that your solution truly meets their needs. To do this you must understand all of the criteria your solution will be measured against. If a definite yes or no is impossible, ask for a rating out of ten. If you get a ‘seven’ or less for any aspect of your solution you must change your proposal to improve it, or gain agreement from the customer that it isn't important. A ‘seven’ is just ‘OK’ and ‘OK’ is not good enough.

Identify and agree with the customer what performance measurements will indicate if the solution is delivering the expected results.
Get a definite confirmation from the decision maker that the investment is within their means and expectations.
Make an appointment to present your solution to the decision maker and key influencers. The presentation is an opportunity to gauge response and make adjustments. If it is not important enough for the customer to commit the necessary time to make sure that the proposed solution will meet their needs, either the project is low priority or you are not the front runner. In either case, you should consider the wisdom of continuing or devise a way to change the situation.

Gain agreement that in the event of the customer selecting another supplier, you will be granted a debrief meeting or conversation. This is to ensure that you get an opportunity to learn what you could have done differently to have improved your chances of success.

Gain agreement that if you succeed in winning the business and all goes well, the customer will make introductions to appropriate business partners, suppliers, or customers who might benefit in the same way.