If you have a number of prospects hanging about in different stages of the sales cycle that never seem to get to the close you need to ask yourself some questions about each one.
This exercise might seem time consuming but can open your eyes as to where you and your sales team should be focusing in order to reach the sales targets required. I have heard on multiple ocassions that the length of the sales cycle is to blame for not forecasting correctly but I think it is often about not reading prospects correctly. Here are the questions I use which you might find useful
1. Does this prospect match my prospect profile? A busy sales person cannot afford to chase after opportunities that when analysed are not really suitable. Clients often tell me that their product and services can be sold to a wide range of prospects but focusing on the ones that fit your profile will reduce the sales cycle and be more profitable in the long run.
2. Do we really understand what the value of our product/service is to the prospect? Sales people can fall into the trap of overselling their company product and services, almost showing off, without taking time to listen to the prospect. Listening is about gaining information and it is information about a prospect that lets a salesperson position correctly.
3. Are we speaking to the decision maker? Depending on what you are selling it can be very advantageous to have various people within a company on your side but if you have not got the attention of the Decision Maker then the close will never happen.
4. Have we stopped selling the value? At the beginning of the sales cycle sales people concentrate on needs analysis and positioning which can get a prospect initially excited about purchasing only to see the urgency then dissipate. Once negotiations, proof of concept such as demonstrations take over the value can get lost along with the urgency to buy. It is important to keep the benefits for that particular prospect at the forefront of their mind at all times.
5. Are we afraid of the close? It is strange that a sales person’s raison d’etre is to close deals yet they are often terrified to ask for the deal just in case they get a no. But if the prospect is a true opportunity and you have understood what the the advantages are for them and you are dealing directly with the decision maker never forgetting to remind them of the value the close becomes a natural conclusion. One big test is to ask yourself for each prospect – are they contacting me? In other words are the really interested in doing business with you.
One of the first things I learnt about sales is that people buy from people but experience has taught me that it is also about recognizing where things can go wrong so you can react accordingly and make sure your time is not spent with prospects that simply are not right or not ready to buy.