David Sandler used to say, “If your foot is hurting, you’re probably standing on your own toe.”
I hear a lot of complaints from sales management that sales cycles are getting longer and it has become more difficult to predict when deals close. Is it at all possible that sales people contribute or in some cases actually cause longer sales cycles? How can that be? We hire these people to be deal makers--how can they be the problem?
We have seen at least four consistent themes where salespeople are standing on their own toe creating longer sales cycles.
- They’re Afraid To Ask The Difficult Question- Most salespeople have the mindset of show up, ask some initial questions, and present a solution. What they fail to do in the most critical time is ask the tough question and as a result, they’re not getting to the truth and hoping the sale will close as opposed to knowing the sale will close. For example: “Mr. Smith, I realize you’ve had a relationship with XYZ for the past 7 years. My sense is that the problems you’ve mentioned are not severe enough to go through the pain of change. Is that the case here?” One of Sandler’s rules is “If you feel it, say it. (nurturingly)”. Often time’s the salesperson is afraid of the answer, so they never ask the question.
- They Fail To Qualify Budget Before A Proposal- How many times have you seen a sales rep send a quote over by email and the first time the prospect sees the budget number is when the prospect opens the quote. If the quote is outside of the expectation of the prospect and they’re surprised at the number, how likely are they to pursue the deal? Not very likely. What they do, however, is go dark! They don’t return calls. They don’t reply to emails and the rep can’t find them with a search warrant. Meanwhile, they go back to management saying, “I’ve got calls into them. They haven’t gotten back with me.” The sale stagnates, forecasts are missed and nobody wins!
- The Salesperson’s Own ‘Buy Cycle’ Causes The Delay- When we have done ride-a-longs with our clients, we have seen countless situations where the client/prospect seems ready to make a commitment, but the salesperson is not ready. How can that be? The best salespeople are good, fast decision makers. I’ve seen reps who when they go to buy something for their personal lives they shop for the best price endlessly! What happens to the salesperson who is told, “I want to think it over?” They think that makes sense, I’d do the same thing and they fail to ask any more questions. This is true of both short and long sales cycles.
- They Give, Give, Give And Ask For Nothing In Return- How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a people person”? Could that get in the way of the sales cycle? If a sales rep has to have others like them, they tend to not ask for anything in exchange when a prospect/client asks something of them. They want the prospect to ‘like’ them more than they want to do business. The rep often feels like if the prospect just likes me enough- the business will close. When reps are asked to do something for their client/prospect, they should often ask themselves, what can I get in return? Sometimes the answer is access to decision makers or commitments to do business. Giving is a great thing, but if the rep doesn’t know “What happens next?”, sales cycles can drag on and we all know that time kills deals.
One of the best Sandler rules is “You can’t lose anything you never had.” Shorten the sales cycle by asking the difficult question and ensuring that your people are in front of qualified (Pain-Budget- Decision Process) prospect. Getting sales closed is a process of many ‘mini-closes’ that bring buyer and seller together…sooner!