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Darkness on the Edge of Sales


I RECENTLY LISTENED TO A “WAITING BY THE PHONE” segment on the radio. You know the scenario—guy meets girl, they go on a few dates, things appear to be going swell, and then it ends abruptly. Girl won’t return calls. The guy, of course, is clueless. The logical solution is (obviously) to enlist the help of a radio station. Have the DJ ask the girl— live on the air—why she went dark.

“Umm, yes, I know exactly who you are talking about,” the girl answered with a sigh.

“It sounds like things were going really well,” the DJ said. “Can you explain why you went dark? Why you stopped re- turning his calls?”

“Taxidermy,” she said matter-of-factly. “His apartment was filled with dead animals. We were making out and I looked up at Bambi staring down at me. It freaked me out.”

As a salesperson, there is no deeper frustration than the darkness at the edge of sales. The sales process is moving along swimmingly, a sale appears to be imminent, and then… nothing.
Darkness descends. Calls are not returned. Emails are ignored. LinkedIn invitations are unconfirmed. It happens to everyone. The emotional toll of The Darkness is the most dangerous.
Here are five ways to advance through The Darkness. Em- brace these, share these, and soon enough you’ll see the light.

1. Understand Your Instincts
Upon the realization you’ve got a prospect who has gone dark, your reptilian brain takes over. Your pupils dilate. Your field of vision narrows. This is the sale that, days earli- er, seemed closest at hand. Now, all you have are questions, self-doubt, and a bottle of Bacardi Black. You’re in survival mode. Understand what’s happening and breathe. Set aside the emotions that are inherent in The Darkness and revisit the fundamental question in sales: Why do people buy?

2. Understand Why People Buy
People buy when they are in pain or in growth mode. That’s it. If the pain isn’t severe enough, they don’t buy. If there is no growth causing the prospect to identify more capable partners, they don’t buy. This is Miller Heiman Strategic Selling content and it’s evergreen. Pain or growth, that’s it.

Once you confirmed pain or growth, you’re still not done. The question remains, “Are you most prepared to eliminate pain or accelerate growth?”

3. Understand Your Value
Resist the urge to leave pathetic voicemails. “Hey Jim, I thought we had a good conversation going about your truss challenges, um, and then our conversation fell off. Can you call me?

Please? Jim? Are you there?”

There is absolutely zero value in that message. It’s a regrettable variation of the “Are you ready to buy yet?” voice- mail. Stop. Leaving. Those.

Think deeply about what value you can provide the prospect. What is the insight/idea/new product/market shift/article/TED Talk/competitor gossip that will deliver some value to the prospect? If you’re drawing a blank here, do nothing.

4. Understand People
As an area purchasing manager, I was shocked at how often I was thanked for calling a vendor to inform them they lost a bid. This blew my mind. “Why would you thank me?” Now I know. Humans avoid confrontation. It’s easier to be distracted by business, ignore voicemails, and let the passage of time make the decision clear.

5. Look in the Mirror
How many salespeople are you ignoring right now? How about that life insurance lady? Or that retirement planner you contacted last spring? Nobody likes The Darkness. Practice some instant karma and extend a candle with a polite Notgonnahappen. “My taxidermy? Are you (radio edit) serious?!”

This is the best part. The guy, crouching silently in the Wi-Fi weeds, hurls himself aggressively into the conversation to confront the girl that got away.

“Those aren’t just dead animals to me! Those are memories from special times I spent with my father hunting!”

“Whatever. Having a wall-mounted cast of The Lion King staring at me was creepy. I knew you wouldn’t like the truth, so I didn’t say anything.”

Sometimes the truth hurts. And sometimes the darkness at the edge of sales has nothing to do with you at all. Don’t mistake distraction for malice. There are more variables in sales than any of us would like to admit. Stay disciplined. Stay positive. Stay productive by delivering value. And, just in case, remove the lion head from your office wall.