Putting a Stop to Delayed Deals Is Your JobArticle by Colleen Francis, August 26, 2020
We all know that sellers must close more deals in less time to achieve professional success. However, these days, too many skilled salespeople are struggling with deals that are stuck in what seems like perpetual limbo.
It’s a frustrating experience when this occurs. And it’s happening a lot right now. A recent LinkedIn study found that 60% of sellers were anticipating a decrease when it came to closing new deals, while 14% expected a significant decrease.
However, just because you have a troublesome trend on your hands doesn’t mean you’re absolved of responsibility.
If you’re a seller—even working in these current market conditions—it’s your job to anticipate delayed deals and prevent them from becoming major problems. Here’s what you must do to ensure these stuck deals don’t sink your career and your business.
Clean up your pipeline now.
I get it. In busier times, it was almost excusable to allow your sales pipeline to have a few renegade accounts where things were moving on an unreliable schedule. But these are different times now. You owe it to yourself to know which deals are alive and dead. No more grey area! The only way to achieve clarity is by having a frank conversation with your customer in cases where green lighting a deal keeps getting delayed. They won’t initiate that difficult conversation with you. Only you can do this. And the outcome each time will help you focus solely on good accounts and eliminate bad ones.
Get multiple perspectives.
This is crucial, and as you’ll see in a moment, success here determines how well you’ll be able to execute additional steps. It’s not enough to just rely on your existing contacts to understand what’s going on within each of your accounts when you’re trying to get to the bottom of delayed deals. You must go beyond who you know. You’d think this is self-evident, but it comes up regularly in my coaching calls with sellers. When they tell me they’ve been fruitless in finding answers to why their deals are stuck, I ask: “Have you tried asking someone new?” The answer is almost always: “No.”
Find the need and money.
Sellers often tell me the deals they’re proposing to customers simply aren’t getting the traction they used to…and blame it on budgetary constraints. In truth, the money is always there (if the business is solvent). What changes are priorities. That’s why you must work doubly hard at gaining multiple perspectives and building deeper rapport with your customer. A client of mine in the software business discovered that their customer had a new, pressing need to continue delivering an important service, but while working with a reduced workforce. Thus, my client refocused their message on how effective their product is at automating tasks and defraying labour costs. Once my client found the untapped need, their customer found the money to green light the deal.
Never make decisions about stuck deals based on speculation about your customer. Doing so is a recipe for disaster because you’re bound to create new proposals or incentives that make no sense to your buyer. Instead, work with those multiple perspectives you’ve gained and ask them pointedly: “Why is this deal stuck?” The answers you get will give you the facts you need to develop new offers or new options designed to address the particular pain points your customer has. You can only do this when operating from what you know is true…never from what you feel might be true.
Break down big things.
Big projects and big-ticket proposals can sometimes be a hard sell—especially in uncertain times. Explore ways you can segment your business proposal into smaller, more manageable pieces. This provides two immediate benefits. First, it creates new flexibility in terms of budget and deal scope, which makes quicker decision-making easier for your customer to commit. Just as importantly though, a smaller deal that moves ahead now gives you new leverage to start building more rapport and gaining new, multiple perspectives within the customer’s organization.
Ultimately, if you’re a seller, it is most definitely your job to manage your deals and to unstick the ones that aren’t moving forward. The reason why should be obvious: a delayed deal is never your customer’s fault. It’s the responsibility of the salesperson. You are the ones who are supposed to be skilled at closing deals and working well with people. Stay focused on what’s within your power!