For the sales teams I work with, the list of symptoms is remarkably consistent: long, unstable sales cycles; buyers going radio silent after receiving proposals; small deal sizes; low close rates; too many small 'tests' that lead nowhere; lack of pipeline visibility ; weak forecasting.
Sound familiar? The symptoms are so consistent because they all stem from the same disease. Your sellers aren't closing. This may sound simplistic, and your senior sellers might even take exception with my diagnosis, but look a little closer and you'll see that I've actually got it right.
Closing isn't a cliche, nor is it just a general attitude or posture on a sales call. It's a very specific event within the discussion; a direct question that either does or doesn't get asked. But rather than guess about whether your sellers are closing or taking their word for it, take this simple test.
- When you ask your team members about their upcoming sales calls, do they often use words like education and evangelism?
- Do they talk about seeing how the customer feels about the program or opportunity?
- Is the program or package in question usually attached directly to an urgent business problem?
- Does it have a specific expiration date attached to it?
- Is there a specific dollar figure attached to your recommendation? (Instead of just a range of options and levels.)
If your answers tended toward yes, yes, no, no and no, then you've got a closing problem. Your seller is choosing (consciously or otherwise) a comfortable, non-confrontational conclusion to the meeting. They're telling the customer to please consider it or lamely offering to touch base again soon to see what you guys want to do. They're saying anything and everything besides asking the question that will improve all your business metrics. Will you buy this from us?
Here's an exercise you can do with your team that will start to immediately improve the situation. As your sellers prepare to go on their next sales calls, ask Exactly what are we asking this customer to do? and What's the specific price tag or estimate you're going to give them? Now sit down across from your seller and role play: have them ask you for the order in the exact words they would use with the client. Is this going to be an uncomfortable moment? Absolutely. But if they can't say the words to you, they damn sure can't say them to the customer.
Comfortable, inconclusive meetings are a luxury you can no longer afford. Ask your sellers the hard questions today so they can start asking your buyers hard questions tomorrow. And be sure to let me know how it goes.