Deals now are better than deals later. You would prefer to win now than, say, four months from now. Better results now are better than results later, something that is true for your dream client too. They would prefer to have their challenges dispatched sooner rather than some time in the future, and their opportunities realized earlier. Here is what you need to know to win deals faster.
How You Slow Deals Down
Much of what salespeople do to speed up deals slow them down or kills them altogether. What seems to be efficient is so ineffective, it slows sales to a crawl, if it doesn’t cause the client to dark—or disengage completely. If you want your deals to move forward faster, there are things you have to stop doing.
- Stop speeding through the process: You have a great couple of meetings, and your dream client asks for a proposal and pricing. You believe the client knows what they want and they’re ready to make a decision now. The truth is that their request for pricing and a proposal was part of their discovery and exploration; they want additional information. The information wasn’t enough to compel them to buy, and you left your sales meeting without anything on your calendar.
- Give up the one call close: There are some sales where a discovery meeting might end with a pricing proposal and a contract. In most B2B sales, however, this is not often the case. A one-hour meeting with one stakeholder followed by an email with pricing and a contract may as well be the one-call close. The email isn’t a second sales call.
- Stop believing you can win deals over email: Because of the prevalence of this medium, some salespeople think they can conduct the entire sales process over email, beginning with prospecting, asking discovery questions, chasing the client to schedule follow up meetings, and trying to argue for their solution. The medium isn’t up to the task of delivering the outcomes many want from it.
- Don’t go through the process with a single stakeholder: There are deals where a single stakeholder will decide to buy. These deals tend to be smaller, even though this is less frequent than it once was. They also seem to be more common in small companies, where the decision will impact fewer people. It’s a good rule of thumb to assume the more people who will be affected by the change, the more people necessary to a deal.
If you want your deals to move smoothly and as quickly through your pipeline, there are some things you can do to bend the curve in your direction.
How You Speed Deals Up
In endurance sports, if you want to complete a race faster, you go slower. You try not to do anything that would cause your heart rate to get so high and exert so much energy early that it makes completion unlikely. The speed of winning deals has much in common with endurance sports. Here is what you can do to speed up:
Implications of Waiting
First, a disclaimer. If you are going to share the negative implications of waiting to take action, what you share must be real and compelling. The consequences have to be something your dream client wants to avoid, and your pricing increase next quarter may not be enough to compel action. With that disclaimer out of the way, if there are real implications, sharing them can create a sense of urgency to avoid adverse outcomes.
I have to use an example where I failed to compel a client to change. The client was not making the necessary investment in the result they needed, and I shared it with them, explaining how it was going to cause them problems in the future, and likely damage the results they needed to provide their client. I failed to convince them of the implications, and they lost half their business because they failed their client.
If you want your client to move faster, you have to share the consequences of inaction, and do so with great empathy and diplomacy.
Control the Process
The sales conversation we have with our clients has gone nonlinear. More and more, it doesn’t line up with the sales process (a useful, orienting generalization as to what you need to get done to win a deal effectively), and it doesn’t look much like the buying journeys we pretend to be linear (another useful, orienting generalization). When we try to be sophisticated and line up these two views of the sales conversation, our attempt at linearity doesn’t change the reality of the difficulty human beings have making decisions—especially in groups.
When it comes to opportunity creation and opportunity capture, you might think about it like this: sell the meeting, sell the process (the things you and your dream client need to do), and then sell the solution. The sequence here matters. When you skip over “sell the process,” to get to “sell the solution,” you expose yourself to all kinds of problems that may cause your deal to slow down or stall.
In a decision as to who should control the process, believe that it is you. You should know better than your client what comes next and why. You can’t be like the salesperson I heard ask this question at the end of their first meeting, “Well, what would you like to do next?” The client responded, “Shouldn’t you know what I need to next? You do this all the time. I don’t?” You will have clients that need to insert their needs into your process, but part of controlling the process is understanding what they need and eliciting it so you can help them.
The Lost Art of Closing is my roadmap for controlling the process. If you want speed to a deal, you will control the process.
Not only will you have to build consensus, but you are also going to have to do so among a group with divergent opinions and competing priorities. You suffer slow deals, stalled deals, and lost deals you might have won when you don’t take into consideration the stakeholders who need to part of the process–or who should be.
In many cases where there is a single contact the salesperson allows to present on their behalf, at some point, they hear: “We’ve decided to go a different direction.” Who is this, “we?” No evidence of a “we” is not proof that there is not a “we” lurking inside your dream client’s company.
The speed at which you win many deals depends heavily on how fast you can determine and engage the people who are going to part of your prospective client’s decision-making process (hopefully a process you are influencing). Deals don’t move faster when you leave out people who need to be seen and heard. If they are going to be part of the process, inviting them into it sooner means you win your deal sooner.
Be Present and Pay Attention
You compress the time by having a more significant presence (face-to-face is best, video face-to- video face is second best, the phone is next).
Salespeople often say something like, “I asked the client this question, and they didn’t answer me. What should I do now?” How is it possible for you to ask your prospective client a question without answering? By asking your questions over email, that’s how. Email isn’t the right medium to replace meetings. If you want to move things faster, you will have a presence.
The more your prospective client sees you, the better. More meetings are better than fewer, and fewer emails are better than more, generally. You get more done in meetings, where you have your prospective client’s attention, when you have their peers in the room, and where you can be seen and heard. You also want to be seen listening and taking notes. The more attention you give a deal, the sooner you close it.
I don’t know anyone who would argue that you not share the implications of waiting, who would suggest you allow your dream client to control the process when the process has them do something that is not in their best interest, who would recommend you stay single-threaded, or who tell you not to have meetings to speed up the process. Though you don’t have control here, you can try to influence things in a way that serve both you and your dream client better.
If you want to win deals faster, do what is necessary sooner rather than later.
Just a few more thoughts worth sharing and considering.
- It never hurts to ask directly what your prospect believes they need to do to make a decision. I might not ask what their process is, only because they may not think of the decision as a process. You might learn something that you can incorporate into the process you are leading.
- In many cases, it makes sense to ask about your dream client’s timeline for deciding and implementing. It always feels helpful to work backward from the date your prospect wants to go live. The milestones and a plan you both agree can help keep things on track when people are being pulled in different directions. This question works better if there are consequences for missing the deadline, all the better.
- It’s a good idea to ask who is going to participate in the decision and whom you are going to need to include. Your prospect may not think of the people on their team as a buying committee. I have heard task force more often than any other term used to describe the group of people leading an initiative. You might also ask who in leadership cares about the initiative and if you can brief them (even though this isn’t as much about speed as it is about winning when things get tricky).
- In some cases, it makes sense to ask about what might prevent your prospect’s company from being able to make whatever change you are recommending. You might be able to mitigate the challenge if you know what it is. If you know how your deal might stall, you can work to prevent it.
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Filed under: Sales