Details can derail your deal

by Steli Efti

Ever had a sales conversation with prospects who seemed like a good fit and were really engaged with you? Then their 'engagement' goes over the top and they just keep asking questions, and more questions, and even more questions.

Each answer you give just yields two more questions, and at some point there are a myriad of details that nibble away at the deal and steal your thunder. All the momentum is gone. Details have derailed your deal.

Details are a double-edged sword. Initially, it's a good sign when prospects ask detailed questions. But the more details you discuss, the more details need to be resolved. If you get lost in the details, you'll lose the deal.

Getting buried in detail questions

When you're speaking with prospects who bury you in questions and they keep asking and asking and asking... at some point (especially at a later stage of the deal), it's important to manage their questions more effectively than just responding to each and every one of them.

I see a lot of salespeople do the wrong thing. They either:
a) respond to every question the prospect has in sequential order.
b) become impatient with the prospect.

Neither is the way to go. It's not your prospect's job to manage the deal - it's yours!

Questions that lead nowhere

When prospects ask dozens of random, unrelated questions that don't move the conversation forward, it's time to intervene.

Here's an example of what a scatterbrained series of questions might look like:

Prospect: "Can I utilize your API to integrate your solution with my accounting software and analytics in a way that automatically displays the correlation between X and Z as a percentage?"

Sales rep responds.

Prospect: "When I send an email to your support team, when can I expect a response?"

Sales rep responds.

Prospect: "So, you mentioned that feature X is not on the current product roadmap. Can you tell me what's next on your product roadmap?"

Sales rep responds.

Prospect: "Aha. And can you generate PDF reports that get sent out twice weekly to a set of specific email addresses, or do we need to log in to the dashboard each time?"

This goes on and on, without ever leading anywhere. What should you do in a situation like this?

Keep the bigger picture in mind

As a sales person, what's your main responsibility? What's your job really about? Why are you talking with a prospect?

It's not about 'hitting the numbers' or 'making money'. That's a byproduct.

Your real job is to figure out:

  • Is your offer a good fit for this prospect?
  • How are you going to deliver and create value for this prospect?
  • Why is your solution the right choice for this prospect?

Everything in the sales conversation should be about that! Your prospects are busy and distracted by a million things. Every time they talk to someone within their company about your offer, more questions get raised.

Their mind is all over the place when it comes to this deal. Too much clutter, not enough clarity. It's your job to provide clarity and help them focus on what really matters.

You're the CEO of this deal, the captain of this ship

Don't become a training and support person. It's your job to champion the deal, to make it happen, to get it done.

Paint a vision, provide roadmap, help them prioritize.

It's your job to steer this ship to its destination; and that destination is a good decision. You just want to move through the land of indecisiveness as quickly as possible.

Enforce priorities

What are the dealbreakers? What are the top five questions? What are your most important priorities?

Focus on the absolute must haves.

There's nothing worse than spending hours answering a series of 100 questions, and then at the end being asked:

"Oh, can we install an on-premise version of your software?" - "No, we don't do that." - "Well, then we can't do this."

That's why you want to start with the top priorities, the deal breakers. Talk about the must-haves before you talk about the nice-to-haves.

What to say to a prospect

So the prospect is asking a thousand random questions that lead nowhere. Here's what you say:

“Hey, I know there are so many questions and the more your organization grows within this area, the more questions there will be. It’s just the nature of things. That means our partnership is growing, your company is growing, it’s a good sign.

“But to make sure that we’re investing all our time and energy on the right things, let’s prioritize. Out of the 25 questions that you have, what are the top five questions? What are the most important questions we have to figure out first? The deal breakers, the deal killers, the absolute musts. Once we figure that out, once we address the musts, what are the likes and what are the nice-to-haves?

“For today’s call, we’re going to only focus on the absolute must haves, making sure that we check off on them, because if we have the must haves, this deal is moving forward, right?

“Right. Okay. But then we still have the other 20 questions, and we need to answer and address those in the onboarding phase. And I promise you, as you come on board, there will be more than just these questions and that’s totally fine. But if we prioritize right, we know that we can decide to move forward now, and handle the minutia later on.”

Got an email with 30 questions?

Someone sends you an email with a long list of questions? Rather than working your way through it one by one, or trying to figure out what the most important questions are, just reply this:

"Hey,

Can you do me a favor? I want to make sure you get the best answers to your most important questions.

Please tell me in order of priority the most important five questions out of this long list questions you sent me. What are really important ones and what are nice-to-have ones but not really that important to you, that crucial to you?"

Priorities before details

Never dive into details before you've set priorities. Identify the must-haves and the deal breakers upfront. Keep the big picture in mind and move the deal forward by helping your prospects to focus on what matters and make a good decision quickly.


Want more? Check out these resources:

Are your prospects postponing the purchase? Do this!
Have a prospect that would be a perfect fit, yet puts off the purchase indefinitely? Here's how buying your product becomes a priority for your prospect...

SaaS Sales: How To Create Urgency To Close Deals NOW
How can you accelerate a sale when a prospect is delaying the purchasing decision? Three SaaS sales strategies + 4 tactics to close the deal sooner.

Maybes are killing your startup
The path to success is paved with clear outcomes: good or bad. It's the maybe quagmire that's slowly exhausting and eventually killing startups.