One of the biggest problems sales people face is their deals slipping. We forecast a certain close date, then it slips, and slips, and slips, and …….. Things keep coming up, we push the close date out, then more things come up and we get into this seemingly endless cycle until the deal closes.
Sometimes these slips in close date can’t be avoided. The customer keeps deferring the decision, we have little control over it. But too often, I think these slips are the result of bad deal strategies — and the sales person is responsible for managing the deal strategy.
Here’s what happens. We tend to look at our deal strategies in terms of “what’s next.” Based on where we are in the sales process and the customer is in their buying process, we identify the next steps or critical activities. As we progress through these processes, things come up, requiring more work, more activities–and the deal slips. We execute those, more stuff comes up, we generate new next steps, slipping the date yet again.
Or we may have thought the deal all the way through. We have a clear plan mapped out, we are executing–then something slips, we readjust our plan, shifting everything back, something else slips, we shift everything again, and the cycle continues. We finally close months after our original projection.
These slips happen because we approach the opportunity planning process all wrong. The slips need to be unacceptable–slipping causes the customer to miss some of their internal deadlines. Slipping creates create opportunity losses for the customer–the benefits they had hoped to achieve reduce with each slip of the close date. It creates havoc within our own companies, we, our managers, and others want some predictability in the revenue streams.
We need to begin thinking of the “targeted close date” as sacred. We need to think of it as immovable. Establishing the targeted close date must be driven by the customer buying process—when do they intend to make a decision, is there a critical deadline or a compelling event that requires a decision by a certain date?
Once we have established the targeted close date, we need to develop our opportunity plans and strategies to fit with that date. The sales and buying processes are the foundation to maintaining the integrity of the close date. We have to look at all the things both we and the customer must accomplish to achieve the deadline we have established.
As things progress through the selling and buying process, new things come up, things change, we have to revise our plans. Rather than just slipping activities, we have to revise the whole plan and schedule to fit within the time left with the original close date. By keeping the targeted close date fixed, we reschedule all the things we must accomplish to meet that date. Likewise, we work with the customer to help them reschedule their activities to continue to meet the close date.
This requires great discipline on the part of the sales person. It’s so easy just to let things slip, to go with the flow. But if we want to maintain the integrity of the targeted close date, we have to continually be looking at and revising the plan so that we re-align everything that needs to be done around that date.
Do you keep the “targeted close date” as sacred?
Do you continue to revise your plan and help the customer revise their plans to maintain the integrity of that date?