6 tips to help reduce deal slippage this winter.

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September is on its way out and we can see winter lurking up ahead. For a great many B2B companies it’s a stressful time of year as for some a big piece of the quarter is effectively unavailable for B2B selling due to the Christmas break. The stress is created because we know that some of the deals just won’t happen or at best will slip into the next period.

So maybe this is a good time to take stock of the health of your pipeline and identify what can be done to strengthen your position. Here are 6 top tips that you could employ now to improve your chances of hitting your number.

  1. Review your sales pipeline and identify where each prospective deal is sitting at present. Is the deal “stuck” at a particular stage? Is support needed to get the deal moving again? Pick out the bigger deals and work with them first. (Remember Pareto, 80% of your number will likely come from 20% of your opportunities).Slip-199x300
  1. Check that each deal meets your selection criteria. i.e. is the deal real, does an opportunity really exist? Is the deal attractive for your company, can you make money and is it something that’s part of your core offer. And of course, can you actually win the deal? e.g. Do you have the customer relationships to get the votes you need? If you don’t have a Selection Criteria, do that work now and apply it at the qualification stage of your pipeline to ensure that you pursue deals that are real, attractive and winnable.
  1. If the deal passes the selection tests, then check that you have a close plan. If not, build one. i.e. How are you going to win this deal? Who will be involved and what are the key milestones? What do you need to do to get this deal over the line.
  1. Communicate the close plan to all parties that touch the deal. (No matter how light that touch is). Make sure everybody knows what part they will play in winning the deal. Build a deal team for each opportunity (of a certain size).
  1. Establish a “sales war room” to regain traction, track progress and determine strategy and tactics on each and every validated deal. Ensure that every stage of the sales process is identified, and importantly, make sure that the activity required at each stage is identified along with who in the deal team will carry it out. Ensure that completion is tracked and progress is made to the next activity or stage. Establish a sense of urgency in the team.
  1. Make sure that there is constant focus on backfilling the pipeline. It is by its very nature a leaky vessel and deals will drop out as you progress them through. Remember that no matter how good you are, you won’t win every deal, so the pipeline needs to be constantly topped up. And secondly, sales naturally take time to transit the system; so make sure you act now. Delays in action only create delays in results.

Contact me now to learn more about how leading B2B companies have eliminated this stress by adopting a new visual approach to the sales process that can deliver all of the above, giving salespeople and leaders a panoramic view of accounts and deals, identifies what they need to do next, and helps prevent unseen deal losses.

#justsaying

A series of short articles asking some of the awkward questions that we never seem to ask?

No 1: Why do we stick our heads in the sand?

In my career to date there are a number of incontrovertible truths that I have come across. One of the truths that will rise to the surface regularly is that businesses have a tendency to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the warning signs, or worse, the history of their business and its revenue trends.

An example: The historical revenue trend for company X says that we’ll have a dip in  core revenues across the Christmas period and again in the height of summer. So, we build this into our plans and forecasts and lo and behold we hit our numbers in those months. Yippee!

iStock_000011530241MediumHowever, we also know from history that either the preceding or following months can also suffer with lower than acceptable performance and when we analyse this we cannot attribute it to any specific seasonal factor, other than …. “Our salespeople have taken their foot off the gas and it will take a few weeks to get back up to speed”. Or the blame game version “Our customers are still on vacation” or even, the market isn’t buying!

On the theme of vacations, why is it that the salesperson is surprised when the deal they were waiting on, you know the one, the big one, the dead cert, the one that was going to make his year, stops dead in its tracks! As a result the sales number is missed big time and when challenged, the response is, “the decision maker has gone on vacation”. Why didn’t we know that this was likely to happen? It’s vacation season after all!

So why don’t we take the time to ask the questions that would help us understand the buying process steps along with its twists and turns, or invest in advance in the selling activities that will help stop these periods from being problematic? A classic case is summer vacations and post-summer “Back to School” periods.

Why is it that in B2B selling we don’t routinely invest in making sure our sales teams are refreshed, renewed and refocused for when they get back from their summer vacation? Or use the tools that we use at other times of the year to manage the pipeline flow effectively or use the skills we’ve been taught over and over to be able to ask the awkward questions?

#justsaying

Sound familiar ?

“As a result of an internal business review we’ve built a detailed specification of our requirements for [insert descriptive] that we feel your organisation may be able to satisfy. We’d like you to complete the attached RFP by [insert unreasonable time-frame]  and if considered suitable, to attend our offices on [insert non-negotiable date] and make a presentation about why you should be considered as a potential supplier”.

…and the unspoken bit hidden between the lines, “ We’ve also managed to come up with a list of your competitors and have asked them to do the same. Of course, one of your competitors is the incumbent and as such is very likely to retain the business”.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this type of conversation is becoming more and more common as buyers of B2B goods and services increasingly access publicly available information and use it to work out their own needs. Some studies suggest that they are completing as much as 60% of purchasing decisions before even engaging a supplier or speaking with a salesperson.

Of course, the RFP is an extreme of how the “informed” buyer is handling the procurement task. Not every solution is acquired through an RFP. Maybe it’s a scenario where the prospect says things like “I’ve been on the internet”, “I know how much it should cost”, “I’m familiar with the technical specs” or countless other examples. One things for sure, it’s a fact that every prospect can tap into information that just wasn’t accessible a few years ago and that changes the game.

So how do you adapt your sales approach to ensure that you are seen as an invaluable part of the buying process and be the one that secures the customers’ business?

An approach to this conundrum has been developed by Global Sales Training and Results Improvement Specialists, Mercuri International, and is centred on Differentiated Selling™ or put another way, the ability to flex your sales approach to the way people buy.

As the information age continues to gather pace, there are a number of your customers who having researched everything, feel that they know clearly what they want and are very comfortable to continue to trust you to provide it. In these situations the salesperson is fulfilling a known set of requirements in a “safe” relationship and only has to provide the solution. Typically, this type of selling situation would be managed by an Account Manager. That is, a salesperson who is focussed totally on the quality of the relationship between your company and the client.

But what happens when the prospect is not clear about their requirements and whether they want to work with your company at all? How do you approach this type of prospect?

Or the prospect who knows what he wants (or thinks he knows) but is not happy or convinced about working with you?

Differentiated Selling™ is essentially an approach that flexes dependant on the buying situation of the prospect. It requires you to think and act differently in different situations rather than have a “one size fits all” sales approach.

Are you ready to start being different? If you are, it could be useful to have a discussion with us first. We have some provocative insights into how you can turn your customer’s way of thinking on its head.

Interested in hearing more? Contact me by clicking here to arrange an introductory discussion and discover how to win that elusive customers business a little more often.

Think like your customer

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on here. My apologies. My attention has been on a whole range of other important stuff for the last few weeks and of course, before that it was summer holiday time.

A lot has happened in the world over the last few weeks and more particularly in this month of October. Earlier this month we sadly saw the passing of a true innovator and business leader; Steve Jobs.

Much has been written over the last couple of weeks about Steve with most of it being good stuff. However, some detractors saw it as an opportunity to have a pop at his management style and question his judgement on a whole range of things.

What they seem to have missed is that Steve was an entrepreneur. Not so many years ago, he co-founded what is now the largest technology company in the world. He did this from a garage with not a penny to rub together, but he still managed to succeed where others failed. This was, in no small part, due to his relentless drive and enthusiasm. Of course he rubbed people up the wrong way, he was said to lose his temper at times, he was known for culling thousands of ideas until he found the next big thing. But let’s face it, Apple is a company that he founded, was thrown out of and ultimately rescued when he returned. He was always going to be passionate about it.

For me, one of the key secrets of his success was to understand the consumer. He was able to do this because he thought like one. He didn’t need to conduct expensive market research because he relied on his instincts as a user of products and services to come up with great ideas that turned the (generally poor) user experience of computing on its head. He saw how computer based technology could be used by everyday people without needing a master’s degree in computer science.

I’m sure that there are things that Apple doesn’t do as well as it would like. It is staffed by human beings after all and we all tend to make mistakes from time to time. But in my view, it’s no coincidence that Apple has continued to grow and become so successful despite the worst economic slump for a generation.

Put simply, Apple has continued their legendary focus on innovation and challenging regular thinking in the world of consumer technology. They think differently, continuously question what’s possible and are 100% committed to the awesome marketing machine they have created. (I find it amazing that so many companies slashed their R&D, marketing and development budgets just when they need them most).

Time will tell how Apple will fare without Steve, but my guess is they’ll do just fine. Steve’s DNA is inextricably woven into the fabric of Apple Inc and it will take a brave man to deliberately try to unravel that.