If I think back on most of the big deals I have closed, helped others to close, or trained and coached others to close, there are several common themes we can discuss that you can incorporate into your sales and sales management world. For the purpose of this article, we will assume that the opportunities are actually closable, that your salespeople teed these deals up in an appropriate way, and that they didn't have happy ears:
- Summary of the Issue - In most cases, all that was required was a simple, well worded summary of the problem, like "You're caught between a rock and a hard place. You don't want to piss off Mary or Bob, and because of that, you're pissing off both of them. You're looking for a compromise, when a compromise won't make anybody happy. The only solution to your problem is to make the decision that helps your business grow and if certain people aren't comfortable with that, you know all you need to know about those people."
- Decision Maker - In many cases, salespeople are wasting time attempting to get deals closed with the wrong people, afraid that going over their head will cause the deal to blow up. Well guess what? There is no deal unless you go over their head and get to the person who can close the deal on the customer side!
- Obstacle - In many cases, there is a single obstacle to getting a deal done. Sometimes it's something you don't want to give up. Sometimes it's something they dont' want to give up - like money. In most cases, you can summarize the problem like I did recently: "So let's play this out. You go to your board and say, 'we just agreed to a deal with _________to ______________ . ' I go to my board and say that your company has agreed to a deal to ____________ .' So far so good. Everyone is happy.
"Then you say to your board, 'and we got it for this much' and your board says you're a hero and they give you a raise. And to my board I say, 'and we only got paid this much. They question my sanity, commit me to an institution, and fire me.
"Surely, you can't expect me to justify something like this and still be around to work with you...So why don't you either tell me that you don't want to work together, which is fine, or offer me a deal that makes both of us heroes, which I would prefer."
- Consensus - Many deals sit in limbo because salespeople are waiting for their prospect to achieve consensus from their team. It's much easier to simply say, "you won't get consensus" than it is to wait for something impossible to happen.
- Approval - Many deals get stuck awaiting approval by mysterious people whose job it is to justify their existence. Legal, HR, Accounting, Purchasing and others are often the offenders here. Better to simply ask up front, "Who has to approve this and where is it likely to get hung up?" When they answer, ask, "And what can you do to prevent that from happening - can you walk it through instead of sending it out?"
- Intent - Even more deals die because a prospect tells you or your salespeople that they want to move forward. Happy ears kick in and you take a deep breath and relax, thinking it's done. Then you go into chase mode for months and eventually either get the deal finalized or it officially goes away. You should be asking, "What does moving forward mean?" "What is the timing for that?" "Are you ready to sign an agreement?" Are you ready for us to send an invoice?" Whatever moving forward means to you, please ask if it means the same thing to them.