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Win Or Lose, Do It Fast!

by David Brock on March 27th, 2012

The only thing worse than losing is losing after a loooonnnnnnng sales cycle.  I’m constantly amazed at sales people investing time and resource chasing bad deals, but too many fall into the trap and stay there.

It’s tough finding opportunities these days.  Many sales people are desperate to find something, anything, get a prospect to find a deal.  We struggle to find someone that’s willing to meet us.  We get that meeting, the customer expresses some interest—or at least that’s what we think we hear.

Immediately, we latch on, we put it in our pipeline, we assign a 25% probability to win, and we start chasing.  We start going to meeting after meeting with the customer.  We have lots of activities, we put in lots of effort.  We’re relieved that we have something “real” to work on.

The customer is receptive, they are interested in learning more.  We are encouraged.

We get people in our company investing time and resources to help us with the deal.  Maybe it’s making calls on the customer, maybe it’s supporting our efforts.  Pre-sales people are making calls, doing presentations, preparing demonstrations.  We spend time doing opportunity reviews with our managers.

We start to hit bumps in the road, the customer isn’t paying as much attention, they seem diverted.  We struggle to recapture that interest.  We increase our activity, trying everything we can think of to get that interest and to create a sense of urgency.  We may throw more resources at it, we may start making executive calls.

We keep getting shuffled to the side, but we intensify our efforts.  We’re like bulldogs, once we’ve locked in we don’t let go.  But it seems to be losing steam.  The customer doesn’t have any sense of urgency.

We’ve become “attached” to the deal.  We won’t let it go—partly because at one point the customer expressed interest—they seem qualified—but now they’re not.  We don’t let go—we believe by sheer force of personality and persistence, we can recover the sense of urgency and move forward.  We don’t let go–if we do, we don’t have enough in our pipeline to work on.

We look at the reports in the CRM system.  The deal shows up in the “stuck deals report.”  It doesn’t move forward.  The days start racking up.  I look at pipelines where the sales cycle may be 180-270 days and see deals that have been in process 450, 600, 800 days (more than 2 years!).

None of these deals are real, but we still carry hope, we still make that weekly, then monthly, then quarterly call to the customer–“Should we be meeting on this?  Is it a priority again?”

The longer it goes on, the more “attached” we become, the more we invest.  Losing a deal after a long sales cycle is draining.  We look back at all the time we spent, all the resources we invested, the expectations we set with management.  It’s devastating!

We reflect back on the time we lost.  We can’t recover that.  We might have invested the time in better opportunities, we might have chased good deals that we could have won—but that time is past, we’ve lost it and can never recover.

Winning deals is fantastic, we love focusing on winning deals.  But deals with long sales cycles are also draining.  They occupy our time, we can’t look at other opportunities.  The longer they drag out, the more we have to invest in winning.

Letting go—it’s difficult, particularly after having invested so much in a deal.

But letting go is critical, killing deals that are lingering in your pipeline, not moving is important.  They distort our pipelines, they occupy our minds, they are a drain on our productivity.

Once deals stall, do everything you can to break them loose.  But if you can’t, let them go.  Take them out of the funnel.

They may come up again, but guess what–they’re different, the needs have changed, the priorities are changed, we have to go through the entire sales process again, we can’t pick up from where we left off.

Be vicious in managing your pipelines.  Don’t let deals linger, the longer they linger, the less real they are.

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