Caution: Whales in the Swimming Pool

no swimmingIt is right around this time of year when I start to get very anxious. The summer is winding down, my alma mater begins their football season, and our buyers are awakening from the summer doldrums. As sellers, our sense of urgency increases because the end of the year is within sight – and the same is true of our buyers.

Or is it?  Follow this link to read my thoughts on forecast accuracy.

Try this little exercise. Pull up the pipeline you have been working diligently to build over the first 9 months of the year. Sort it by revenue from highest to lowest. If you are like most sales professionals, you will find there is a correlation between the size of the deal and the proximity of the close date to December 31st. In other words – the largest deals are generally the ones the furthest pushed out. This is natural and stands to reason. After all, these deals aren’t fully scoped therefore we don’t want them gaining the attention of the powers that be. However, we still want the recognition that there is a whale or two swimming in our pool. Since we don’t know when this deal is going to close – we assume that the buyers will have the same source of urgency that we have and that it will eventually close by the end of the year.

We as salespeople need to realize that this, in fact, is not the case. Many of us have the high hopes that 2009 will be very different from 2008 and buyers will finally come off of their wallets. But just as Rick Page has taught us – Hope is Not a Strategy.

Three items we need to consider when we are thinking about these whales at the end of our pipeline for 2009 . Start doing these things now so you can be assured you are well positioned to close out the year strong:

1)    The global recession has made buyers much more cautious and conservative with their earnings. Therefore cost justification models are not enough to close a complex sale. CFO’s have been piling up proposals with ROI’s attached for two years.

To Combat this, Find the Powerful People: Align with the individual who can and will walk your proposal into the CFO’s office and say, “I need this signed because it is critical to the success of our business.”

2)   Our sense of urgency to close by the end of year is motivated by our internal pressures to make quota. Our buyers do not share this motivation.

Uncover their Source of Urgency: Find out what does motivate the decision-makers to buy and by what date they need this solution. If Jan 1 comes and goes without our solution in place – what are the negative ramifications to the organization?

3)   Many buyers have little knowledge about evaluating our solution and our implementation timeframes. Therefore by the time they get around to evaluating your solution it could be too late to have it up and running by the start of the year.

Closing Strategy: Through a position of empathy and experience, share with your buyer your normal evaluation, approval, and implementation process in the form of a timeline. Back it out from the source of urgency date for go-live and let them know the steps needed to start by that date.

Try this process to help feed the whales swimming at the end of your pipeline.

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7 Responses

  1. Scott, great blog today, thanks for sharing!

  2. Scott, I like what you have to say but I think there are other factors. The big deals usually involve more than one vendor. It is important to team with the other vendors so you can all get the same “time-line” message across to the customer. The storage, network, application, and other software that may be involved most likely will all have different time-lines. Thanks for the info. It is good.

  3. Great reminder as we all need to close business before the end of the calendar year. It was simple but powerful information.

  4. If we only had the guts to do what you are suggesting! Sales people need to remember that bad news early is good news. And bad news doesn’t get any better with time. Sources of Urgency and closing timelines are only accurate when discussed with powerful people.

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