Backchannel sales: How to close more deals with less effort by involving others

by Steli Efti

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You’ve qualified a prospect and know they’re a good fit. It would be in their own interest to buy from you, because no other product or service will provide as much value to them as yours.

Yet, this prospect isn’t buying. The sales conversation moves along sluggishly, and the prospect isn’t willing to commit. You’ve done everything in your power to make it happen, but you can feel the deal slipping away.

And that might just be the core of the problem: YOU have done everything in your power to make it happen. Maybe all this prospect needs now is a little nudge from someone else.

In this post, I’m going to share with you how you can salvage this deal (and get slow-moving deals over the finish line faster).

Looking through the eyes of the prospect

See things from your prospect’s perspective. He’s been interacting with you for a while, and according to you, the sales rep, this is a perfect match! Basically, you’ve led the prospect to conclude that he absolutely should buy, because what you’re selling can help him achieve his goals faster than anything else.

So why doesn’t he buy?

Because you’re a salesperson! And the prospect expects you to try to sell to him on your offer and “do what salespeople do.” Because “all salespeople are conmen and bullshit artists and you can’t trust them, because all they care about is their commission.”

It doesn’t matter how much you care, how honest you are, how skillful you sell. There’s a little voice in the back of your prospect’s head that tells him: don’t be taken for a sucker. So don’t try to talk your way through this. Try something much simpler.

Get someone else involved!

The CEO. An engineer. Someone from support. The VP of Sales. Someone from your Customer Success team. A happy customer. One of your company’s investors.

The higher up you go, the better this will work. But I’ll show you how getting anyone involved, no matter what their place in the hierarchy is, can help move a deal forward.

Let me share three examples with you.

3 ways to use backchannel sales

You can use this tactic in many sales situations, but here are three of the most common scenarios.

Following up when a prospect goes silent

You’ve followed up multiple times, but your prospect won’t respond. Now’s the time to escalate the deal to someone of higher status, like the CEO and ask him to send an email like this:

sales-follow-up-email-by-ceo.png

When the prospect sees that the CEO took time to send over a personal email, he will often respond. He might even apologize that he hasn’t been more responsive. The deal will come back into play because he’ll feel valued and respected.

Handling a missing feature objection

Let’s say the prospect has emphasized the need for a certain feature that you can’t currently offer, and which is not on your immediate product road map. But the underlying problem is one your product will be able to address well soon. You’ve explained this and asked all the right questions, but the prospect isn’t satisfied.

You could loop in someone from Customer Success to let them address the prospect’s concern.

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You could also address your prospect’s concerns about the shortcomings of your product by looping in an engineer that’s eager to work on this. Or a VP of Sales that is lobbying for this feature.

Resolving conflicts when there was a misunderstanding

Sales at it’s core is about communication, and whenever two or more people communicate, misunderstandings can arise. Maybe you’ve made a mistake, maybe your prospect is unreasonable, maybe it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding.

But once the prospect feels antagonistic towards you, it’s pretty tough to bring the sale back on track.

However, it’s much easier to resolve this if you loop in someone else. Imagine you’re a prospect, you’ve had a run-in with a rep and feel poorly advised, and you get this email:

sales-conflict-email-by-ceo.png

Do you see the impact this could have on a prospect?

Propelling sales conversations forward

At Close.io, for example, our sales reps often loop me into a sales conversation that’s already going great.

Many of our customers know me from my keynote talks, my blog, and my podcast, and they’ve gotten value from the advice I’ve shared. I email these prospects that I’m really looking forward to having them as a customer. I tell them I’ll be available to help if they need advice at some point.

This often helps to move an already hot prospect to buy our inside sales software even quicker.

Gathering intel from non-buyers

I also occasionally look into deals that went cold and send these prospects an email. I want to understand why they didn’t buy. I want to know how we can improve. How we can train our reps better? What needs to be prioritized on the product roadmap? How can we tweak our sales process?

There are many more ways to use backchannel sales than I’ve listed here, and I’d strongly encourage you to take 2 minutes and jot down a couple of scenario where you’ll make use of this method.

Let’s talk about one thing that might prevent you from actually using this technique.

“But I don’t want to call in favors from team members all the time”

You might think, “Oh, there’s no way I’m going to ask the CEO to take time out of his busy day to send an email to this prospect that might never end up buying. Especially not for this prospect that I’ve had an argument with, I don’t want to draw the CEO’s attention to my screwups.”

Two things about this:

  1. It’s great that you’re respectful of other people’s time. (It’s also smart if they have the power to fire or promote you.) But there’s a very simple way to avoid this becoming a burden for someone else (I’ll show you how).
  2. It’s scary to ask a higher-up for help in a case where you’ve failed. But it’s also an opportunity to prove your commitment to the company. Most executives always get a beautified version of reality from the people they manage. But they want to know what’s really going on. If they see that you put your own ego and your personal career concerns aside for the good of the company, they won’t see that as a flaw. They’ll recognize this as a strength.

Here’s how you can do this without turning it into a big request: Just pre-write the email for them, send it to them and ask them, “This deal needs a little nudge. Can you help me? Please send this prospect an email, you can just copy and paste the following.”

In one email, provide the person with the context, the contact details, and the message ready to be copy/pasted so all they need to do is hit send.

That takes 20 seconds. And many times, it can make a real difference.

Now when you ask someone for this favor, and the person later ends up buying—share that with the person who helped you. Send a quick email: “Hey, Thanks again for your help on this deal! They just became a customer, so glad we could team up on this win.”

Boom. Everyone loves to be on the winning team.

Tap into your team intelligence

The important lesson you can take away from this is that sales isn’t a solo sport. It’s a team sport. It’s not about the points you score, but how you win the game. Network performance now has a much bigger impact on sales results than ever before.

Demonstrate to your prospect that the entire company is accessible and cares about them, not just the sales rep trying to close the deal. Have someone else give gently nudge the prospect towards the close. Gain credibility by association. That’s how you get those slow-moving deals over the finish line faster, and win deals you’d otherwise have lost.

Recommended reading:

Sales objection overkill? How to handle prospects who keep requesting more and more
Ever been in a sales situation like this? For every answer you give, you just get another objection, and it goes on like this forever? Here's how to resolve it.

End of sales cycle and a hot prospect turns cold?
The prospect seemed like a perfect fit and ready to buy after several sales conversations. Just when you're going for the close, they pull out. What to do?

Trust trumps transactions
Nobody will ever buy your product if they don't trust you. Everybody gets that in theory—but few people know how to use that in the B2B sales process.

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