Delayed Sales Are Killing Us!

Don Linder

“Ron Sherwood is terribly frustrated with his whole sales & marketing team.

Last week, Ron and his entire executive team had carefully reviewed his company’s sales forecast with Trevor Jansen, his VP of Sales & Marketing. Based on the confidence inspired by this review, Ron approved the purchase of additional product inventory.

This week, on Friday, Trevor delivers bad news; a key prospective customer is delaying the biggest potential order in their forecast for at least six months. The customer’s reason; “We’re going ahead with another project that has a higher return on investment. We’ll call you again in six months.”

Ron resolves to find a way to prevent these terrible surprises.”

What really causes customers to delay decisions?


1. The problem isn’t worth solving!

The customer thinks the solution is more expensive and more painful than living with the problem.

And they may be right. Your job is to help them understand the problem more clearly. What (if any) are the consequences of the visible problem symptoms? Does the problem just have the obvious effect or does the problem negatively impact other processes, other departments and even their customers?

For the sales team, there are great benefits to helping customers work through this problem/consequence analysis. If the problem really isn’t serious enough to justify your solution, you can move on to another potential customer who has a severe enough problem. And save all the sales effort and expense involved in demonstrating, writing proposals and quotations.

If the problem is severe enough to justify your solution, your probability of winning the contract is much higher due to the business advice that you’ve provided to the customer. After all, you’ve helped your customer develop the business case (in clear ROI terms) for solving their problem. And you’ve explored the severity of their problem in areas where you have distinctive value, haven’t you?


2. There’s no champion.

Without someone in the customer’s organization promoting the need to solve a specific problem, the inertia of everyday urgent tasks takes over and nothing changes. Or some other person promoting the need to solve another problem captures the attention of the executives who approve expenditures.

Some of us still have the naïve belief that managers will do what’s right for their company. And in some cases that is true.

But for most significant projects that require getting approval from top executives, an individual manager must clearly see some personal benefit to their career before they will take the time, effort and risk of championing a project.


Key Learnings:

Be sure you investigate the problem thoroughly with the customer before getting into the expensive cycle of demonstrating, proposing and quoting pricing.

A thorough investigation provides two substantial benefits to the sales team:

  • You can move on to a better prospect if the problem isn’t big enough to justify your solution.
  • If the problem is severe enough, you’ve increased your chances of success significantly.

Ensure that you develop a champion within the customer organization and that she understands how she achieves a personal win from solving the problem.


Don Linder, the founder of Major Client Selling, uses structured tools and creative strategies to solve the complex puzzle of selling to big customers. He's the author of "The Seven Deadly Mistakes that Cause You to Lose Large Sales." You can reach Don at


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