Salespeople often make the mistake of thinking about all the reasons a deal will close. They convince themselves that the opportunity is solid, so they can justify forecasting revenue on the basis of the deal coming in.
Don’t be one of these sales reps! This kind of thinking is harmful to your (pipeline’s) health.
As you think about reasons an opportunity will close, you prevent yourself from critically analysing the deal. Most likely, the deal will not close. You can do yourself a favour by listing all the reasons your deal will not close. As you list all the negatives, you will see ways to better your chances of winning, and you will get a cold dose of reality that translates to an accurate sales forecast.
Here are 10 reasons your deal will not close:
1. Your customer is not in a buying cycle.
The best salespeople create business from scratch. It all starts with a selling cycle: there’s no inbound lead. At some point, the selling needs to stop, and the prospect needs to transition into a buying cycle. This delicate transition is not represented properly in most sales frameworks and often occurs without the buyer or seller realising. In some cases, the prospect never makes the shift to buyer, and those deals do not close.
2. They’re not buying what you’re selling.
Mature buyers become very good at communicating what they want, why they want it, and when and how their service provider needs to deliver. Sellers who are used to dealing with mature buyers can run into trouble when a less savvy prospect comes along. You can end up wasting a lot of time with a prospect who wants to buy something fundamentally different to what you provide. Mature buyers will qualify themselves out very quickly; immature buyers need to be told there is a poor fit.
Apathy is the best salesperson. Apathy offers a free and easy solution that is available any time: maintain the status quo. Some customers will show all the signs of being interested in a purchase, but don’t have any driver that is strong enough to overcome apathy. Going back to point one, apathy is a key reason some selling cycles don’t become buying cycles.
4. Your buyer isn’t certain of next steps.
This one is usually the seller’s fault. Uncertainty clouds a buyer’s thinking when they are no longer sure who is doing what, and when. Very few prospects will call up and say they are confused, or that they’ve forgotten what needs to be done to progress the deal. The onus is on you to set explicit and specific expectations on your buyer, and hold them accountable. If your next steps are not laid out in writing, your deal has a poor chance of close.
5. You aren’t dealing with the decision-maker.
Inbound business is tricky when the person getting in touch isn’t the decision maker. Unless the transaction is low-value or very simple, you will need to engage with the person calling the shots at some point. If you aren’t talking to the decision maker, your competition will be able to displace you relatively easily. Deals where the decision-maker is out of the picture should be considered as potential opportunities and excluded from any proper revenue forecast.
6. You haven’t built consensus.
Engaging only the decision-maker is a critical error in enterprise sales. You will find there are multiple people invested in the solution you are selling – and the best executives allow their team to have a say. If you haven’t taken their points of view into account, your proposal will almost certainly be blocked by one or more influential people in the account.
7. Your prospect is using you as a ‘third quote’.
Procurement guidelines will often tell your buyers they need to get three or more quotes. This is rarely a problem if you are the chosen supplier: your customer will ensure the other proposals are of inferior quality to yours. Just be sure to read the signs: if you are asked for a proposal with a hard deadline and not too much notice, with insufficient time to meet and ask questions, you are almost certainly just a third quote. That deal will not close in your favour.
8. The prospect has no intention to buy.
In Point 7 we discussed buyers who have made a decision to purchase with someone else. This point is about prospects who have no intention to purchase at all, either with you or anyone else. They are out to get free advice, or gather information, or compare their existing solution to the market. Whatever the reason, be careful of these tire-kickers. You can spot them because they will ask for a lot of information, but be very cagey about answering pertinent questions the ordinary buyer would answer gladly.
9. The political landscape in the account is against you.
Sometimes, you cannot build consensus or push a deal through with the decision maker: the political landscape is either stacked heavily against you, or heavily in favour of your competition. No matter what you do, someone undermines your move. You can burn a lot of time here. Don’t count on any deal closing when there are multiple influencers invested in keeping you out of the account.
10. You didn’t qualify the deal.
Most of the reasons listed above come down to this point, in some way or another. Qualify, qualify, qualify! The psychological reason salespeople don’t qualify opportunities is because they would rather be blind to the reasons their deal will not close. Don’t be one of these ostriches: qualify your deals at multiple points in the sales cycle, and you will be able to read the landscape properly.