If you’re like most companies, you have prospects you’ve been trying to sell to for years, only to hear one excuse after another regarding why they haven’t purchased anything from you. You may have spent thousands or even millions of dollars trying to win their business, only to see it go to a competitor time after time.

While persistence is a virtue, there comes a time when you have to recognize that in certain situations, failure, not success, lies on the other side of failure. Before you abandon a prospect like this, I suggest you find out their intentions regarding your company and products. A good way to do this is to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the prospect. Let them know ahead of time that you want to discuss the following:

  1. You’ve invested a lot of money and other resources into the relationship
  2. You haven’t realized a return on your investment
  3. You’d like them to speak honestly about why they haven’t purchased anything from you, and determine their intentions regarding purchasing your products in the future.
  4. How your relationship with the prospect will have to change if they decide not to buy from you.

Note: There is nothing wrong with doing this. You’re in business to make money and have fun, and to continue to invest resources in a losing cause, with little or no hope in winning, doesn’t meet either of these requirements.

Once you’re in the meeting, you want to discuss the following topics:

  1. What current or future advantages does the prospect recognize in your products vs. those of your competitors?
  2. If the prospect says there aren’t any, but they want you to continue to provide quotations and proposals, you need to find out why. (They may be interested in keeping you around just to create leverage with their preferred supplier.)
  3. If the prospect mentions advantages your products have, ask them to be specific about those advantages and what they mean in terms of additional money earned or saved, relative to your competitor.
  4. Finally, ask them if they intend to buy from you in the future, including what specifically they plan to buy and when.

In the end, you’ll be much better off knowing your prospects’ intentions, and adjusting your sales efforts accordingly, than continuing to throw money away hoping for a miracle.