Have you ever noticed that it takes longer to lose deals than win them?
I do not have any scientific data for this idea. But after helping dozens of companies develop and manage deal pipelines, I have seen this effect firsthand. And if I am being honest, I did this too often when I was a salesperson in the past.
A salesperson adds a deal to the pipeline and estimates a close date. The sales manager asks for an update. The salesperson says everything is going great until one day it’s stuck. Then the deal sits in the same how it’s going/nothing new cycle for enough time to blow past the close date. The close date is moved out. Repeat the cycle.
Eventually, the salesperson or the manager marks the deal as closed lost. Maybe the deal was lost to a competitor, but more often than not, the deal is lost to no decision. Nothing got sold.
In the meantime, a deal that closes goes through the stages in a somewhat predictable time frame within a known range of time.
I am simplifying, of course, but business leaders will recognize this pattern. The lost deals hang around a lot longer than the ones you win.
Why does this happen?
Excellent marketing and sales departments know how to lose deals quickly and avoid the above time-wasting traps.
Successfully managing a lead pipeline requires a process that starts in marketing and continues throughout the customer's life.
Here are three key steps to losing more deals faster.
Lack of prospect qualification is the top reason low quality leads make it onto a sales pipeline. Marketing and sales must be aligned on what constitutes an ideal company and the target persona.
So much marketing ink has been spilled over these two topics that I do not have much more to add other than please do these things.
Think it through. Review who your best clients are in terms of revenue, profit, and ease of doing business, document the attributes of your target customers, know the persona of the person who leads the effort to buy your solutions, and hold everyone accountable for attracting, engaging, and delighting these people.
Mapping the buyer’s journey is another crucial tool that yields deep insights but is rarely used. Today’s B2B complex buying journeys are a mess due to many factors, including decision fatigue, Internet content overload, lack of resources to make a decision, confusing corporate priorities, and rapid changes in the marketplace.
But there are commonalities among those who successfully navigate these issues and decide to implement a change.
That’s where journey mapping comes in. You should have a model for the steps/stages in your deal pipeline, and your marketing team should add on to it to include the steps a prospect goes through to get to the deal stage.
Awareness, consideration, proposal, development, decision, and success are typical stages in a buyer's journey map. Understanding the key milestones and steps buyers go through to decide to buy from you is vital.
Your buyer’s journey map includes all of the typical touchpoints a prospect goes through.
Once you have the map, you can start improving the buyer’s experience at each touchpoint and more easily qualify leads, and prevent unqualified leads from hitting your pipeline.
Just because a prospect says a deal will close within a specific time frame does not mean it will. I always asked salespeople that worked for me to provide evidence that a close date was real. With some light pushback, salespeople would often admit that the deal close date was an educated guess on their part and not based on any compelling reason from the prospect.
Knowing typical sales cycle times from previous good fit prospects provides a guide.
Asking clarifying questions helps determine the real deal close date. Good questions will yield the drivers of time to close. What compelling reasons, issues, opportunities, risks, rewards, event dates, etc.? Are there ramifications? If so, how large?
The key is to put your sale in the context of their business, strategy, customers, and goals. If you cannot directly connect them and your sale, then close dates will be very fluid and unreliable.
Be rational, clear-eyed, and ruthless with your deals. You are better off losing more deals that you were unlikely to close and having a more accurate pipeline with higher win rates.
Please reach out if I can help you with your sales processes, buyer persona development, journey mapping, or growth strategy.