This particular core concept of Customer Focused Selling is for salespeople who have long sell cycles. Prior to hiring us, it is not uncommon for our clients, when initiating opportunities, to have 9-month sell cycles, in part because in the enterprise sales environment, the selection process usually requires the evaluation of multiple vendors. When a corporation is considering a large purchase, it typically wants three or more quotations. For vendors reacting, it will be a short sales cycle with little or no chance of winning. In many such cases, the buyers knew from the start which vendor they wanted to buy from, but they still had to get others to bid. In other words, these buyers are simply going through the motions to demonstrate to senior management that they did sufficient due diligence.
If you are not the predetermined vendor, bad news early is good news. The worst thing a salesperson can do to him- or herself and the company is to go the distance and lose. This feels a little counterintuitive, but it's true. Two vendors win in every predetermined sales cycle: the company that is awarded the business and the company that has pulled out early, giving itself the chance to pursue other winnable opportunities. All the other vendors invited in go the distance, only to be awarded a silver medal.
Again, the key is to do your homework, keep your ear to the ground, and be realistic about your chances of success. A salesperson has to qualify opportunities, which in many cases means disqualifying opportunities—including those buyers who are simply putting them through the motions. Sales managers, too, have a role to play. They can help their salespeople recognize bad news early and disqualify nonopportunities.