I was recently training a client’s sales team. One seller asked me for ideas on keeping in touch with a prospect AFTER he was told “no”. He had competed for an RFP and was not awarded the business despite developing a great relationship with the prospect. I suggested the following 4 steps.
Is It Signed? First, ask your key contact if the contract is signed. If not, there may still be opportunity to turn the decision around. Be prepared with slam dunk reasons why they should reconsider their decision and switch to you. Do you think this is impossible? I’ve seen it happen enough times that it’s worth giving it a shot.
Early Warning Signs. Second, if the contract is signed and there is no opportunity to flip the decision at this moment in time, provide your prospect some with helpful ideas on for what to look for if the vendor chosen doesn’t work out. You can say, “If things are going well, you’ll know. If things aren’t going well, here are some early warning signs to look for. I’m going to put a note on my calendar to check in with you in 30 days (or whatever number of days is right) to make sure you are not experiencing these issues. If you are, we can step in and help you.”
Other Possibilities. Third, ask your prospect this important question, “How can we work together? What about ___, ____ or even _____ (fill in with ideas which fall outside the scope of the project you didn’t win). After you deliver the question, BE QUIET!! Give your prospect time to think and respond. You may be surprised to find that there are opportunities to work together and become a vendor now, even if it’s on a different assignment. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Who Else? Fourth, ask your prospect, “Who else should I speak with who would benefit from our services? Just because your prospect can’t work with you on this assignment right now doesn’t mean he doesn’t know five others who can. Ask for an email introduction, one of our favorite methods of being connected.
When you receive a “no” answer, it’s not the time to turn and run. You spent the time cultivating interest. You worked hard developing a relationship of trust. Why give up at the moment when it gets interesting? Be there for your prospect. If you focus on the health and depth of your relationships the money follows.