A sales leader I worked with once said, “40% of the deals he forecast for this month won’t happen this month. We will get to target, but of the other 40% of deals that will get us to target — no one knows where they’re coming from.”
I remember looking at my pipeline and thinking I am one of those reps who will have sales deals slip into the next month.
My forecasted dates always used to slip, the customer rarely ever signed the contract on time; rather they hid, they ran from me, avoided my calls and took days to respond to my emails!
I remember thinking it’s just like my friend Pete’s dating life… I am in the friend zone and can’t close… Pete is still single even after after increasing his leads through Tinder.
Sales Timelines: Qualifying The “When”
Outside of lead development and qualifying new opportunities, the greatest challenge I struggle with is qualifying and managing the sales timeline. I have spent the last year thinking about why.
Qualifying the Why, the Who and the What seems so much more straight forwarded than the “When”.
When I speak to most companies about what they are doing about forecasting and helping sales reps qualify the sales timeline they all refer to accelerating the sales timeline through a more effective and efficient sales process. Initially, this seemed like a natural place to start but then is it consensus thinking? I challenged myself to think in first principles and ask myself why sales deals I worked on slipped?
So Why Do Deals Slip?
It finally dawned on me! Sales deals slip because buyers suck at buying!
Now hear me out, I know this seems convenient since it frees me of my sales responsibilities.
Salespeople are far better at selling than buyers are at buying. Sales people spend nearly all their time either learning about sales or actually selling. Even the worse salesperson is heavily incentivised with a carrot or stick to practice his craft and push for the close.
Today’s B2B buyers on the other hand buy very infrequently, and when they do they are faced with an uphill challenge. Buyers have the challenge of researching through more content than ever before, and the challenge of convincing multiple stakeholders with different priorities, varied knowledge and shifting attention to reach a consensus. On top of all of this, they have to align everyone to get the purchase done as quickly as possible before it slowly ends in a no decision.
Thinking back most complex sales I have worked on that have slipped yet eventually closed, has been mostly to do with my inability to help the original buyer effectively sell the product and project internally.
The better their buying experience the easier my job has been and the better my forecasts.
We Want Buyers To Buy On Our Timeline!
At BuyerDeck the question we now ask is how do we improve the sales process to how do we help buyers to buy on time!
This involves three key challenges including:
1. Engagement and collaboration — how we collaborate with them in their decision making.
2. How are we helping the buyer to do the internal selling
3. Identifying a compelling event — a deadline and a consequence of inaction. If not create one.
This particular blog focuses more on creating and using compelling events in complex sales.
The Compelling Event
An event or a deadline that provides urgency for all stakeholders and centres the process for both buyers and sellers. Most products and services with high demand have an inherent compelling event. When you are buying a car or a house, or an email system, there is usually a compelling driver to make the change which increases the sense of urgency in the way the buyer behaves.
Christmas shopping before Christmas day, the launch date of the iPhone 7, finding an office for your growing team before the lease is up are all good examples of compelling events with consequences if the event deadline is missed.
The greater the perceived need, the less of a challenge we have in qualifying the timing of the deal. For most SaaS companies, however, salespeople have a tall task of educating their buyers on a new problem or an opportunity they don’t see. Salespeople, therefore, struggle to find naturally occurring compelling events.
The best salespeople find a compelling event, or create one.
Time sensitive price or promotion that directly saves time or money are always best and create the greatest sense of urgency. While working at Rackspace, we would frequently develop an ROI calculator showing the impact of the buyers inaction….
At BuyerDeck we are developing software to help our clients address challenges like controlling the sales timeline. We often test the impact of different compelling events. We are currently testing time sensitive pricing. Companies that buy our product with minimal sales and customer success engagement save us a lot of money and therefore receive reduced cost based on how quickly they make the purchase decision.
It’s something that many SaaS companies are doing, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and whether this is successful for you.
We worked with Skip Miller author of Proactive Selling to develop an extended a white paper on how to use a compelling events and buyer timelines to drive the urgency on the purchaser side.
Feel free to share what has worked for you… or download our white paper here.
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