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Deals rarely slow down then close.
Deals that close have momentum. The pace of the communication accelerates as you get near closing. The prospect has questions. They are about to make a commitment. As they draw closer to making that commitment questions crop up in their mind. They want to be sure they are making the right decision so they ask questions. This is a good sign. These are buying signals. So the pace of communication speeds up. It’s more frequent. They ask a question about how your product works. You answer. Then they ask something else. And so on until it’s time to sign up.
What about those opportunities that go silent? Those are the ones to keep an eye on it. Why has the momentum slowed?
Sometimes it’s legit. Sometimes the momentum has not really slowed but you just can’t see the communication. Behind-the-scenes the buying organization is going through its buying process. The people you know in the prospect account may be talking to people you don’t know in the prospect account (remember there could be up 21 people involved in buying your product in there.) You’re not plugged into this internal communication. So you don’t see the momentum. But it’s there.
But often deals that go silent have really lost momentum. They’ve slipped OFF the buyer’s “must-do list” and onto the buyer’s “nice-to-have-someday” list. And guess when things on “nice-to-have-someday” list get done – usually NEVER. Or if ever, not this year. Certainly not this quarter. Essentially these deals have slipped out of the sales pipeline.
The best way to think of these deals is that you need to start again. That does NOT mean all the sales work you did is wasted but I’d take these out of your pipeline. Be honest. Start again. Your forecast will be so much more accurate if you do.
Take a close look at your pipeline. How many deals have been hanging out there for a long time? By a “long time” I mean for more than one sales cycle. By “sales cycle” I mean the average time it takes you from when you find a real opportunity to the time it takes to close it – based on your historical data on past deals that you end up closing (see this post for more on my definition of sales cycle.)
Take a look at the deals hanging out in your pipeline for a long time very closely.
If you’re a sales person, do you know for sure that your buyer is moving this deal forward? Have you spoken to them recently? Have they replied to your emails? Is there information in those communications that tells you definitively the deal is moving forward, taking the next step, building momentum?
If you’re the sales manager ask your reps about these factors. Can they show evidence that these aging deals are alive and momentum is building? If not, consider taking the opportunity out of the pipeline and put it into your nurturing process.
By the way, CRM’s can give you a handy-dandy report showing the age of your opportunities. I’d suggest you have at least one report that is sorted by the age of each opportunity in your sales pipeline. Take out your magnifying glass on the opportunities that are oldest. Ask some questions. Dig around. Convince yourself those oldies are alive or move ’em out of the pipeline and into the nurturing process.
Deals have momentum. They don’t age well. They are not Merlot.