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Stop Trying to Close Deals Faster

When sales people ask for advice on how to speed up a sale, I challenge them to share their motivation for doing so.

Answers typically include:

  • Opportunities take too long to close
  • I need my deal to close this quarter
  • My manager want’s me to bring this one in sooner

Each of these statements is selfish.

I use the word selfish to describe acting in our self-interest with no moral or value judgment implied.

A selfish approach in any relationship sets participants in opposition rather than alignment.

How can we sell faster?

Often, sales teams believe limiting or streamlining the number or length of sales process interactions represents a path to faster selling.

Teams often resist my suggestion for two or three Discovery conversations prior to presenting our solution.

Another almost universal and flawed approach is extreme responsiveness to prospects urgency for a demo or a proposal.

Sorry… You can’t accelerate a process

A sales process does not have speed.

The notion of process time can only be referenced after the process has been completed. Sales opportunities have duration only when complete. Therefore, we can talk about the average time it takes to close a deal but only in a historical perspective.

A more accurate approach would be to express our desire to cause the moment in time they will make a decision (a Decision Date) to occur sooner.

You can’t accelerate a decision either

The speed of someone else’s decision-making is not something we can determine and is never in our control.

We can, however, gain their commitment for the moment of decision communication (aka Decision Date) to occur sooner than planned or expected.

Two things can motivate someone to commit to a decision date sooner than previously committed to.

  • Reaction to external force
  • Acknowledgment of Self-Interest

Discounts and other incentives are examples of external force we can apply to motivate the buyer to make a decision sooner (but NOT faster.)

Implied or real scarcity is another example of eternal force.

In terms of self-interest, a buyer might me motivated to make a decision sooner if they perceive the value of this decision as increasing by having made it sooner (e.g. If this software will save me $1M per year then every day I don’t have it I give up $2,739.73)

When we accept that ‘selling faster’ actually requires motivating the prospect to change the date of their decision, we must acknowledge this is not possible if no decision date exists.

There must be a real decision (with a date)

A decision requires three elements:

·     Someone with authority to make the decision (the ‘Who?’)

·     An Action that will occur as a result of the decision (the ‘What?’)

·     The moment in time on which the decision will be made or delivered (the ‘When?’)

If you can’t articulate all three of these elements, no decision exists to make happen sooner.

When no decision exists

It bears repeating: If you can’t articulate the Who?, the What?, and the When?, you are not actually working a deal because no decision point exists.

Once you have agreed on a decision date, you need to ensure you are seeking a decision from the person or persons with an actual authority to decide.

What if you are working ‘through’ someone who does not have the authority to decide?

In these cases you need to understand if the person you are talking through has a specific commitment to the person with the authority to decide.

The easiest way to validate a commitment between your contact and the person with authority to decide is to identify the date on which your contact will be presenting their recommendation to the person with authority as well as the date on which the person of authority will make a decision based on this recommendation.

If these dates do not exist then you are having a nice conversation but not actually working an opportunity.

A simple checklist to follow
  • Ensure you have a commitment with anyone you are ‘selling to.’ The next scheduled meeting is the most basic commitment (minimum commitment) to be considered in relationship.
  • Confirm you are you talking to the person or persons who have the ability to make a decision. If not… this must be your next action.
  • Gain agreement (ask for a commitment) on the ultimate decision date. Schedule a Decision Meeting on this date.
  • Identify the next one or two logical decision points and dates and gain commitment to these.

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