In his latest column, negotiation expert Mike Lander shares the secrets of winning back prospects that have gone cold.
It was all going so well.
The sales cycle has been in play for several months with a fantastic brand.
You’ve built a strong relationship with the budget holder, who is a big advocate of your offering. They recognise the value in your point of difference.
You know your business case and ROI is rock solid.
You’re sailing towards a £20k p/m retainer for 12 months; so a £240k deal.
Then, the dreaded “marketing procurement” lead got involved, although surprisingly, there wasn’t a formal RFP issued.
Your negotiations are well advanced on price, targets, and scope, so you feel pretty positive about securing the deal.
Your prospect has ghosted you. Ouch.
Read on to discover what’s likely to be going on and what you can do to win them back.
So what’s really going on?
Firstly, let’s reframe this.
You’ve just been given a golden opportunity to reflect.
In the landmark book Getting to Yes, William Ury/Roger Fisher call this ‘stepping to the balcony’: removing yourself from the situation and taking a breather.
When you do this, it’s likely you’ll be able to understand the situation from another perspective:
If you were the client in question, you’d have been talking to a viable alternative supplier, too. It’s obvious when you think about it. This is nearly a quarter-of-a-million pound contract, so the budget holder and procurement need a viable benchmark to compare you against.
What’s the client’s BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)? They have to be able to reach out to an alternative supplier if they fail to reach a final agreement with you. They can’t be in a position where they simply have to accept what you say in order to deliver on their targets.
You’ve tried calling your usually-friendly budget-holder to no avail. It’s really frustrating. But think – if you were the procurement lead sent in to get a deal done, the last thing you’d need is a backchannel between the budget holder and you as a potential supplier.
OK, so what can you do about this to move things forward?
Let’s assume that procurement have secured a comparable service from an alternative supplier, but 10-20% below your current offer: your price is £20k/month, theirs is £16k/month. There’s also all the other negotiation variables they’ll have been locking in including contract term, notice period, payment terms, etc.
You could do nothing, and wait for procurement to either:
Come back to you with their counter-offer
Disappear off the face of the earth
What you could do instead:
Be proactive. Send procurement and the budget holder a “time-expiring, 48hour offer at £18k/month” - plus a reminder of the compelling reason why you’re the best agency to deliver their targets. Your goal here is to try and close a deal quickly by narrowing the price gap between you and the likely competition and hopefully knock them out of the process.
This proven tactic puts you back in control of timing and limits the bottom of the price range.
If they don’t come back to you within 48 hours, chances are they’ve already secured a viable alternative at a much lower price.
Watch out for this:
Client (after the 48h deadline): “We’ve found a comparable, alternative provider, at a much more competitive price. If you can get to £14k/month we’ll do a deal with you in the next 48 hours.”
Don’t do it!
This is a race to the bottom and nearly always ends in disaster for both the client and the agency.
Exercise your BATNA and walk away.
If you’re truly differentiated, and the budget holder believes you’re the best fit, it’s likely that you’ll get a deal at your ‘time expiry’ offer price of £18k/month.
It’s nothing personal
In conclusion, the ‘silent treatment’ is very common and once you step back from it, is completely understandable. The key to securing the deal is to think it through from their perspective and offer a time-bound offer that can help tip the deal in your favour.
Mike Lander is the chief exec and founder of Piscari, which empowers agency leaders with better negotiation skills and insights into how procurement professionals work.
Email Mike if you have any questions on this opinion piece, or if you simply want to find out more