You're at the final stage – closing a deal that will help you develop your business past its current stage. This is an exciting and harrowing time! Here are some tips and tricks to help you effectively navigate it:

Making Sure They're Warm

We've all been through this. Everything looks like it's going so well, and all of the sudden, the phone calls stop, the e-mails stop, and the lead is cold. No, we're not talking about "the one that got away." We're talking about a business development deal – and how to stop a prospect from going cold.

There's usually only one reason this happens: People hate confrontation and avoid it at all costs. They don't like being sold to, and they don't like saying "no," so they just cut off contact. It's hard to say no, and it's easy to ignore someone.

What these folks don't understand (but should, given their position) is that it's so much better to be told "no" than it is to be strung along for a while, only to have them start ignoring you later. The former is, in its way, respectful of your time.

In order to prevent your time from being wasted, you've got to create an environment in which it's easy for them to tell you "no" (without encouraging them to do so.) The environment you're creating? One of comfort and honesty. Let them know you sincerely care about their best interest and whether you can add value to their company, but that if they're too busy or can't focus on it right now, you'd much prefer to keep a line of communication open for the future. This gives them the go-ahead to be transparent with you, because you've "let them off the hook" if they're busy or have too much other stuff going on.

Tactics For Closing Deals

When you're closing a sales or business development deal, your most important task (and also your most challenging) is inspiring a sense of urgency in your counterpart to get it done. It's not hard to get someone to see the value of what you're offering – we perceive value in things all day, every day – but it is difficult to get them to clear their busy schedule and spend precious resources on making your deal a priority.

Luckily, there are a number of tactics you can use to spur someone on to the promised land with you. These were mostly developed for tech startups, but they're broadly applicable, no matter what industry your business is in:

  • 1Sweeten the pot with press opportunities. You need to make the deal time-sensitive in order to instill that urgency. Why not use a well-crafted press release to put some pressure on? If you can get your decision maker thinking they'll look good because of this deal (and positive press coverage is a surefire way to stroke their ego) you might motivate them to move. Make sure you've done your research – mention the company's press strategy, or recent public relations moves – and give them the opportunity to get some coverage for their business (and maybe even themselves, if possible.)
  • 2Mention the competition. Of course, you don't want to be rude about it, but it is important to be transparent about your progress with your decision makers' competition. It's a balancing act – how do you build rapport with someone you need (and someone that you want to like you, for business reasons) without turning them off with a mention of the competition? Try this: Shoot them a "friendly" heads-up. Ask them for a quick phone call to give them important news, then tell them a competitor is moving. Focus in on the idea that you're doing this so they're not caught flat-footed when the news gets out. A light touch here can spur them to action.
  • 3Create a sense of scarcity. If people think time or products are running out, they're going to buy. That's Marketing 101. However, if you're a tech startup and the product is software, it's not like you're going to run out. How do you create a sense of scarcity in order to instill urgency? By focusing on two areas: Resources and access. With resources, you can hint that your team has a lot of upcoming work and might not be available for future support. With access, you can restrict it to "existing partners" – which deprives the decision maker a chance to just put off the deal until after you've launched.

Getting To A Resolution

Hey, let's be honest. You can't always get to "yes." In fact, most of the time, you're going to hear "no." But it's often really important to get that negative affirmation so that you can move on quickly to the next opportunity. Every minute you spend on a deal that's not going anywhere is a minute lost.

With this is mind, you need to get to a resolution quickly, but without turning people off. If someone is not taking the bait, and they're not a huge target that's going to make or break your quarter, it's okay to let them go. Just make sure you're not letting them go because you've run out of patience, or you're scared of hearing the truth.

If you have an "open" deal with someone who is "just thinking about it" and it's been more than a month or even a couple of weeks, ask yourself a hard question: Are you being strategically patient, or afraid of rejection? If it's the former, you're on the right path. If it's the latter, it's time to face the music.