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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

6 hidden issues that could sidetrack your deal, and how to overcome them

Everyone loves surprises. Well, everyone loves surprises until they’re totally sidelining the sales process and pushing you away from your quota. Fortunately, while some things in the sales process are uncontrollable, those nasty little surprises that delay closing aren’t one of them.

Many top reps cite closing as the most challenging aspect of sales. Beyond that, the average close rate across all industries is just 19%. Most of us would do anything in our power to try to get that number up.

There’s no time for sneaky issues creeping in and sidetracking your deals. In this blog post, we break down six hidden problems that can delay your closing and how you can work against them from the get-go.

Not keeping good records

How much time do you spend talking, and how much time do you spend listening? When you’re listening, are you taking notes and trying to remember what your prospects say is vital to them?

Top closers spend close to 60% of their time listening to what their prospects have to say.

Imagine how many notes you could take on the crucial things in the sales process during that time? Use that note-taking time to understand if your prospect requires a legal review or formal procurement process to get a deal done. Maybe they need to evaluate a specific number of vendors. Others may only be able to offer certain kinds of payment, or need to be invoiced.

Many salespeople forget about this when it comes to closing, making prospects feel like they are just a number on a page. When you have to go back and review, you derail the sales process. You may even have to go back through the process and cross your “t” s and dot your “i” s. Don’t let your deal get sideswiped by something you could’ve taken care of.

Ask questions. Get to know everything about your customer and their needs, and make sure you take notes. That way, when you get to the end of the sales cycle, you’ll have everything prepared just like they need it.

Not speaking to the decision-maker

Most of the time, it’s pretty apparent when you are or aren’t speaking to the decision-maker, but sometimes the realization can sneak up and get you right at the end. If that’s the case, it will derail your sales process until you can find the right person to speak to. You’ll be going back to square one.

If you find this happening to you, it’s an excellent opportunity to go back and analyze your sales funnel. Start to uncover gaps in the process where you could have gathered additional information and qualified your buyer better. Qualifying sooner in the process will help you avoid your sale getting derailed later on.

Too much time doing admin

Data is essential when it comes to sales: it helps you understand the types of customers you’re best suited for, analyze what’s going well and poorly, and even determine better methods of reaching prospects in the future. 

Want to hear a scary statistic, though? Sales reps spend less than 36% of their time selling. All of that data entry is sucking up the time that your team can spend directly with your prospects.

When your team stops selling, the deals flatline. If your prospects usually get lots of attention, but a week heavy with administrative work comes in and distracts your sales team, they may start to cool off, and the deal may go sideways.

Try to automate as much of the menial, administrative, not-actual-selling work as you can. For example, you could create: 

  • A shared calendar for listing and scheduling team meetings and demos. 
  • A Slack channel to track all of your order statuses and sales.
  • A dashboard for pipeline management and leads.
  • Templates and email automation for certain parts of the sales process, like follow-ups and scheduling.

Give your team members time back, and they’ll never lose a lead to cooling interest again.

Know their a-typical needs

Certain types of companies, like those in education or finance, have legal requirements that need to be met by every software they purchase. When going into a deal, talk early and often about any legal, accessibility, or security concerns that they might have. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start working on it in the background. If the deal is large enough, after all, your team may be able to build something to meet their needs.

To work against this in the future:

  1. Make sure you understand the types of legal needs that companies generally have when using your product.
  2. Familiarize yourself with global law and governing bodies, and create documentation to be readily prepared to deal with issues in the future.
  3. If you can’t have a compliance team, prepare and educate your sales team to deal with those types of questions.

They’re DOA

According to Datahug, 37% of leads are dead on arrival:

Salespeople are often competitive and tenacious, so giving up on a prospect is rarely the first instinct. Instead of admitting that something isn’t working, they’ll often try harder. Stop. 

Increase your communication cadence, and when things don’t seem to be working, call it. Not every deal needs to work—why waste your time on something that isn’t going anywhere? 

Not getting commitments ahead of time

Have you ever had the experience where, right before you are getting ready to close the deal, your buyer slinks out of it? Maybe you’d thought you had it in the bag, but they say something like, “Oh, reach out next week, and we can chat.” Rough. You should have gotten more commitments ahead of time.

Commitments don’t necessarily mean signed contracts, but verbal agreements made throughout the sales process. Start every conversation by stating what you’re hoping to accomplish in the current conversation, so both you and your prospect are on the same page. Some salespeople will even go so far as to set up a timeline for expectations and continue to check against it for each sales call.

Some of the actions that might be on that timeline are: 

  • Deciding whether the product is a fit or not
  • Closing
  • Setting up another call
  • Talking with another team member to gain perspective
  • Getting a demo scheduled

If you and your prospect don’t have the same timeline or expectations, you may find yourself sidelined when you get to closing time.

You’re in control

While you can’t always control what’s going on in your buyer’s mind, you can control the circumstances around which they decide to buy. Not all buyers are created equal. Some deals may be dead on arrival, while some may have a-typical needs outside your average buyer’s. 

Communicate carefully throughout the process and make sure everyone is on the same page. When you get to the end of the sales process, it should feel like a good handshake, not like you’re springing a surprise on your buyer. Take care and groom the prospect from start to finish. Make them understand that you know their needs and are thinking about them each step of the way. 

No one wants to sidetrack a good thing.

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