Before the call, your close probability was hovering around 90%. Fast forward to the end of the call: your odds are now around 10% and your hopes to secure that deal have crumbled. What happened in between? Most likely: a new, unexpected step in the process popped up, a new player entered the decision making process, or a call with another key player in the target company went south. None of which could have been predicted, right? Wrong, they could have if you'd done your homework.
The problem with a new step in the process, a new decision maker, and an incomplete assessment of a key player in the sale isn't just that it dials your close probability down from a sure-thing to dead-in-the-water in seconds. It's that this information could have come to light earlier. The result would have been the same: the lead was bunk, but the time and effort sunk into converting them could have been used on other opportunities. Here are a few preliminary steps to disqualify shoddy prospects, and put the hot leads in your pipeline on a fast track to success.
Steli Efti shares the one question you need to ask to close more deals: “What will it take for you to become a customer?” Typically the answer you'll get will outline a simple, neat process from point A to point B. At this point, you're probably thinking to yourself "sounds easy enough, let's do this!" Wrong: you need to follow up. Ask again, this time repeating their answer "Once we've confirmed the product answers your needs, chatted to your boss, approved pricing with procurement, then you'll be a customer?" That's when the difficult stuff comes up. The prospect will mention needing to run things by legal, confirm with IT that the solution integrates with their stack, check that the budget hasn't been fully allocated. Et caetera, et caetera.
The bad thing: that sale that looked easy just got really complicated, really fast. The good thing: now you know. You can either drop the opportunity then and there if the cost of making the sale is too high, or you can start mapping out a sales process to adapt to their specific needs.
Step 2: knowing the players. If this decision is going to happen, it's going to need to be approved by departments X, Y, and Z. Now that you have this information, use it. Set up a call with all the key decision makers as early as possible. Your goal for the meeting: get a feel for the forces at play and start splitting the sale in individual sub-tracks.
Jake Dunlap's tips for a successful decision maker meeting is simple. Keep it high level. Start off by setting the agenda for the meeting: "we're here today to discuss whether our solution could be a potential fit." And nip potential objections in the bud right from go: "IT: I'm sure you'll have questions about integrations, we'll address those in a separate meeting that we'll schedule together." This way, you don't risk having your meeting falling to pieces with later stage considerations and you get to feel the pulse of your opportunity earlier in your sales cycle.
If the buying process and the decision makers haven't raised any red flags on your end by this point, you're all clear to start parallelizing your cycle and put it on a fast track to closing. What this basically means is running different tracks with each decision maker simultaneously. Now that the ball is rolling in IT, legal, and your champion's department, your deal is progressing through several stages each week. And moving faster towards a final close.
The risk with running parallel paths is spending more time sooner, and incurring a higher cost of sale, only to have an objection handed over in the final stages of the deal. To prevent this from happening and fully leverage parallel path selling, you need to have a clear picture of the buying cycle (tip #1) and a good understanding of the major stakeholders (tip #2). If the results come out clean, you're set to start fast tracking your hot prospects down the funnel.
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