You’re a happy camper. Why? Because you’re (hypothetically) on the brink of signing a doozy of a consulting project with PlumCo.

Then, outta nowhere, PlumCo’s sales nosedive and your buyer informs you, “Sorry. We can’t do anything right now – all discretionary spending has been cut.”

Apparently you’re discretionary. Now what? You roll with the punches.

Don’t Do This:

“You’re in luck, Professor Plum, because we can take care of your sales problem. I’ll pull  together a new proposal.”

Approaches like that come across as insensitive and opportunistic at a time when your prospect is super stressed and probably a bit embarrassed.

3 Steps to Win Consulting Projects Even when Circumstances Change

1. Empathize:

“Gosh, Professor, that’s a bummer. You must be really frustrated with the downturn in sales.”


2. Set a Trigger:

“Clearly the current circumstances don’t support the project we’ve been discussing. Fortunately, the crisis is likely to pass sooner or later. Let’s set up a concrete trigger, so that when the time is right we can flip the switch and kick off the project immediately.

How will you know that the sales slump is over? What’s the signal that we can dive back in?”

That simple statement accomplished three goals:

  • By implicitly dismissing all objections other than the current circumstances, you’ve increased the odds that the project will sign when circumstances permit;
  • The process of working with your prospect to paint a picture of a brighter future creates a strong, positive connection;
  • You’ve anchored your project to a well-defined, future moment. Without that, the urgency to tackle your project may drift away permanently.

3. Brainstorm an Immediate Solution:

“Professor Plum, having set our original project aside, let’s spend a few minutes brainstorming solutions to your immediate challenge. What do you think we could do together that would help you, given your current situation?”

It’s quite possible no project will emerge from this impromptu powwow. However, it’s often productive to work with prospects on the fly to develop solutions in these sticky spots.

After all, when a prospect develops the solution, he’s far more likely to buy it!

The example I gave you was a downturn in sales, but there are myriad reasons your high-priority project might unexpectedly drop off the radar. No matter what the cause, the winning approach is: empathize, set a trigger, brainstorm a solution.

What are the “Sorry, we can’t do your project” excuses you hear?


Text and images are © 2017 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.