Every Sales or Business Development professional knows this story all too well: Everything is going great on a new deal you’re trying to close when all of a sudden, the partner goes radio silent.
Emails that used to be responded to same-day are now going unreturned. The deal never actually closes and you’re not sure why. You’d been willing to make the partner a better offer, but now it looks like you’ll never even get the chance. You’re not sure why the deal fell apart or what you could have done differently. What should you do now?
Here are some suggestions that have worked for me:
1. Get some face-time
The first thing I try and do is meet with the partner face to face. In person you’re usually able to glean a lot more information from someone than they would be willing to share via email or on the phone. You may also have a chance to clear up some simple misunderstandings that were deal-breakers for them but not actually something your organization cared about that much.
2. Go back to the beginning
Another tactic that can be helpful is to revisit your very first conversations with the partner about their business. Confirm that what you know about their business goals and partnership objectives is still accurate. Often a startup (or a division of a large corporation) has business goals that are moving targets, constantly shifting due to company performance or need to to adapt to external factors. If that’s the case, and you’ve been working the deal for a while, then your partnership proposal may simply be solving outdated problems for them, and the value exchange of the deal needs to be adjusted.
Often a startup (or a division of a large corporation) has business goals that are moving targets, constantly shifting due to company performance, the company’s need to to adapt or other external factors. If that’s the case, and you’ve been working the deal for a while, then your partnership proposal may simply be solving outdated problems for them, and the value exchange of the deal needs to be adjusted.
3. Deal with the decision-maker
Make sure that the decision-maker is getting the right story and that your pitch isn’t being watered down or altered in the eternal game of corporate telephone. If the day-to-day partnership manager isn’t senior enough to be the decision-maker, it can be a difficult dance to somehow get in front of their boss or boss’s boss. However, your contact should be incentivized to help you make it happen, as they’re the ones set up to look like the hero if the deal ends up having a positive effect on their business. Another way to get to the real decision-maker is by “leveling.” Have your boss or CEO reach out directly to a VP or C-level person in the partner’s organization and revive your negotiations that way.
4. Know when to call it quits
If you’ve tried all of the above and the deal still looks dead, do yourself and your company a favor and stop pursuing it. It doesn’t behoove you or your organization to come off as desperate in trying to get a deal done. That being said, it’s always beneficial to ask your partner for candid feedback on why the deal fell apart and what could have been done differently. This is helpful both for improving your pitch with other partners and also providing you with guidance on when is the appropriate time to revisit things with the initial partner in the future, if ever.
The key takeaway here is that if a partner goes sleepy on you, it’s likely because there simply isn’t a good mutual partnership fit. But you owe it to yourself and to your company to do everything you can to wake them up first.