You’ve been a manager for a while and you’re getting used to the responsibilities and pressure. You’ve traveled with all your reps and things on that front seem to be going OK. The VP of sales has just called you and asked you to join him for lunch next Friday. Of course, now you have four days to think about what he wants.
You’ve just had lunch with the VP and you’re feeling a little queasy. You drive home and your wife asks you why you look green. You tell her it was the lunch. You go to your office and fire up your laptop and click on the icon that reads sales numbers. You spend an hour looking at the same numbers your VP just showed you. And you ask yourself how this could have happened.
What your boss showed you and the numbers indicated was that your 8 person sales team has had $12M of potential revenue in the sales funnel for 9 months! And nothing is closing! What’s really mind numbing is the $3.5M that has been waiting for a signature to close; another $4M that has been in the funnel for 6 months is waiting for a demo of your product before it can move to the next sales level. And the topping on the sauerkraut is that on average, deals in your company take 2.5 months to close.
Your VP was professional about this during lunch but he wanted to know why closes were taking so long. He respected you for being honest when you said you didn’t know. However, he does want deals closed now!
So, the question is what have you been doing as a sales manager? I have said in other posts that the main job of a sales manager is to develop the skills of his or her salespeople. As part of that process, you as the sales manager, have to monitor opportunities as they move from prospect to customer or are disqualified. Here are a list of questions you might ask about an opportunity once it’s in the funnel:
1. Is this opportunity a real opportunity or is it wishful thinking on the part of the salespeople so they can have “something” in the funnel. Sales opportunities should pass specific criteria.
2. Are your salespeople talking with the right prospects in the company? Often, and I mean often, salespeople think they have the decision maker but they don’t. Your reps may be talking to people who are accessible. The decision makers are harder to see and higher in the organization.
3. Have your salespeople identified the emotional buying reasons that indicate the company needs your product? So many times prospects state with wild eyed enthusiasm why a product is just what they need. Salespeople get all enthused and they put this opportunity in the funnel. There is a large difference between enthusiasm and need.
4. Does the prospect have the money for the product? Some salespeople shy away from discussing budget because they hear only that the prospect really likes the product. Next thing you know your reps will be writing letters to Santa Claus.
5. Do the salespeople know how to move a deal down the sales pipeline? If a deal isn’t moving do your reps have the mental toughness to go into the prospect and ask why the deal isn’t done yet? They can use more tact with the question but they need to ask it anyway.
The Final Thought: When you find yourself stymied in closing a deal, stop selling and ask your prospect frankly and directly why he or she won’t buy.