Selling is Like Riding a Bicycle, To Stay in the Game You Have to Keep Moving

CEO and Founder at Tramazing, former President of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, and former Executive Vice President of Sandler Corporate Training, Michael Norton has helped companies accelerate their growth by elevating their talent through learning and development programs. Michael has had the pleasure of working with world-class companies such as Siemens Healthcare, WebMD, 7-Up, Cardinal Health, Cemex, Boral, HPE, Indeed, Lonza, KONE, Evonik, Quest Software, Dell, Anixter, and many more. for 30+ years he has developed, written, delivered, reinforced, and sold sales and sales management training programs that deliver real ROI while fitting into a company's culture, processes, daily sales workflow, and budget.

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“Time kills deals!” I still remember the first time a sales manager said that to me. It was early in my selling career and my manager had just asked me about an opportunity that continued to push. First, it was a one-month push, then two months, and then it was over, and I had lost the sale.  

As a young and naïve salesperson, I lacked the sales savvy that would have helped me to see that there was never going to be a true opportunity to win the business. It wasn’t that I had just lost the sale to a ‘no decision’ or lack of budget, I had lost the deal to a competitor.  

Staying in the game or staying in any one deal does require that as salespeople we must keep moving, as long as we are moving in the right direction. And moving in the right direction means that we are continuing to add value to the conversations and helping our prospects make the best possible decision that will help them close a gap or achieve a goal. Even if it means that at this time, our solution is NOT the answer to their problem.  

Keeping our balance on a bicycle requires that we keep some type of momentum going. We can coast for a while, but sooner or later, we will have to do some pedaling too. Working hard at the beginning of our ride, and then keeping some positive pressure on the pedaling so that we do not stop. Or at least not stopping until we decide that we want to stop. In selling the same holds true. We have to know when to stay in balance, stay in motion, and keep pressing forward, but we also have to know when it’s time to hit the brakes and stop the ride.  

Looking back on my experiences all those years ago, I am grateful for my sales manager who let me know that “Time kills deals.” It changed the way that I have looked at each opportunity ever since. It taught me to apply some level of positive pressure along the way. Not aggressive or manipulative, but the right balance of assertiveness and value-added selling. The goal is to recognize that there is an opportunity to do business or not. Equally as important is to help our prospect to fully understand if our solutions can help fill a gap or achieve their goal.  

If we can disqualify the opportunity, meaning a “no” for now, and do so professionally, or they can disqualify us and our solution for now, it is a huge win for both of us. They get to spend time with other providers who can help them, and we get to move on to other prospects where we have a true sales opportunity.  

Final Thought: Newer salespeople are impacted by this more than seasoned sales veterans. Top performers know the importance of setting expectations, inspecting those expectations, and level-setting with their prospects to avoid this trap is crucial to sales success. When deals start ‘pushing’ out, and the prospect keeps asking for more information or more time, remember to pump the brakes, stop, get off the bicycle, and have a candid conversation with the prospect about what is happening, why, and reset expectations.  

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