Don’t Get Blindsided: Know the 5 Preventative Measures to Close Deals by the End of 2019
November 27, 2019
Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates.
Another quarter and another fiscal year (for most) is coming to an end. As sales professionals, we have one thing on our minds — closing sales. But in any opportunity, there are numerous obstacles that prevent us from getting a firm “yes” from prospects.
Almost all salespeople have the skill to ask for the order to close a sale. But, there’s an entire sales process or cycle that must precede that question. In order to get to “yes,” we need to be certain we’ve completed specific tasks and uncovered the key components necessary to win the business.
Here are five preventative strategies and tactics to advance and close deals as the quarter and year come to an end.
1. Ensure you’re talking with the person who has purchasing power.
Are you having discussions with the person who has authority to make, or greatly influence, a purchase decision? Many major corporate purchases are now overseen by committees of stakeholders from different lines of business. Determine an organization’s purchase approval process early in the conversation to ensure you are communicating with the people who can make the buying decision.
2. Reconfirm the purchasing process.
Understand each prospect’s internally accepted way of doing business with their vendors. It makes no sense to build a written plan for what the sales cycle should look like without considering how things actually work internally. Sales must understand the prospect’s decision making, procurement, integration, and legal processes.
Ask yourself these questions to understand your prospect’s way of doing business. What are the phases vendors must go through before a prospect makes the decision to buy? What phase are you in right now? Once the prospect makes the decision to buy, what happens next? How does the deal get executed? Who needs to be involved and for how long? Who actually signs the deal? Last of all, how long does it take to get a purchase order (PO) issued? Often, prospects will sign a proposal, but won't allow you to book the order until the PO number has been issued. In some cases, this can take months if you're not dealing with the right people.
Also, keep track of who is moving up—and down. Organizations can change their corporate structure, which is why it is a best practice to periodically reconfirm the purchasing process. For instance, a mid-level manager you once sold to directly may now need another person’s approval to make a purchase, or a director may move into a more senior corporate role.
3. Triangulate to make sure you don’t rely on only one information source.
Make sure you have cast a wide net and established a broad network within a client account. Do not become dependent on a single point of view or on one person to share insight, information, and perspective as this exposes you to risk in the sales cycle as you get close to the quarter end. When relying on only one contact to tell you who has the purchasing power, you’re at risk of potentially being misled. Your contact may believe she has the purchasing decision power only to find out that’s not the case. Then, when it’s time to secure the signature on the contract, you find yourself frantically navigating the client organization to find a different person to sign off on the contract or approve funding.
You could also receive a verbal agreement on a deal from a single contact who stops returning your calls or is suddenly out of the office due to a family emergency. Now he’s out for ten days and you’ve missed your deadline. It’s panic-inducing when this happens. There are some things you could do to reengage your contact, but the number one preventative way to ensure you can close the sale is to work with a broader network.
4. Gain consensus on a mutual timeline to close the deal.
Develop a specific timeline for your prospect and outline the impact and results of doing business with you. This plan is mutually created and accepted — and then put in writing. This makes it more concrete than a verbal exchange and also makes it clear as to “when,” not “if,” they will buy from you. It is important to use this written plan to focus the prospect on the timeline for expected results rather than just the date they will be making the investment.
The date a client signs the plan is important for salespeople. Make sure everyone involved in the timeline — including legal and procurement — is available on key dates and in agreement with it. I remember one instance when I was closing in on a deal for the end of the year, and on December 1 the prospect’s company made a corporate decision that their legal staff would not review new purchasing contracts until January in order to focus all legal efforts on reviewing their own sales contacts in December.
5. Know your clients’ holiday vacation schedules.
A large majority of people take time off during the holidays especially between Christmas and New Year’s, and depending on where Hanukah and Christmas fall on the calendar, your clients may be taking more days off than usual to spend time with their kids while they’re out of school. Let’s face it. Clients are checked out for the holidays while salespeople are often scrambling as late as 5 o’clock on New Year’s Eve to get that last contract signed.
Without knowing your client’s holiday vacation plans and having everyone in the client organization bought into the mutually agreed timeline, you could find yourself at risk of not closing the deal. For example, one salesperson had been working on a deal all year and it was scheduled to close in December. It turned out that the person who had the authority to sign off on the PO was taking the last two weeks of December off to go skiing. Even his colleague didn’t know that vacation was scheduled. By the time the deal was escalated to the Vice President-level, the client was in Aspen.
Nothing is worse than having to call your manager between Christmas and New Years to say a deal you were 100% confident was going to close this year isn’t because you missed a key step in the sales process.
As you and your prospect go through the sales cycle together, using these five tactics will ensure that your prospects stay motivated to buy from you and they will move everyone closer to a sale by quarter- and year-end.
Help make sure you reach the entire buying committee: Take a closer look at LinkedIn Sales Navigator today.