“My salespeople can’t close.” This is the frustrated lament I hear regularly from sales management. But failing to close is never the real problem. It’s just the symptom. The problem is that sales reps neglect important activities during earlier stages of the sales process.
Unless you address the broken links in your prospecting system, your sales reps will continue struggling to close deals. It’s like back pain. You can stretch and put heat or ice on an aching back, but unless you treat the source of the pain—a pulled muscle or degenerating disc—your back will continue to hurt. The same goes for your sales strategy.
Closing in on the Real Problem If your team has trouble closing, go back to the beginning—prospecting—and examine your entire sales process for missing links and ineffective sales tactics.
- How are sales reps sourcing leads?
- How they qualifying their leads?
- Are they asking the right questions to identify prospects’ problems and propose thoughtful solutions?
- Do they just demonstrate product features, or do they actually talk ROI?
- What is the sales plan for following up?
Don’t even think about training your team on closing techniques. Save your money. Instead, give them a sales strategy that works.
The Only Fail-Proof Prospecting System
Many sources say it takes seven to 12 touches for sales reps to reach prospects. Really? If you believe that misguided sales myth, I have a bridge to sell you. That’s not how savvy sales managers should ask their teams to spend time—dialing for dollars and pestering strangers with cold emails, hoping to finally get a few prospects on the phone. If sales reps chase cold leads, they’re set up to fail.
There’s only one kind of lead that should be in your pipeline. Only one kind of lead with more than a 50-percent conversion rate. Only one kind of lead that sales managers should care about, measure, and reinforce.
That’s hot leads—the kind you source through referrals from trusted colleagues and clients.
My client, Mark, came to me totally frustrated about the disproportionate amount of time his sales team spent prospecting. He measures Days in Sales (DIS) as one of their Key Sales Indicators, and the numbers were abysmal.
Mark decided a referral program would boost productivity for his sales reps. Boy, was he right! In just four months, they reduced the prospecting phase by 43 percent, which amounts to a 30-day drop in prospecting time. His reps now spend their time getting referral introductions from their current clients to their ideal prospects. And those deals simply close faster.
Why? When you prospect through referrals:
- You bypass the gatekeeper and score meetings with decision-makers every time.
- Your prospects are pre-sold on your ability to deliver results.
- You’ve already earned trust and credibility with your prospects.
- You convert prospects into clients at least 50 percent of the time (usually more than 70 percent).
- You score more new clients from fewer leads (because all those leads are qualified).
- You get the inside track on your prospects and ace out your competition.
Rather than giving your team lists of names to cold call, or letting them spend their days spamming people on LinkedIn, teach them how to pick up the damn phone, engage with buyers, find out what they really need, deliver it, and then ask for referrals.
Still Having Trouble Closing?
If your team is getting in front of the right prospects and still can’t seal the deal, they’re not engaging in insightful discussions or asking compelling questions.
When you analyze what really went wrong with missed sales opportunities, you’ll typically discover that your sales reps didn’t properly prepare for their meetings. They didn’t plan agendas, do their research, tailor their pitches, or even check the buyers’ LinkedIn profiles to identify shared interests, connections, and similarities.
This is not how salespeople wow buyers, build relationships, and convert prospects into clients.
One of my clients was on the way to a high-profile meeting. If his team wowed the client, they had an opportunity to close a million-dollar deal. I asked my client how the sales reps prepared for meetings like this. His answer: “Oh, we talk about it in the car on the way to the meeting.” Was their sales manager clueless, or what?
Unless sales reps are properly prepared for meetings, the best they can offer are canned sales pitches. That’s not what prospects and clients want from salespeople. They want expertise, tailored insights, new ways of thinking, and unique ideas for their businesses.
This kind of meaningful dialogue and thoughtful questioning is what impresses prospects. Not only are buyers more likely to do business with sales reps who prove they know their stuff, but the scale of projects increases, creating win/wins for everyone. Your company gets bigger deals. Clients get solutions that actually solve their problems and create measurable business results. And they are happy to introduce your sales reps to their networks.
Bravo! You’ve addressed the problem, not the symptom. Your client looks good, your team has reliable sales techniques, and deals are yours to win.