“The CFO jumped in last minute”, “Budget got pulled”, “Priorities shifted”, “They just went dark on me”. Any of these sound familiar? If we’re honest with ourselves it’s likely because we’ve said them in the last week of the quarter to explain why your biggest deal is pushing. What many leaders fail to realize is that every one of these excuses is really the same excuse…the rep failed to map the buying process and get true prospect buy-in.
No wonder less than half (47%) of all deals that are forecasted actually close, and 21% end up being indefinitely stalled (CSO Insights Sales Performance Study)
That’s the dirty little secret of deal slippage – in 99% of cases, while sales reps will blame the prospect, introspection is in order. CFO jumps in last minute? Why wasn’t she involved earlier to understand her criteria for the decision? Budget was pulled? Why wasn’t our proposal the top customer priority and justified to stack up better against all other potential decisions? The champion went dark? Why weren’t other stakeholders identified or a relationship built so the champion would be comfortable sharing what happened?
In reality, deals slip because sellers haven’t diagnosed and prescribed properly, and aren’t managing, tracking and facilitating the decision process. When the buyer is involved collaboratively in the decision process, helps set deadlines, and contributes to open lines of communication there are no surprises – and if somehow, there are surprises, you will have maximum notice.
How do you help sellers proactively avoid these foreseeable issues? How do you keep your forecasts accurate? Build a collaborative Mutual Action Plan (MAP) into your sales process. Want to end deal slippage in the last weeks of the quarter forever? Watch for these three “deal delayers” and implement protections through inspection.
Deal Delayer #1 – Failure to Identify All Decision Makers
2020 has changed how companies buy. As cashflow tightens and risk avoidance elevates,The CFO and other key executives are involved in more deals and earlier than ever. There is nothing worse than doing a Proof of Concept, then when you send over the contract hear that the CFO or other executives vetoed the deal. Want to avoid hearing about a “poison pill” coming in at the end just to overrule the whole buying team?
Deal Protector – Get the Financial Buyer Involved Early
You know the CFO or whoever holds the purse strings will be getting involved eventually. Even if your champion swears they have a budget set aside – get the financial buyer in early. At a minimum, understand the contract approval process and make it a part of the MAP that the champion gets their sign off repeatedly as the deal approaches close. Be ready to bring in your sales leaders to reinforce you if needed (“Sorry would you mind setting up that call? My boss really wants to make sure everything is set for signing?”).
Since CFOs and executives need to understand the impact the proposed solution will have on the business, and not in flowery but concrete terms, you need to clearly demonstrate and prove how much “do nothing” will cost the organization if they continue with their legacy status quo, and deliver a financial justification business case, one built collaboratively with the champion and buying team, leveraging their metrics and assumptions.
Deal Delayer #2 – Failure to Agree on Priorities
MAPs are a fantastic way to not only win more deals, but get incredible insight into another business. It’s easy to focus just on the problem you’re able to solve – but frequently that problem doesn’t present enough pain to get a deal over the finish line. Sure you can save 10% of person hours or automate some task – but how does that help the buyer, department and the company achieve their key strategic goals?
If you can’t tie the proposed value you deliver to one or more key strategic company goals it’s easy for the budget to get reassigned to a higher priority proposal or have the purchase decision postponed – because there are more important strategic priorities for your buyer to solve. Telling a story, particularly one with your absence at the forefront, is an effective way to get buyers to see what life would be like without you.
Deal Protector #2 – Know Where the Problem You Solve Fits Into the Bigger Picture
Tie your solution to a strategic priority, weaving a value story of how your solution will help address key priority issues with low risk and sharing positive outcomes from others you have worked with to similarly solve these issues.
If your solution doesn’t directly solve the biggest challenges, you can still tie your solution to those larger challenges by showing how the time, money, energy saved by solving the smaller problem you address can perhaps allow them to funnel that time, money and energy into the BIG picture and accomplish their BIG strategic goals.
Deal Delayer #3 – Failure to Establish Two-Way Communication
The operative word here is “Two-Way”. We’ve talked before about how important it is to make the MAP about your buyer, not about yourself – and this is how you know you’ve done that right. If the seller is always initiating communication then the buyer (even if they’ve “agreed” to the MAP) may not be fully “bought-in”. Either the buyer is stretched too thin and doesn’t have time to devote to the process or doesn’t see the end result having a large enough impact on the business or on them personally to merit their attention.
Deal Protector #3 – Earn the Right to Have Tough Conversations
When the buying team follows up with the selling team as often as the selling team asks the buying team for something – you have a functional, open relationship. This relationship (especially if on-going and frequent) is the best way to prevent surprises.
A buyer can’t ghost you when you’re calling and emailing at least once a week with both parties carrying equal weight. Even more importantly this constant communication means you’ll be able to spot delays or blockers before that molehill becomes a mountain. Lastly – if something does arise at the last minute you’ll be able to ask for context and understand what is actually happening instead of being kept in the dark. Humans have an aversion to covering up or hiding what’s happening to people who they trust will help them, or who they worry about “letting down”. Guilt can be a powerful motivator. You can’t have that hard conversation if you don’t have that history of two way communication and a MAP with your buying team.
The Ultimate Anti-Slip Conversation
Ultimately the difference between a forecast that is realistic and one that isn’t is management’s level of diligence and insistence on adherence to a well-built sales process and mutual action plan. Sales leaders who don’t want to scramble the last week of the quarter must invest the time early to hold their teams accountable. Sales reps must be honest with leaders about their discovery and keep in mind discovery doesn’t end after the first or second call..
Insist on better sales practices and experiences for your buyers. Deploy the deal savers and watch out for the deal delayers. It may feel like overkill at first – but the first quarter you really commit I promise you’ll be surprised how quickly those excuses die and how few deals “slip” at the last minute.