How to stop deals stalling and improve your win rate
Hi! In this week’s post I tackle the common problem of deals stalling in the sales process—often in the discovery or proposal stages. I review what causes them to die and what salespeople can do differently to get ahead of the problem.
Selling is inherently a multi-threaded process
Any salesperson will tell you that you have to wrangle multiple buyer personas to make a sale—at least the following:
A champion—whose life will be made better after having the product.
An economic buyer—who can fund the purchase of the product.
One or more influencers—whose opinion carries weight in the organization.
Most sales teams do a good job documenting these personas in their ideal customer profile, and initiate outreach to all of them simultaneously—with a multi-threaded prospecting process:
As soon as one of the personas responds and agrees to have a discovery call, most sales playbooks call for converting the contact into an opportunity in the CRM, and for removing the remaining contacts from the outreach sequence:
The salesperson then holds the discovery call, during which they ask about the company, uncover the initial persona’s pain points and identify who else will be involved in the buying process.
Switching to a single-threaded process creates a choke point: Gatekeepers
Having stopped the outreach sequence, they rely on the initial persona to be their gateway to the remaining personas, effectively switching to a single-threaded sales process. However, instead of becoming a gateway, the initial persona becomes a gatekeeper:
The gatekeeping happens because the initial persona has one or more of the following issues:
Doesn’t want to spend their social capital vouching for a new vendor until they know more—common with champions.
Likes the product but doesn’t have an urgent problem to solve right now—common with champions.
Wants to control the flow of information into the company—common with influencers.
Doubling down on single-threading inevitably leads to failure
To prevent the deal from stalling at this point, most salespeople continue down the single-threaded route. They put together a demo and a proposal in an effort to get the initial persona to open the gates to the rest of the organization—and to show activity to their own sales leadership.
However, all this does is exacerbate the issues described above and the deal stalls again. It might still be open in Salesforce but its 2x the age of the closed won deals—it’s dead:
The reason it dies is one or more of the following:
The initial persona can’t sign the proposal and buy the product on their own—economic buyers are rarely the initial persona.
If the initial persona shows it to the other personas, the first thing they learn about the product is how much it costs, rather than which problem it solves—the champion is seldom capable of selling the product internally on their own.
Even if the proposal outlines the problem being solved, it doesn’t address the needs of all personas, so they find reasons to say no.
The solution is to maintain multi-threading throughout the sales process:
In the discovery stage, this literally means continuing to prospect all personas in parallel while doing discovery with the initial persona.
While this extends the time spent in discovery and results in multiple discovery calls, it keeps the momentum going because:
No single persona gets to become the gatekeeper. There’s no need for anyone to control the flow of information or be worried about vouching for a vendor.
Each additional persona you talk to gives you new information and an opportunity to uncover urgent needs that you can solve.
You can see where the personas are aligned on needs, focus your demo and proposal on solving those, and steer clear of areas where they are misaligned.
The #1 objection salespeople have with the multi-threaded discovery approach is that it somehow feels awkward and risks offending the initial persona. Reviewing your past deals and asking how often the initial persona “went dark” or became unresponsive is a good exercise to overcome this.
And once you accept that the initial persona is more likely to become a gatekeeper than a gateway, multi-threading becomes a no-brainer. And it naturally tees up taking a multi-threaded approach for the remainder of the sales process, enabling you to maintain alignment and set the stage for a smoother handoff to the post-sale team:
Multi-threading also pays dividends down the road for renewals and expansions as you aren’t scrambling to get in front of the personas again.
PS If you found this post useful you’ll find my recent post on how to get buyers to open up in a discovery call a useful companion read.
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