10 Ways Your Sales Deal Could Sink!

Yup, that is right. There are 10, count ’em, 10 key questions you must have answers for on your deal or you have the potential of it NOT CLOSING!!!

Closing-the-SaleI have found it very beneficial to documents my sales plans over the years whether using tools like TAS plans or homegrown tools, but one thing I always ensure is that the following 10 questions always have answers.  And if they do not, they become the key questions I need to get answers to immediately!


1) What is the challenge, business issue or pain that your client has?

A clear definition of the problem or initiative is key. Not your definition as the sales rep, but a mutually agreed up definition from both you and the sponsor. Identify the key buying requirements associated with fixing this pain upfront. Continue to validate these through the cycle.

2) Has your client ever made efforts to solve this issue before? What happened? Why are they looking now?
Background is key. More insight to the companies buying behaviors and history will help you see pitfalls before they happen.

3) What is the current cost of doing nothing?

This is a basic fundamental of your business case. This is a key driver to develop your total ROI of your offering or solution. If they have this costs, review it with them. If they do not, offer to document this current cost. It is extremely valuable to both parties. Be sure when offering this, that something is received in return. The sale should be a constant win/win.

4) What is the budget for this process? If there is no net new budget, can we re-allocate the budget from the current process?

If there is no money budgeted now, try to work it in for a future budget item. Perhaps offer to work with the team to develop the business case to justify this in the future years budget. If there is budget, start to develop the business case to evaluate the ROI. Some organizations aim for a 3 year payback. As what your clients target is. This is also a great time to ask how the budget was developed. Did any third parties assist?

5) Who is the decision maker? Who ultimately signs the contract? What is the procurement process? Are there any evaluation committees? Does your company has standard T&Cs approved?

This is where things can get sticky. Depending upon if you are working with a central procurement group (via the line of business), a government agency or commercial company; all of the procurement processes will be unique. Ensure that whomever you are told is the signer, has the budget authority to sign off on an expenditure of your size. Ask is there have ever been exceptions to this approval process and why?  If this is the first time your terms and conditions have been removed by your client, ask your sponsor to have their legal department start reviewing them early.

6) What other companies is your sponsor reviewing or have they spoken to?

Getting the lay of the land is crucial. Developing a sales strategy based upon your strengths and weaknesses (yes we all have them) against the competition cannot be overlooked. Do not be cocky and forget this step. And do not rule out the internal development effort as a potential competitor. It is one! If there are companies they are reviewing, find out their prior history with your client. What other products do they own from this company? What are the executive relationships between the two firms? Find any linkages you can between the companies to make sure it is a fair fight.

7) Do not forget to define success of the project or engagement?

We all want to close and close fast. But if your client has unrealistic expectations from the project, then what? They will never buy from you again nor provide a good reference. One bad reference is all it takes to bring your new sales cycles to their knees.

8) How does this project help your sponsor? What are their personal goals and aspirations?

Do not forget, this project is indeed personal both to you and your sponsor. Does your sponsor become eligible for a promotion after the success of this project? Improve their bonus? What about their boss? How does it impact them?

9) Who is your favorite thus far?

Do not hesitate to ask during your sales process for confirmation that you are winning! Ask the hard questions. What have they liked from your company that they have seen? What did they not like? What did they like better from other vendors? How important is that? Be sure to re validate from question one around their top requirements. Have they changed? Has another vendor shown a way to meet them better than your offering?

10) what is the time line of this project? What happens if they do not make that date?

Yup, you guessed it…the pending decision. Who’s ass is on the line if this project is delayed or late? What happens? Nothing? Well good luck then…no reason for that client to act? Oh, you lose the budget? Or you committed this as tied to one of your MBOs for the year?….great, we will ensure you get your MBO on our side and meet that procurement date.


P.S – Do not forget to ask for the business!  

P.S.S. – Here are a couple of good books on the sales cycle:

New Technologies, New Sales Approach?

We are in a new age of technology breakthroughs, one where artificial intelligence or cognitive solutions are upon us and getting a lot of hype.  One thing I have found over the last year while being involved in these cutting edge technologies, the most important thing during the sale is the business value.  This has not changed in dozens of years.  If there is no business value, why would the organization make an investment in the first place?

The fact that technologies are advancing and becoming more capable of providing greater insight, analyse more data, analyse new data (like unstructured) and “learn”; this just improves the business case.  Now, these greater capabilities enable new visions.  This is where the opportunity for selling value comes in.  A truly talented sales person asks “what if” and sets the vision.  The truly talented sales person helps the client create their ideal world.

It is this vision setting step that is being forgotten today by some. Too many sellers I come across are selling technology or products.  They see everything as a nail for their hammer.  The truly gifted seller helps to create vision empowered by their technology or products.

The issue is not only with sales people.  Clients have forgotten to ask the question “what if”.   they have grown accustomed to accept the status quo.  It is our responsibility now with the new technologies that are available, to remind clients we can take fresh eyes and viewpoints on existing business processes or lines of business.  It is with this new fresh view and prior barriers removed, that we unlock true value.

Over the last 20 plus years I have been involved with a variety of advanced analytics.  But today I am truly excited for the creative solutions we can help clients develop through the latest advancements, including cognitive!

Check out some of my recommended resources:

Recommended Good Sales Resources

You Can’t Close Your Deals Without This…..

I was told a long time ago we were given two ears and one mouth for a simple reason….speak less and listen more!  Listening is one of the most basic skills needed to be a great sales executive (and that is many times overlooked).  It is this skill that allows sales executives to truly understand a clients pains, visions, goals and barriers.  It is this skill that also allows a sales executive to connect with their client and understand their dynamics and truly create a solution to their pain or a path to reach their goals.

Below are some basics to being a good listener:

  • Probe, don’t interrogate
  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • Lead, don’t solution
  • Interpret internally and wait  patiently for a window to reiterate what was heard and ask for confirmation
  • Focus on what and how is being said relative to context and tone
  • Never interrupt
  • Pay attention not just to the words, but to body language
  • Listen for what is NOT said
  • Turn your phone off and remove distractions
  • Empathize

While this may seem very basic, that is because it is. But too many times in client meetings, I see sales people cut customers off before they are done sharing their vision or business issues.  Too many times sales people are not focusing on what their client is explaining, instead they are already “solutioning” or “sizing” their recommendations.

Try it yourself in your next meeting. If you find yourself ready to interrupt your client or make a recommendation, ask if they are finished first or count how often you find yourself ready to cut in.  It might surprise you how differently the meeting goes with a patient listener.

For some great sales training books, check out:


Are You Making Basic Sales Mistakes?

Before I start any new sale, there a few basic items that I always have:
1) a repeatable sales process
2) have a playbook
3) contingency plans

Every top sales organization leverages a sales process (but that is roughly only 10% of sales organizations out there). There are many training organizations out there that help organizations to implement their sales process. Even sales force automation tools enable default or customer sales processes to be implemented to enable consistent use of sales processes. Personally I do find these very valuable as a sales rep and as a sales manager. In simple terms, a sales process is a systematic approach involving a series of steps that enables a sales force to close more deals, increase margins and make more sales through referrals”. Put differently: it provides your sales people with a map and a GPS for winning each deal. A sales process consistently guides salespeople toward the right activity throughout each and every opportunity. Studies have shown that sales executives who follow a sales process have a 48% higher win rate that those who do not. However, a sales process is not the same as a sales playbook.

Playbooks are not terribly different for a sales executive than that for a head football coach. A sales book combines content and tools to a sales process. The sales process dictates when we should engage in a workshop, which is a tool in the playbook. Together, these greatly improve a sales executives odds of winning.Playbooks provide this critical information. They also provide relevant content (for example, white papers or case studies) and tools (such as email templates, important questions or other software tools). Simply put, playbooks give sales people everything they need to follow your best practice sales process at every step of every opportunity.

Contingency planning allows the sales executive to be prepared for most scenarios, at each step of the sales process. Lets say your client has agreed to go to contracts after you demonstrate the solution. During the demo, the client gets cold feet and decides to deviate from this agreed upon path and asks for one more reference. Are you prepared for this scenario? Do you have a response ready or a reference prepared?

One theme you will notice to successful selling here in this blog is preparedness. Successful sales executives over prepare. This is one consistent trait I have found in the top sales people I have interacted with in my time.

Are You Closing All Your Deals?

With the holidays upon us and so many sales people rushing to close year end deals, I thought it would be timely for a brief list of some close techniques that may help you out there:

  1. Assumptive Close : acting is if the client already said “yes”

  2. Customer Care/Implementation Manager Close: having the implementation manager or customer care representative call to discuss when to start
  3. Calendar/Economic Close: year end discounts or incentives to sign
  4. Exclusivity Close: offer a window where only your client will be able to use the technology or get this special offer
  5. Give -Take Close: give something as part of the deal they client wants, then take it away
  6. Handover Close: bring your boss in or someone else more senior from your corporation to close the deal
  7. Opportunity Cost Close: measure and present the cost of not buying the product or solution now * (personal favorite)
  8. Requirements Close: review with the client that you have met all of their requirements to sign off on the deal.  Have the paper and pen ready
  9. Reversal Close: act as if you are having second thoughts that your offering may not be right for the client (be ready for unpredictability from your client)
  10. Trial Close: see if your client is ready to sign

"People like sincerity - learn to fake that and you've got it made."
“People like sincerity – learn to fake that and you’ve got it made.”

While these are just techniques one can leverage, there are still many core principles that a seller needs to remember along the way.  Be sure that you have identified what the close process is; who can sign off, what the procurement process is, what the legal process is, and signing authority is relative to dollar amount of the deal. If this is a federal government deal, be sure to have your contract vehicle identified.