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Sales Quiz: How to Handle a Zombie Customer

A zombie is a customer who doesn't buy, but remains in the pipeline. A reader recently emailed me:
I'd like to hear your advice on how to handle a lead/prospect who was engaged and responsive right up to the point where they got the price. . . and then went silent. Sometimes these zombies come back to life in the next 12 months or they stay dead. How would you suggest getting closure on a cold prospect while at the same time letting them know they can re-engage when they're ready to buy?
What's the best way to handle this situation? Your choices are:
  • #1: Provide an easy way to contact you. Make sure that the zombie has a high-quality brochure, your business card, and your assurance that you're there when you need them.
  • #2: Consistently keep it in the sales loop. Send frequent emails updating the zombie on product upgrades, special deals, etc., so that it will keep you in mind when it's ready to buy.
  • #3: Start the sales cycle again. Work with the zombie to identify the full impact of not buying and gain agreement that the impact is real and properly quantified.
  • #4: Exhume it from your pipeline. A zombies is, by definition, dead. So why are you wasting your time worrying about a deal that's dead and most likely to remain that way?

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The best answer is: #3: Start the sales cycle again.
Your tactical problem is the result of waiting until the end of the sales cycle to surface the price, probably because you're afraid that the prospect will balk. That's dumb, because you're wasting time selling to a customer who isn't going to buy. You'd be much better off surfacing the price up front and then getting into the rest of the story, if only to filter out the lookee-loos.

Your strategic problem is that you're not building up a strong enough financial case for purchasing your offering. Assuming it's a B2B offering, you've got to get the customer to agree to the financial impact of the problem that it solves... before you get into a specific discussion of price. You give a ball-park figure up-front, but you wait until you've got the problem sized before you get into the real cost of the solution.

READERS: Any further suggestions?

On the off chance that somebody got to this post because one of their customer turned out to actually be a REAL zombie, here are the 10 ways to kill a zombie.