Nothing is more frustrating than putting all of your effort into sales activities to close a deal, only to get to the close date find out your deal is dead. The frustration is on MANY levels…including the folks who are reporting the business. It’s management’s job to forecast the business. Forecasting deals is the center of every pipeline meeting, and every conversation at the end of a quarter. Knowing if a deal is going to close is at the center of every pipeline review for every sales organization on the planet – yet the surprises still come at the end of the Q.
Understand…this issue will always exist…but with a little forethought and awareness of the deal killing behaviors, you can avoid the surprise and limit the stalls and death of your deals.
Trap 1: Product Selling vs Solution Selling
Companies buy because they have problems to solve. Salespeople sell because they have a product portfolio to push and a quota to hit. Their compensation plan dictates WHAT they will sell, vs what the customer NEEDS. Unfortunately, this results in salespeople talking features and benefits, and forget to ask why the customer has a problem in the first place. Product Sellers are self-serving and don’t listen well enough to understand what the reasons are the customer is talking to them in the first place. They present product features and benefits and don’t see the clues that may be killing their deals.
Flip it on its ear. Find out what problems your customers are dealing with. You need to be curious about their most pressing issues…and tie it BACK to your product if you CAN. You have to establish an understanding of their issue, and a path to solve it. A product that doesn’t solve a specific problem is of no value to the customer.
Best way to sell something: Don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy. – Jeffrey Gitomer
Trap 2: Presenter Drone
Most sales organizations require a standard pitch. They want you to memorize it and inject it into daily activities as often as possible. This ends up being a massive crutch – and often – reps become drones. Don’t be that salesperson. By all means – present your story. But do it in an engaging way that draws your customer in. It helps to know that you understand the issues the customer is dealing with. During the presentation – don’t go into pitch mode. Engage the customer, get confirmation and pay attention to buying signals. A presentation needs to have involvement from the entire room. No involvement means your deal is in danger.
Trap 3: Scared to Ask Real Questions
I have had a situation where a customer was sitting through a demo and not engaging at all. The sales rep was very excited about the features and functionality of the new offering and it was very clear that there was massive improvement over the previous version. The rep was ecstatic with how the meeting went and was absolutely confident in committing the deal. When the close date arrived – the customer stalled. Instead of moving forward with a PO…the customer decided they wanted to see proof…as in Proof of Concept…on our dime, before moving forward. Why now? Because they already bought a new version of another solution a year ago…and it STILL hadn’t been deployed correctly.
Avoid this situation by recognizing that there are opportunities to ask tough questions. Sometimes your baby is ugly – maybe the price is too high, maybe the customer doesn’t believe the claims being made, or maybe the customer is happy with what they have already. Don’t rely on free trials or POC’s to close deals because you haven’t addressed a hard issue up front.
Trap 4: Price Obsession
We’ve all been there. Bigwig customer who is known for getting the lowest price/highest discounts on EVERY deal. Always claims that price and budget are the only things that concern them. Let me help you here. Price is never the only issue, nor is it the most important.
These types of customers are toying with you. When dealing with this type of customer – you cannot commit a deal just because you can meet their price/discount requirements. The only time you can commit a deal with this customer is when you have validated YOUR solution to the problem – and you have agreement on the value of that solution. This puts the challenge back on the customer to find an alternative solution or do nothing. Then you can work on their need to “get the best deal possible”.
Trap 5: Waiting Too Long To Close
Sales cycles are pretty long…but they don’t always have to be. As a salesperson, you need to let your customer know that it is your intention to sell the something. Let them know that you are interested not only in understanding and solving their problems, but that it’s your intention to have them buy the solution from you. You have to present with confidence once you know your product can solve their problem. Transparency in this area is key.
All sales cycle occur in stages…and all stages must be completed with a series of YES decisions. Make sure these “Yes” decisions align with the buyers process. The best thing you can do is to break the sales cycle down so it aligns with the most important “YES’s” required from your buyers to get the sale. Each “yes” gets you closer and allows you to manage the deal more accurately. At each “Yes” – ask the customer if they have seen enough to justify the sale.
It’s better to close early than to waste time waiting too long. Feedback at every stage prompts a move ahead, or shutting it down so you can find other pipeline.
Trap 6: No Political Map
It happens way more often than you would believe. Most deals occur with only one or two folks even aware of the solution being evaluated. This is where the daggers are. Before you begin your process, find out who else influences decisions. This can be done by profiling your account – names, titles. Find out who they are and reach out to them. They also have problems to solve, and knowing what they are can tell you if they might have in impact on your sale.
It’s important to know what the organizational structure is in your account, but most important is the political structure. Who has the juice? there are plenty of folks that have a low ranking title, but carry heavy weight with key decision makers.
Lets face it…every company has their own battlefields. It is your responsibility to know where the land mines are. The more you communicate with them, the more aware you are. Map your account.
Trap 7: Hiding The Price
It’s foolish to think the customer won’t care about price if the solution solves a huge problem. No one wants to overpay for anything. Give the customer your price. This is the beginning of your negotiation and it is a barometer of customer willingness to continue the process. They may scoff at the price…just agree with them. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to explain why your solution is the best value in the market.
Generate urgency to close the customer and give them a view of YOUR landmines early. If you can’t close the customer because you are never going to be able to compete on price…then better to know that potentiality now, so you can go find another target.
Whether you are managing teams, or managing your own accounts…just be aware of the traps all around you.