Like most things in life, it’s always easier if you start out with the end in mind.
A common situation I find with many businesses when discussing sales pipelines are not lost deals but “stalled deals”.
This isn’t a qualification issue with lead generation, which would mean that prospects would have either not entered the pipeline in the first place, or would have been kicked out early on.
No, this is an issue with opportunities that have started the process, possibly had one or two meetings already, and have then, well… just stopped.
For example, it could be that they fail to gain traction beyond proposal. Or maybe they stopped dead after a demo is given.
Whatever it is, it’s important to find out where in your sales process things get blocked.
This is best done by simply asking prospects key questions to uncover what’s gone wrong. Sometimes your own business development resource can do this but sometimes they’re too close to the relationship to get clarity, which is where an external third party can help.
You should also speak with existing customers to validate the ideal process from their perspective.
Once you get the answer, whatever it is, you can start looking at your optimum sales process.
For example, let’s say that the majority of deals stall due to lack of sign-off further up the line.
(As I said before, this isn’t a lead qualification issue; it would be easy to think that you solve this one by simply only engaging at a higher authority – classic BANT qualification – but that’s not always possible. Even senior executives have to gain board approval at times and for high-value, complex B2B sales it’s common that vendors are engaged prior to budget sign-off)
So, if you find out that the issue is around budget and sign-off then you need to think how you can pre-handle that issue earlier in the sales process.
A good way would be to sell in a ROI workshop to assist the prospect in building a business case. This could be something that you offer for free as part of building a relationship with the prospect as a trusted partner.
Alternatively, you could provide a ROI model tool, perhaps developed in Excel, which the prospect could use to gather further information needed.
These are both high-level thoughts on approaches, but the principal remains that you need to find out what’s stopping opportunities from progressing from the prospect’s perspective and then adjust your sales process to solve these problems.
The reality is that a sales process is just your internal view of the buying process. Most sales processes don’t map the customer buying process very well. And where they don’t you’ll most often find problems.
“Selling in” a process helps you more quickly uncover opportunities that, frankly, probably wouldn’t have progressed anyway. If you hit resistance then you know you’re unlikely to get very far and can prioritise accordingly.
Equally, you can spend more time with the prospects that are fully engaged which will often accelerate sales through the pipeline faster than before.
They key point is to identify what’s stopping deals progressing and then make sure you address those issues earlier in the sales process.