Sometimes an opportunity presents itself at a point where your dream client is too far along in the buying process for you to follow your sales process. When the buying committee is way past recognizing needs, it’s difficult to get them to agree to go back to a needs analysis—especially if they have already been through the process with a competitor.

Following your sales process increases your chances of winning, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Lots of times it is best to disqualify yourself. But sometimes you are called upon to take a flyer, to take a chance and try to win the opportunity anyway. Sometimes you are compelled to do so.

It isn’t easy to win from this position, but there are some things you can do to improve your odds.

Limit Your Presentation and Engage in Dialogue

Normally, if you have nurtured your dream client over a long period and followed your sales process, the presentation stage is a formality. It’s a confirmation of a vision and solution that you have built together with your dream client over time. This is true even when other proposals are taken and your competitors are given the chance to present.

Sometimes you are the third company asked to present to ensure the appearance of fairness and propriety.

In these cases, it is better to forgo the long, detailed presentation of a solution that isn’t likely to match your prospect’s needs. Instead, you give a very high level overview of who you are and how you help your clients. The goal is to limit the time you spend presenting, creating enough credibility about your capabilities to engage in a dialogue about your prospect’s problems, challenges, and opportunities.

By opening a dialogue, you create an opportunity to revisit their needs and, with a little luck, reframe those needs in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.

Presenting a solution based on your best guess is a poor idea and one that is unlikely to win. Shortening your presentation frees up time to create the value you might have created had you been given the opportunity to work through the discovery phase of your sales process and their buying process.

If you are given 90 minutes to present, use 5 minutes for introductions and agendas, then use 25 minutes for an overview of who you are, some evidence of the results you provide your clients, and to explain the differences that make the difference. Then, say: “We’d like to spend the balance of our time learning how any of this might be applied to what you need right now. Can you share with us what the right solution needs to look like and why?”

Change the Outcome from Winning to Extending

It is important to go into every sales interaction knowing what you want as your outcome. Normally, if you are called to present in your dream client’s boardroom, the desired result is to win the opportunity (even though you should have done all you could to ensure that it was a fait accompli).

In this case, trying to present a solution that wins is a loser. So you change the outcome.

A better outcome is to extend the game. Instead of going for the win, make the goal of your presentation and your dialogue to create enough interest that you get a second bite at the apple. You want a chance to reengage in a dialogue after you have learned enough to know and understand what an effective solution might look like.

You want to force the game into overtime.

You can ask for a follow up call to review what you have learned and to present a solution. You can ask for an opportunity to respond to their questions formally, and to ask a few more questions of your own. If you can create enough value through a dialogue, you can give your buying committee pause, creating enough interest to at least earn yourself a second look, just to make sure that you aren’t the right choice.

The worst outcome from following this line is that you will lose, but will have done so positioning yourself as someone who it is worth spending more time with in the future. If you create value and interest, you open the door to future opportunities.

And, you’ll have the business cards of all of the buying committee members to add to your nurture list.

Sometimes you have to take a flyer. But when you do have to take a chance and present without having done the right work leading up to the presentation, try to change the game enough to give yourself a fighting chance and establish yourself as the right partner for the future.


When it is best to disqualify yourself from an opportunity that you stand a very low chance of winning?

When you take a flyer, what makes it worth your while to try and to compete?

What is your expected outcome when you present having not done all that was necessary up to that point?

Even if you lose presenting from behind like this, what can you gain from doing so?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 11, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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