Revisiting the Death Valley Sales Canyon


The decision making and approval processes are the most important steps in a sale but perhaps the most often overlooked. What a waist of time to usher an opportunity all the way to the end only to see it stall in legal or finance. Or even worse, we allow our sponsor inside of the account to do the selling on our behalf when they have never sold a thing in their life – much less to the c-level.

The crucible is the part of the sale where the deal goes from rational in the evaluation to political in the decision-making and approval. For those who need a brief refresher on Rick Page’s death valley sales canyon, click this link for an e-book. The deal undergoes this transformation because, up until this point, there has been no risk involved just feature and functionality. At this point in the sales process the only thing left to evaluate is the impact. A recent study from the Complex Sale found that 50% of forecasted deals never come in; 25% to no decision and 25% to the competition. (Selling Power recently did a survey confirming these findings.)  Keep in mind; these are deals that made it on the forecast to close! Why is that the case?

Remember the three things that happen in the death valley sales canyon..

  1. Vendors look alike – We prepare for this by linking our unique differentiators to solving pains for stakeholders. This should have been done in the proof of concepts phase.
  2. They consider the cost of doing nothing – We prepare for this by withholding pricing until the decision maker has given a quantifiable cost justification in the proposal stage.
  3. Camps Divide – In this scenario, the most powerful people will exert their influence on the process to break the deadlock. Therefore, we must sell to those decision-makers in terms of risk mitigation to win their vote in the approval stage.  

Successful sellers make it a point to get access to the decision-makers early because you will not be introduced to them late in the process. You must have built a relationship in the discovery or territory coverage stage to come back and speak to risk mitigation in the approval stage. Just as Stephen Covey states, “Begin with the end in mind.” That is why we trade information for access.

Also in this stage, we are introduced to players who are not decision-makers but approvers. When forced into negotiating with procurement, legal, or buying committees, keep this acronym in mind TIP (Timing, Information, and Power)

Timing – Organizations will forgo a purchase until they simply cannot anymore. We must know that “source of urgency” that will spark a purchase.

Information – We must know all the stakeholders; their pain, preference, and part they play in the process to avoid the little white lies that will trick us into concessions.

Power – Those that have the most to risk in a decision will influence the decision-making process the most. We must be selling to those people and mitigating that risk.


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