What To Do When A Prospect Goes Dark

dark path-970882

There is nothing more frustrating to a sales person than when a client goes dark. Your last conversation was killer, you both agreed that your solution made sense. The prospect said they needed to; share it with their team, run the numbers, look at another solution, run it past IT, work with H.R., make a recommendation or any other “next step.” (great video on how to sell the “next step” within a sales cycle)

You’re on it. You move the call to the next stage in the pipeline, you make a note in the CRM and set a new activity. Good shit, the deal is moving along.

Fast forward two weeks. The activity reminder pops up. You call the prospect, no answer. No sweat. You schedule a call for two days later. Two days later, you call again, no answer. You leave another message. K, no worries, it’s all good. You schedule a call for two more days later and in the interim you lob over an email.  Two more days pass, no response. Now this shit is getting serious. You think to yourself, something’s wrong. The doubt creeps in, you’re freaked about how to explain it to your manager. You were counting on this deal for the quarter. You’re getting desperate, sending emails and leaving messages saying you’re just “following” up.  Ahh shit!  You’ve just become that pesky sales person who’s “just following up.” You’re fucked, you’ve lost control of the sale and in you’re desperation mode.

Two things happen when sales people find themselves in desperation mode. One, they almost always lose the deal. They’ve lost control of the sale and it spirals away from them. Two, and even more detrimental, they spend way too much time chasing the deal and it’s never going to close. In an effort to save the deal, the sales person spends valuable selling time chasing a lost prospect.

If a prospect goes dark you have to get them back and the best way to get them back into the fold is to hold them accountable and challenge them.

Here’s my favorite phrase to get a prospect jump started again;

“I’m confused, you said you . . .  (insert issues prospect said they wanted to fix, their last commitment, the impact of not changing, etc.). Has something changed?”

When a prospect goes dark the best thing you can do is put it back on the prospect. If they said they liked your solution and need to share it with the team, then you need to call them out on it and ask what happened. When a prospect says “yes,” they want to buy your solution because they are losing 1000′s of dollars in unnecessary expenses and then go dark. You need to parrot that back to them. You need to say,

I’m confused, you said you’re losing thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses and felt our solution was perfect. We agreed to reconvene two weeks after you spoke with your team and shared it with the CEO. We have not heard from you. Has something changed?

When a prospect goes dark, something is going on behind the scenes. There could be new information, new goals, new solutions, financial set backs, new players, or it could be they are simply busy. Regardless, when a prospect goes dark, the best thing a sales person can do is go back to what their prospect originally said and committed to and hold them accountable to it.

Prospects who go dark aren’t evil or assholes just trying to fuck with you, they are just overwhelmed. There is almost always a real, legitimate reason and it’s your job to figure it out. The best way to get them to respond and figure it out is to hold them accountable to what they said and what they committed to. Anything short of that isn’t selling, it’s pussyfooting around and that’s not gonna get you the sale.

Prospects are people and for the most part, they know they owe you a call. They know they made a commitment and the longer it goes without response, the more they feel bad about it and in an odd twist, the less likely they will be to call. So, it’s your job to lay it at their feet and open the door by simply saying;

I’m confused, you said . . .

This simple phrase invites prospects to explain where they are, and more importantly address the “gap,” the gap between what they said and their actions. As people we hate inconsistencies, gaps and inaccuracies. So, when you say;  I’m confused, you said . . . the prospect is compelled to address the gap and this is exactly what you want them to do.

This entire approach rests on the premise you actually have engaged the prospect well enough early in the sales process so you understand what their problem is, why they are looking at your solution, what the next step is, where you are in the sales cycle and what they are doing in between calls. If you can’t answer those questions, nothing can save you. In that case, take the deal out of the pipeline, go get Jill Konrath’s SNAP Selling book and start over, because you’re a sales person in title only.

If you know what the customers motivation is. If you know why they are looking to buy. If you know what the next step is and it’s because they told you, good — make them own it. That’s how you get them out of the black hole.

When prospect goes dark, accountability is the light.

Vail Gives Us a Lesson on “Product vs. Sales” With It’s New Epic Mix Feature

I’ve talked frequently on this blog about how product has surpassed sales in driving revenue. As much as sales people don’t want to admit it and as much as many companies don’t want to admit it, the change has occurred and ignoring it won’t change things.

There is too much information available to consumers about products and services that deficiencies, lack of features, poor service etc., can not be overcome by even the best sales people in the world. Today’s most impressive and forward looking companies understand that investing in product is the best and most effective way to grow sales and Vail Resorts gets this as well as anyone.

Vail is my home mountain. I have a 2nd home in the Vail Valley. I’m a part-time ski instructor for Vail Resorts and have been singing Vail’s praises since moving to Colorado in 1989, to spend a season in Vail no-less.

In addition to the killer ski school, the amazing terrain, unbelievable service, excellent properties, food, and amenities, Vail Resorts does something to enhance their product, no other ski resort in the world does. They engage their visitors via a killer mobile app called, Epic Mix. I’ve talked about epic mix here before. It’s the app that tracked my 1 million plus vertical feet last year. Epic Mix has been a sick way to keep visitors connected to Vail and to share their on mountain experiences. And this year Vail are taken it to a whole new level.

Vail updates Epic Mix every year, adding cool and fun new features. However, this year Vail has made it’s biggest upgrade and it’s exactly how focusing on product drives sales. This year, Epic Mix has added a new feature called, Epic Mix Guide that allows skiers to create a customized map or guide that helps them get around the mountain.  When riders log in, they simple answer a few questions about their skiing ability, how much time they have, and the terrain they want to ski and BOOM! they are provided with a number of options to maximize their ski day. How fucking cool is this? Your own customized ski map.

As a ski instructor and local, I’m constantly asked where to ski, what the best runs are etc. When I go somewhere else, the first thing I do is look at the ski map and “try” to locate the best routes for the day, to figure out what my skiing itinerary is going to be. So, to have an application that does it for you, now that’s the goods. I know Vail like the back of my hand, yet, I’m going to try it out and see what I don’t know and hopefully learn a few things.

This is how you increase sales via product. Focus on the user experience, create a better experience than anyone else, give your users something to talk about and sales will follow.

Am I saying we don’t need sales organizations? NO! What I am saying is that focusing on your sales team, before you focus on the product is a mistake. Vail gets this and they are the biggest and most successful ski company in the world. Let’s let them teach us a little something.

Where’s your Epic Mix Guide gonna take you?




Outlook (n)

A View: a pleasant view, a person’s point of view

If you were looking out on the street and saw -20 degree weather, ten feet of snow, and no sun, do you go running out?

If a small restaurant is tucked away in a small dark alley in a bad neighborhood, do you go in?

If you’re looking out onto a pristine white sandy beach, with beautiful crystal blue water, do you burst out the door in glee?

It seems quite clear, no to the first two, and yes to the second . . . but not so fast.  It all depends on your outlook.

To a kid, that freezing, snowy day is a day off from school and a sledding bonanza. To the food aficionado, that small restaurant could be the best dining experience they’ve ever had and an opportunity to discover and amazing new restaurant. To the pasty white person, who’s afraid of sharks and doesn’t like sand everywhere, there is nothing fun about that ocean paradise.

It’s not the environments that dictate anything, but rather our outlook.  It’s how we “look out” that makes the difference. We CREATE our own world through our outlook.

We can do little to change the environments we’re in, but we can for sure change how we look out at them. Change your outlook and you change your emotions and actions.

There is no profession in my opinion where outlook is more critical. Sales gives you plenty of cold days, mounds of snow, shark infested waters, and dark streets, but if you see them as a chance to surf, ski and eat some damn good food, all of a sudden it sounds like one fucking good time.

What are you looking out upon? What’s your outlook? What do you see? It determines everything.

What Your Customers Don’t Know — That’s Costing You Sales


“No, we’re all set.”

“We’re happy with what we have.”

“We’re not looking to change at this time.”

How often have you heard these words come out of a buyers mouth? Nobody wants to hear these words. They stop sales people in their tracks.


Because, for most sales people, if the prospect already has what you’re selling then why “push” them on something. No one wants to be a “pushy” sales person.  I agree. No one wants to deal with a pushy sales person. BUT, in many cases the customer doesn’t know what their alternatives are and don’t know what they are saying no to. It’s your job to help them make an educated decision based on what they know and don’t know.

You see, when people buy, or more specifically when they decide they want something new it’s due to one of two scenarios. It’s either because they have identified a problem they need to fix OR they’ve seen a product or service that highlights an opportunity they didn’t know they could capitalize on. It’s really that trait forward.

Let me simplify. People switch or change if:

  1. They recognize a problem they want to fix or make go away
  2. Something (a product or service) highlights an opportunity they want to take advantage of.

Number two is where the win is when it comes to the objections listed above. When a prospect or buyer says they don’t want to change, that they are not looking, that’s code for — We don’t see a problem that needs to be fixed. Therefore, the first reason to change is not present. Here is the good news, number two is still in play.  Unfortunately, too many sales people walk away from a potential sale, because they don’t recognize number two is still on the table.

Putting number two in play is tricky, but if your product or service can truly improve a buyers environment, then you have a chance. The key to putting number two in play comes down to knowledge of your product AND knowledge of your prospects environment. If you don’t know more about what your product or service does in relation to your prospects current solutions you won’t be successful getting number two in play. And, if you don’t know as much or even more about the environment your customer is in, you’ll fail executing on number two as well. Getting prospects to see an opportunity they didn’t already see is a “knowledge play.” You have to know more than your prospects current and future states than they do. That’s hard and requires serious skill, tact and knowledge.

To get your prospect to see opportunities they didn’t see starts with having a super robust understanding of what the common current state is for their environment and what is good and not good about their environment. You have to understand the workflows, the touch-points, the costs, the failure points, the use cases and more. You have to have to know what your prospects are using their solutions for and how they are using them.

Once you understand what your prospects are using for solutions and how they are using them create a list of three or four questions that can or will highlight the differences in what you offer and what your prospect currently has today. The objective is to create a gap in knowledge between what you know and what your prospect knows.

Here are a couple of my favorite questions to ask when I hear the objections from above:

  1. No problem, I understand you are all set, but if I could ask one question. Are you familiar with the difference between “insert your solution” and “insert what ever solution they are using?” By asking this simple question you quickly determine how educated the buyer is and on what basis they said their not interested. This is a great question for creating that gap.
  2. I understand you’re all set, not a problem. But, could I ask a quick question, how are you solving “insert a common business or workflow problem you know most of your target buyers are struggling with.”
  3. Thanks for your time, if I may ask one last question before we get off the phone, how are you capitalizing on “insert a common opportunity your prospects or buyers CAN’T capitalize on in their current environment.”

By asking any variations of these three questions sets you up to find a gap in your prospects knowledge. Knowledge and information are behind every sale. Too often we assume our prospects and clients have all the information and are making informed decisions. This assumption is a bad one. Prospects and customers usually don’t have all the information, they are too busy running their businesses.  It’s up to the sales person to educate them and sometimes that takes a little push.

When a prospect says they are all set, don’t assume they are right. They usually aren’t, it’s not their job to know it all, it’s yours.

Find the knowledge gap and educate the customer. If they’re all set with all the information then you’ve done your job, until then you’re walking away too early.

Don’t quit too soon.

Meeting at DreamForce 2014



K, I’m gonna be at Dreamforce the week of October 13th.  If you’re gonna be there let’s connect. My favorite part of Dreamforce isn’t the Keynotes, or the sessions. My favorite part of Dreamforce is connecting with the attendees.

Today’s world is more virtual than ever. Our sphere is bigger than it’s ever been, but it’s a virtual sphere. Even though we have more connections, we have less face time with many of these people.

It’s for this reason I get excited to go to Dreamforce. I get to see the people I connect with and talk to all year long.

If you’re gonna be at SalesForce’s Dreamforce and want to connect, hit me up in the comments and let’s see if we can meet too.


What Leaders Should Do, But Don’t!

Watching the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints game the other night reminded me of the Drew Breeze trade from the San Diego Chargers back in 2005.

For you non-football fans or those of you who don’t remember, Drew was traded to New Orleans after the 2005 season in which he broke his shoulder. As a result, San Diego ships him off to New Orleans and Philip Rivers becomes San Diego’s new starting quarterback.

Since the trade, no QB has thrown for more touchdowns, yards or 300 yard games. That includes Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Payton Manning and Philip Rivers. In addition to being the most prolific passer in the past 8 years, he also steered the hapless Saints to their first Super Bowl win, something San Diego is still looking to accomplish.

So, here’s my point. Do you think San Diego leadership has ever admitted to making a mistake?  I don’t sit in the locker rooms, or the front office, so I can’t answer that question, but my gut is telling me no. I’ve never heard one or seen an admittance on any sports channel. I bet the San Diego Charger leadership doesn’t believe they made a mistake and they won’t admit to it. They will point to all the success Philip Rivers has had and say they made the right choice. But looking at the data and the stats, they didn’t.

Every leader, sales leader or otherwise, makes mistakes. They hire the wrong person. They make the wrong strategic decision. The build poor partnerships.  They misjudge the market. They support a bad product. They invest in the wrong idea. Every leader, no matter how good, no matter how savvy, no matter how committed screws up, they just do.

Unfortunately, too few leaders own their mistakes. They don’t apologize and take ownership. When I say take ownership, I don’t mean a passive, quiet confession to their boss or in a closed door session to the board, but an open, public admittance of a mistake.

Here’s why it’s important.

When a leader makes a decision, it effects other people.  Because of their position, their decisions aren’t in a vacuum, they impact the jobs, the wallets, the time and effort of others and more. Depending on how big the role and the decision, it could effect 10′s, 100′s, 1000′s or even 100,000′s of people.  Even though, at the end of the day, they are the decision maker and own the responsibility, their decision sets in motion the lives and efforts of more people than just themselves. Therefore, when a leader makes the wrong decision, he or she  hasn’t messed up their own world, they’ve  messed up the world of a lot of people and that is why they need to own it publicly and admit to the mistake.

By owning their mistake publicly shows a humility and an understanding that their decisions affect other people. People don’t like feeling victimized and when leaders don’t own or show public accountability those affected by the leaders decision feel betrayed and victimized. They had little to no say in the decision, but have suffered the consequences. Once people victimized or betrayed, it’s the beginning of the end for a leader.

Being a leader requires humility and a empathy for the people and teams they lead. They need to understand their decisions affect more people than themselves and when they screw up, they screw up the lives and careers of everyone involved. To minimize the damage and show their allegiance to their team the leader MUST own it publicly.

Being a leader is more than getting big bucks, having control, setting vision, leading strategy and celebrating victory, it sometimes means admitting you fucked up in the most public of ways.

As a leader you’re gonna screw up. That’s the easy part. But can you look at your entire team and admit it publicly?  Now that’s a true leader.


Don’t Ever Trust This Sales Person

When I ask a waitperson what they think about a dish, if they say it’s excellent, I say great and I then ask about another menu item. If they say that one is good too, I then ask about another. If the waiter also says that one is good, I switch my approach and ask, what’s not good. If they say everything is good, I get pissed inside and dismiss them and their responses.

When a sales manager never has any critical assessments of their team. I’m thinking, she’s full of shit! When, a sales person won’t tell me what’s not strong about the product or service, they’ve lost me.

When I interview sales candidates, I ask them where they struggle as a sales person. I ask them what gets in their way. I want to know what it is that gets in their way of making quota? If they give me a negative that’s really a positive like; I work too much, I ask again. If they don’t give me a REAL, negative about themselves, I don’t hire them.

Nothing is perfect, no one is perfect, no product is perfect, no solution is perfect. Everything has it’s flaws and if you are acting as if your product is perfect and has no flaws, you’re lying through omission and that’s just as bad as straight up lying.

It’s our job as sales people to consult and educate our customers and prospects. If we’re telling them everything is good, if we’re not giving them the whole story, we’re not doing our job. We’re lying through omission.

If you’re SaaS offering is weak in a particular area and the customer asks, tell them straight up, don’t beat around the bush. You need to put it on the table. It doesn’t mean the customer won’t buy. But, it does give you the opportunity, as a sales person, to understand why it may be important. Being honest helps you sell a better solution.

If your product is missing a feature, if it can’t do something the other products can, if it has a weakness like everything does, admit and hit it head on. If you don’t you’re lying through omission and nobody likes a liar.

A sales person who lies through omission can’t be trusted. Once trust is gone, the sale is seconds behind it.

If you’re a buyer, don’t trust the pollyanna sales person. If you’re a sales person, tell the truth. It’s not the “perfect” product. We all know it and you just look stupid — cut it out!

Never trust a sales person who lies through omission.


Funny How, Funny Like A Clown? Do I Amuse You?

One of the best movie lines ever is Joe Pesci’s from Good Fellas.

“Funny how? I mean, funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh?”

In my world, I don’t care how you’re funny, like a clown, like a comedian, like a comic, as long as you’re funny.

When it comes to being funny, in the world of sales and business, Stu Heinecke amuses me. I met Stu Heinecke the other day. He’s writing what sounds a like a cool book on selling using humor and asked me for my thoughts. Stu is a creative guy with some great ideas on how to connect with prospects using humor. I enjoyed our conversation.

He sent me this after our talk.


“That would look really good in Keenan’s office.”

I like what the original caption read,

“How much for that one.”  

Humor is a killer addition to sales that has, for some crazy reason, taken a back seat to . . . I don’t know, but sales people aren’t very funny. I’m not talking the feeble attempts at cheesy humor far too many sales people engage in, but truly good, surprising, unique humor.

Stu was telling me about a campaign he ran using his cartoons and humor. It had a 96% success rate. What he learned was, people respond to good, intelligent humor.

I think Stu is right. I get it, not everyone is funny. But, if you can figure it out, there is a lot to gain.

Stu offers a chance to use some of his cartoons for your own marketing campaign. You can check them out here.

There is nothing wrong with giving folks a good reason to chuckle every once in a while. It’s actually a good idea.

The Best Infographic In The World For Sales People Who Struggle With Price

If you’re someone who struggles with price, check out this info graphic.

Pay close attention to the iPhone’s price in relationship to all the other phones over time.

What do you see?


The iPhone is by far the most expensive smartphone on the market. It gets more expensive every year in comparison to the competition. And, There are almost NO lower price options in the iPhone product line, yet Apple sells more smart phones than anyone else in the world, except Samsung.

Before you start saying you can’t sell because your product is too expensive, think again.

Price matters, but not as often as you think and rarely because something is too expensive.

Don’t confuse price with being too expensive, there is a difference and Apple reminds us of this every day.

Switching From The Competition

I’m a RedBull drinker. I don’t do Monster or 5 Hour Energy. I’m a Mac (Apple) guy, not much of a fan of Microsoft or Android. I’m on my second Audi and have never had a BMW or a Mercedes.  I’ve been with AT&T for 15 of the last 17 years. I fly United 99% of the time.

I’m pretty happy with the choices I make and I’m a fairly loyal customer, but in spite of my loyalty, there is always a little fire inside me that is open to something else.

All it takes is a Mercedes ad showing a slick new interior and killer technology, a Samsung ad showing their phones dropping in a toilet unharmed, a Sprint plan that saves me 200 dollars a month,or a Southwest commercial with better frequent flyer program too feed that fire inside me and get me to contemplate change.

When the fire is fed and grows, I pick up my head and look across the way. I take a longer look at the Mercedes. I consider flying Southwest on my next trip. I look at Sprints coverage and new plan, asking myself, is it worth switching? In spite of my loyalty and happiness with my past choices, like a gas stove, there is pilot light inside me waiting to be turned up. I haven’t ALWAYS been a Mac guy. I made the “switch” in 2005. Apple provided plenty of fuel.

I don’t always act. It takes a lot to get me to switch, however the pilot light is always on. Getting me to pick up my head and take notice isn’t so hard and that’s the message here.

Too often, as sales people, we assume that our customers won’t switch. We assume they are happy with their current product or service and in most cases you’re right, they are. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t get their attention. It doesn’t mean that they are shut out to something else. It only means they are happy with what they know, and all they know is what they have.

The key to getting a customer to switch is to give a little gas to their pilot light and that gas is information that can or would improve their situation or make their life better. There is always a reason to switch. Sometimes the reasons don’t exist yet, but the reasons are there. You have to 1) make sure your product or service can provide compelling change and 2) know how to feed the little fire inside the buyer.

Don’t automatically assume that because someone is happy with a product or service that they won’t switch, people/companies switch everyday. Everyone has the “switch” pilot light. Eveyone is susceptible to change, if you know how to trigger it.

And by the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet, that also means switching from you or your company.

Switching is hard, getting people to consider a switch, not so much. Learn to trigger your buyer’s “switch” pilot light, that’s what gets them to pick up their heads and take notice.

Do you know how to turn up you prospects and customers pilot light?