A participant in one of our recent workshops emailed me with a very interesting dilemma. He explained that he was working with a prospect that was “dragging him through the mud.” He’d had a few calls with a few different people who each gave different answers to his questions and appeared to have different priorities. It seemed like they weren’t sure they even wanted to make an internal change, but when asked point-blank they were all very clear that NOT changing was NOT an option.

I must admit this is a situation that many of us find ourselves in surprisingly often. I’ve been faced with it innumerable times and hardly a week goes by that I don’t ask myself the very same question. How do we advance an opportunity that’s dragging us through the mud?

The best way is to reach out to the prospect on the phone or in person (but not by email) with the following message:

“Since you’ve shared with me that not making a change is not an option, I would like to ask for your commitment to explore the possibilities with us. This would involve some our people getting to know some of your people and vice versa. We would want to get to know all the stakeholders in the success of your initiative and put together a joint plan to explore working together. This, of course, would not bind you to selecting us. But it’s been our experience that once you get to know us, you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision as to whether we’d be the right partner for you. Would you be open to working together through this process of mutual discovery?” 

An answer of “no, we’re still thinking about it” means they are either not serious about exploring options or you’re asking for this commitment to mutual discovery of the wrong person and this person likely doesn’t have the authority to say “yes.” If that’s case, you’ll have to employ some of my techniques for selling past that gatekeeper to gain higher access to higher levels within the organization.

An answer of “yes” means that you have the right to ask for meetings with any and all people you deem as stakeholders (i.e., the people involved in their evaluation, selection, approval, and purchasing process). But you’ll have to explain why you want to meet with those people. They’ll need to understand the reason for or the purpose of those meetings, so be ready to prepare executive-level presentations.

Whichever answer you receive, this is your opportunity to decide if this deal is worth pursuing, or if it’s time to let it go and invest your time on other, “win-able” deals.