Does this sound familiar? “We’ll need to talk internally, and then we’ll get back to you.”
Let me guess, you hear this right after you’ve finished your software demo and are trying to schedule another call. Am I right?
Keeping deals flowing through the pipeline is critical for you to hit quota and for your company to realize its revenue goals. However, preventing deals from stalling out and prospects from disappearing isn’t easy.
Too often, the prospect takes control of the sales process, and all communication ends up being on their terms, making it easier for them to procrastinate or opt-out of the deal completely.
To prevent this from happening, you need to know how to keep control of YOUR sales cycle and how to determine when it’s time to walk away.
Co-Written with Rachel Epstein
Salespeople often don't enjoy following imposed rules around selling. And we get it - it can seem more like a burden than a benefit. But companies without a formalized and documented sales process are more likely to have underperforming reps who generate less revenue.
We’ve had a lot of turbulence in the last three years. The pandemic, the Great Resignation, and most recently the war in Ukraine which has pushed the price of oil and gas to an all-time high. All this turmoil has increased prices of just about every consumer good and I’m now seeing an impact on business spending because of talk about a looming recession. The result for your sales team and the reps you manage is that companies are or will be delaying purchases or reducing spending in general until they better understand the economic impact of all these events on the next few months or years. This will make it harder to hit quota and get to OTE (on target earnings). So, the time to act is NOW.
We need to be preparing our reps for the next 7 month and make sure they can control what they can control…..the pipeline. Even though there’s inflation happening globally, a full-blown recession isn’t here yet. It is going to be easier for your sales team, that made ambitious 2022 sales goals in Q4, to achieve if not all, then decent percentage of those goals this year by overfilling the pipeline now.
For most of the startups I worked with, this is the first economic challenge they've faced so I’m helping them understand that when a recession starts, like in so many before, a lot of projects will be paused, and it will be much more difficult to put warm leads into your pipeline. So, let’s talk about actions you and your team can take now to try and mitigate any loss of revenue by filling the funnel.
I started using #ownyourownshit about 5 or 6 years ago when I was in an environment where there were a lot of excuses flying around. The reality was, those individuals, the ones with all the excuses, could have controlled a lot more than they were taking responsibility for.
The majority of complaints I hear from sales reps revolve around things that they can control and either choose not to, don't know they need to, or don’t know how. Not knowing what the right thing to do is doesn’t absolve you from owning your own shit. If you are unsure of what the right thing to do is… ask someone who does know. When you choose not to take control of the things you can control and then outcomes don’t happen the way you want…..well #ownyourownshit.
"My 2nd favorite word is No!" That's what my former employee James was famous for saying. It's great when your prospect does you the favor of saying no, but most times their actions and words will sound more like, maybe. That puts the pressure on you to decide when a maybe is really a no. The trick is to be confident about when to pull the plug on a prospect and move 'em out. If you're not making forward progress with each call, email, or meeting then you need to stop and ask yourself, what are the chances this will close? Your confidence might wain at any time during the sales cycle from a cold outreach conversation to after you've sent a contract with Ts and Cs. You need to be able to identify the red flags that might pop up along the way and then take appropriate action to get the deal back on track or decide it's time to move on.
It appears that there were enough deals in the pipeline and yet here you are again, a few days left in the quarter and you’re only at 52% of your Q3 goal. The quarter started out as it usually does; a “full” pipeline, reps confident they will hit quota this month, and you reporting the good news to the board. But with only a few days left neither you nor your reps feel good about how the quarter will end.
I worked for a CFO once who would regularly say, “That sounds like a broken process.” I got tired of hearing that, not because he was wrong, but because he was right.
I often get calls from Founders or Sales Leaders asking if I will come in and evaluate their sales reps. because they aren’t sure they’ve got the right players on the team. I gently say to them that I’d be happy to interview each rep., and provide feedback, but only after I’ve had a chance to evaluate their sales process. Most of the time I find the people aren’t broken, their sales process is. Without a formal sales process and KPI around it reps. will flounder and sales leaders will be frustrated and clean pipelines will be a fantasy.
I was doing a pipeline audit for a client a few years ago when I ran across a sales stage called “Stalled”. What is this, I asked? “Oh- That’s where we put all the deals that we think will close someday but are currently stalled out. We don’t want to lose track of them.” WTF????
So as crazy as this sounds, they aren’t the only company I’ve run across with a similar thought process. So let’s set the record straight. Stalled is not a stage in the sales cycle!
We spend most of our life trying to add more to it. More money, more friends, more activities, more fun, and more time off. What if life, work, and sales weren’t a quantity game, but a quality game? What if you could enrich your life and work by saying “No” more often? We are over-scheduled, stressed out, and under the delusion that more is better. Saying “No” or “I wish I could” isn’t easy, but it’s better than saying yes and being resentful. #ownyourownshit
“Choose Discomfort over Resentment”
– Brene Brown
There are two areas that I introduce the addition by subtraction philosophy to my clients: People and Pipeline.
Using the word disrespectful may seem harsh, but I need to get your attention. I’m tired of seeing Sales Reps., Sales Engineers, Solutions Consultants and Technical team members be disrespectful of the prospect’s time and intelligence while demoing their product.
According to CEB, “57% of the purchase decision is already complete before the customer even calls the supplier.” If we know this (and we do) then why aren’t we putting in the same amount of time and effort learning about our prospect and their needs as the prospect has put into learning about our industry, our company and our competitors?