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A Closing Problem Is Really an Opening Problem


Written by: Scott Birch

“These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.” – Kobe Bryant

A closing problem is really an opening problem.

(A Loss Analysis) is good in that it highlights many of the things that go awry or are simply missed during the sales cycle.  Most organizations have little to no idea what goes wrong in the sale, so they naturally point to the end of the cycle.

However if you had done all the proper steps in the sales cycle, logically the close is the easiest phase.  Sure, there can be tough negotiations or competitive bids that keep you in the dark.  When I look back at all the deals my teams and I have closed however, the actual close was very anti-climactic.

Your sale is won in the beginning.  If you target the right prospects with the right message and are diligent in surrounding the account, you can build the value and business case.  When you build a business case with your internal allies, the close is not so important because the prospect has already decided to choose you.

Related: How to Stay “Front of Mind” With Referral Partners

But we know it is not so simple. The reality is that there are many places we get tripped up:

  • Lame Messaging – Much of what is created for salespeople to use and send out is highly product oriented.  Thus, reps focus their efforts pushing product, when they would be better served focusing on listening & conveying business value.
  • Wrong Targets – It is easy to get distracted by certain prospects, but focus is critical. Waste time going after low-percentage prospects, you lose time to spend with high-percentage prospects. Thus, many reps have a weak pipeline.
  • Faulty Prospecting – Often this is due to bad messaging & targets.  But it can also be from lack of activity, over reliance on a single channel, and not being intelligently persistent, meaning delivering value, not reminding prospects of your past emails.
  • Poor Qualifying – When you do get calls, are they going to be valuable in providing information, referrals, or an opportunity, or are they a dead end?  Raising the bar on your qualifying will keep you focused on only high value, high percentage prospects.
  • Weak Champion – Does the person that supports you have the juice, organizational know-how and political stamina to usher the deal along?  If not, you are going to be stuck with someone that could be damaging you and your company’s credibility.
  • Lousy Execution – It amazes me how reps still wing it on calls and meetings without doing the research and prep.  Even more amazing is the tepid or non-existent follow-up. These basic things make all the difference in winning.
  • No Coalition – Buyers buy on consensus. Many reps however at best only have a few contacts in their accounts.  If you are not broadening your reach in the account, hidden opponents may like waiting to squash your deal.
  • Suspect Value – Do you really know why a prospect is buying and why now? Does the prospect clearly understand the business case and ROI of the deal?  If not, it is easy for a CFO or other senior executive to block further progress.

You need to think more strategically about your sales efforts, like a chess master plays the board.  Every misstep you make can lead to a very bad end game.  These are just a sampling of the many ways deals explode and they are all before negotiation.  But if you do an excellent job on the basics, your winning percentage will dramatically improve.

Plan your openings well!

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