Look at your current funnel of strategic opportunities. You have deals that you’re going to win and some you’re going to lose. You probably know to which category each opportunity belongs. But within the funnel lurks a menace that drives managers and sales professional crazy. These opportunities are the ones that are said to end in no-decision.
Far too often, these are the deals that have been pursued relentlessly for many months with many high paid resources engaged. Time and effort have been extended, and that’s not the only thing that has been extended – chances are that close date has been pushed out time and again. The client has provided verbal commitments and continues to add steps to their buying process. “Just one more thing…” or “We’d like to look at including or excluding this…” you hear them say. And so you continue – and why not?! You have been counting on this deal, you want it, you need it! And then it happens.
At the end of a sales cycle, the customer has made a decision. The competing sales teams vying for that business for the past X amount of months receive the news. They have decided to hold off on the project. Your opportunity pulls a David Copperfield act and POOF! It is gone. Sound familiar?
Neither you nor your competitors won this deal. When it comes time to enter the close in the CRM system, the salesperson often has three options: won, lost or no-decision. In this example, most salespersons would enter no-decision. But consider this, if the customer says that they are no longer pursuing the project and ceases engaging vendors or partners, isn’t that a decision? How could it be anything else? The decision that the customer has made is that they have decided to do something else. Let me explain.
In today’s hyper-competitive world, Sales teams are dealing with a host of formidable competitors. First, you have the traditional market competitors in your industry. Next, you have your niche-players and up-and-comers vying for more business in your space (if not you vying within theirs). Then sometimes, you are competing against your customer’s own internal staff and resources. But the biggest competitor that sales team face dwarfs all of these competitors. In the eyes of our customers, our opportunities are projects, and our projects are competing with other projects for funding.
The project was killed because it did not generate significant value for the customer. Perhaps the project did meet their hurdle rate. So whose fault is that? It is yours as the sales team. The sales team bears the burden of proof while working together with clients to establish the business impact for the client.
Strategic opportunities require the sales teams to fully diagnose the customer’s current situation much like a doctor doing his/her due diligence with a patient. This means discovery is needed in exploring the issues that the customer’s organizations are presently facing. By examining these issues and their interdependence, sales teams can better quantify the size of the pains and problems. Those sales teams that do so are far better positioned to calculate how much the current situation is costing the customer and the potential risk associated. As my friend and colleague Rollie would ask, “is it a pimple or a bleeding neck wound?”
This due diligence at the onset also helps sales teams determine whether the project is strategic and worth pursuing. That diagnosis, probing and qualifying should continue throughout the engagement both for and from the sales team and customer team. Maintaining alignment with the customer through their buying process helps prevent those unfavorable outcomes that cost teams on both sides dearly.