Superstar salespeople know which prospects will buy and which one’s won’t. For the average sales rep, however, it’s tempting to become overly optimistic about ‘deals’ that eventually don’t close – in spite of the evidence. Here are three habits you can replicate from the masters to improve your sales results.
“It’s gonna close!” Have you ever said this and it didn’t happen? (oops!)
Salespeople say these words with great conviction every single day in almost every industry. But for many, the sale doesn’t close. Something happens on the way to the “pen to paper” appointment and the forecast once again becomes subject to interpretation.
What’s the quick answer to this issue? Identify why your deals don’t close – and don’t lie to yourself. Here are three things successful salespeople do which can help you sort out your ‘close or not close’ conundrum:
1. They set and stick to their Ideal Customer Profile
The clearest, most impactful way to determine what deals will close is to identify the characteristics of an ideal buyer for your company. This will set the groundwork for differentiating between those who will close and those who will not.
- Decision-making authority
- Size of company
- Buying cycle
- Urgency to buy (compelling event or circumstances)
- Time frame for signing a contract
- Delivery or installation deadline(s)
Once you define the characteristics of an ideal buyer, develop specific questions to each of those characteristics. This ensures you acquire all of the information with which to make an educated forecast of their current sales pipeline.
2. Their lead generation strategy is a set of measurable activities within a process
If your lead generation skills substandard, then every prospect needs to close because the ‘mouth’ of your sales funnel isn’t being fed enough opportunities. The result means fewer sales opportunities and a struggle to make quota. What you really want is a pipeline fueled by activity, not hope. Successful salespeople define their activities within the larger lead generation process. They know the metrics required to achieve their sales goals. Develop your lead generation skills by role-playing with a peer, coach or sales manager.
Lead generation self-evaluation:
- Is the number of contacts I make each day/week/month enough to sufficiently fill my pipeline?
- What is the quality of my cold-call efforts? (ie. How good am I on the phone, email, face-to-face, etc?)
- What is my contact to first appointment ratio? (Is this sufficient?)
- What is the quality of my prospect list? (Do the people and companies align with my ideal customer profile?
3. They execute “fact-based” (not feelings-based) pipeline management
This isn’t a selling skill, but a personal skill. Successful salespeople don’t allow their feelings to obstruct their judgment. They set what I call Relational Boundaries – the ability to maintain enough emotional distance from prospects that you don’t lose objectivity distinguishing between legitimate sales opportunities versus one’s you hope will close.
A qualified buyer within your ideal customer profile who will buy from you can be substantiated by facts. Feelings can cloud your perspective and lead you to unsubstantiated conclusions.
- Do I tend to increase the pressure on prospects in my pipeline to buy quickly (and alienating them) as the end of the month approaches?
- Do I allow my personal feelings to cloud my judgment about which deals will actually close when forecasting?
- Do I attempt to sell to anyone who will meet with me – even outside my ideal customer profile?
- Do I emotionally struggle with letting go of prospects whom I know won’t buy – but hold out false hope that they will?
If you said ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, you may struggle setting boundaries or maintaining objectivity with potential buyers. A good in-depth sales assessment can help you identify if you’re challenged with saying ‘no’ to a prospect.
A sales forecast should be based on fact, using objective criteria to determine interest, validity or probability of buying – not your personal feelings. Save your feelings for the celebration after you get the deal. Successful salespeople do and that’s a sign of what makes them great.