5 Minute Biz Magic: Deals Fall Apart
Unfortunately, one of the truths of entrepreneurship, is that deals fall apart. With so much optimism and proactive efforts to secure customers, investors, partnerships, and other opportunities, it can be incredibly discouraging to see a sale or other opportunity stall, delay, or fall apart after spending time and effort to make it happen.
Yet every entrepreneur will encounter this on the path to success. It’s inevitable and because it’s so frequent in the early stages, where the closing rate is a lot lower because of the risk, lack of track record, and lack of prior testimonials from happy customers, predicting and responding to deals falling apart is an important skill. So let’s tackle these as two separate issues: predicting deals falling apart, and responding to it when it happens.
Predicting Deals Falling Apart
There are some classic indicators that a) a deal is not going to close and b) that an existing deal is going to dissolve.
Here are a few to consider:
- Lack of response (crickets)
- Avoidance of completing deliverables (lack of follow through on providing a contract, payment, etc.)
- Nebulous / vague indicators of interest: communication from the client / etc. which is not specific, and which indicates a lack of commitment – “maybe”, “sometime”, “in the future”, etc.
- Delay on agreed-upon timeframes
- Delayed communication or slower communication than previously
- Rescheduling of appointments, conference calls, meetings to move the project forward
None of these are a great sign, except potentially the first one (lack of response). Sometimes people are busy or get interrupted, so a calm, check-in email or call is always a professional and appropriate way to get a status check on how things are going. However, if there is no response to a check-in, it’s best to read the sign accurately, as a lack of interest (and a lack of respect).
Predicting that a deal is stalled or falling apart, is important because it gives you an opportunity to emotionally detach from the transaction, and, not bank the farm against the hoped-for revenue, investment, etc. (It’s also good practice to not “spend” against a potential contract or investment until the money is in the bank, and you’ve made it past the first few post-contract deliverables, too…)
If an entrepreneur is hung up on the desperation that a certain deal HAS to close, or takes the stance of feeling 100% certain that a deal will close, regardless of the signs described above, in my perspective that is just self-torture, and it’s delusional. It doesn’t help to be optimistic in this situation; it helps to digest reality and make a forward plan. This leads us to…
Responding When Deals Fall Apart
There are three constructive ways to respond to a deal falling apart, and two negative / damaging ways. Let’s explore!
3 CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSES:
- Gracious acceptance of reality and a clear wrap up of the discussion: when it’s become clear that the deal has fallen apart (see list of signs above), taking the high road to signal acceptance of the end, and to take care of any “housekeeping”, is a great way to go. It illustrates your capacity to deal with disappointment while also being professional and respectful of others. It also lets the other party off the hook and doesn’t leave any negativity behind. It’s just classy all around.
- Gracious acceptance of reality and a polite query for feedback: This is a great way to attempt turning a failure into a salvaged opportunity, whether for this specific transaction, or, to improve your approach and skills for the next opportunity in the future (with this organization / individual or another…). Be careful not to use this request for feedback in a manipulative way, give the other party the choice and a clear opt in as to whether and when to provide feedback, or not.
- Tag the discussion as a failed transaction, put a note on the calendar to circle back in 6 months / 12 months / etc.: sometimes things fall apart because of timing, or events / situations which require a longer time to overcome, before a transaction can come to fruition. With opportunities that have future promise but are experiencing current failure, it can be helpful to “wrap them up” and come back to them later when conditions have improved. Not every transaction has future viability, so use this option sparingly and only when mutually-beneficial opportunities are likely.
2 DAMAGING RESPONSES:
- Anything inflammatory: blaming, fighting, gossiping, threats, negative words, threat of litigation, lawsuits, breaking things, violence, retribution, revenge, etc. It’s just not worth it. Life is long and business has a far shorter shelf life, it’s not worth damaging your social capital, personal energy, “karma”, reputation, or invoking long and bitter, expensive, waste-of-time legal processes. When a deal has gone south or an opportunity has failed, let it go…. and use all of your energy to move on to the next great opportunity.
- No response at all: As humans, we crave resolution. Even as the “dumper” in a breakup, we want a response and feedback. Walking away without any closure / wrap up feedback is an anti-social way of ending a relationship, and business is all about relationships. Any of the 3 constructive responses will leave a friend, regardless of the situation, and produce positive karma in your reputational social capital bank account. You never know when someone will run into your next potential client or investor and make a referral / intro for you…. so this choice of response would be last on my list for how to handle deals falling apart.
In terms of deals falling apart, it’s not really a question of whether it will happen to you / your organization, but when and how often. Bring your A game to the “downs” of the ups & downs of entrepreneurial life, by wrapping up and responding to failed transactions with elegance. It can only benefit you and bring good things your way.
If you’ve made it this far into this 5 Minute Biz Magic article, hurray! I like to leave a challenge – so here’s this week’s: look at the deals you’re pursuing, and make choices to wrap up or clean up any failing transactions in your business life. Implement one of the three “constructive responses”, and experience the relief it brings. And let us know how it goes – drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear about your experience applying this skill.