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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Why untested assumptions will kill your Q4 closes

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sun 22-Nov-2015

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Down_Graph.jpgIt's the 22nd November, we're well into Q4 and for many organisations - and many B2B sales people - that haven't yet achieved their 2015 revenue goals, it's the most critical period of the year.  In practical terms, we've probably got 4 weeks of active selling time - 5 if we're lucky. In the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is about to eat into that precious time.

You're probably still depending on a number of deals to make your number. Now more than ever, you've got to rely on your sales people to execute flawlessly, and hope that your prospects do what you want them to do.

But if that hope is based on assumption, rather than a mutual commitment to an agreed close plan, you had better prepare to be disappointed. Let's not forget that hope is not (and should never be) a strategy. A number of clients have found the following checklist invaluable when determining whether the deals they are depending on have a real chance of closing - so that they can address the weaknesses before it is too late. I offer them to you in the hope that you might find them equally useful...

If you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, I recommend that you review all the opportunities your sales people are promising to close by the end of the year against the following assessment criteria - and that you ask them to provide tangible evidence to back up their assertions:

1: Have we been told we have been selected and that all other options have been eliminated?

  • If yes, how was this information communicated to you and where is the evidence?
  • If no, what do you still need to do to get to that point?
    • Specific actions
    • With who
    • By when
    • Is all of the above fully agreed and confirmed with the prospect by exchange of email?

2: Have we been told that we have successfully negotiated a mutually acceptable final contract?

  • If yes, how was this information communicated to you and where is the evidence?
  • If there have (as yet) been no negotiations regarding price, what makes you believe that they have fully accepted your proposed price?
  • If no, what do you still need to do to get to final agreement?
    • Specific actions
    • With who
    • By when
    • Is all of the above fully agreed and confirmed with the prospect by exchange of email?

3: Have we been told that we have successfully negotiated mutually acceptable final commercial terms?

  • If yes, how was this information communicated to you and where is the evidence?
  • If there have (as yet) been no negotiations thus far regarding terms, what makes you believe that they have no intention of negotiating?
  • If no, what do you still need to do to get to final agreement?
    • Specific actions
    • With who
    • By when
    • Is all of the above fully agreed and confirmed with the prospect by exchange of email?

4: Are you sure you have understood every aspect of their final approval process, and if so, where is this documented?

  • Specifically:
    • What are all the steps?
    • Who are all the people involved?
    • What are the key dates?
    • Are all the people available on the key dates?
    • Have you positively confirmed all the above by exchange of email with the prospect?

5: Are you sure you have fully understood all the remaining steps that need to be completed before an order can be raised?

  • Specifically:
    • What is required to get us onto their purchasing system, who does it, and how long does it take?
    • What else is required before a PO can be raised?
    • What else is required before a contract can be executed?
    • What other steps might be involved?
    • Have you positively confirmed all the above by exchange of email with the prospect?

6: What else do you know you need to know, but don’t, or have assumed but not checked?

  • There could well be a bunch of other untested unknowns and unsupported assumptions. You need to think laterally and eliminate as many of them as possible...

Your champion is probably making assumptions too...

The risk isn't just that your sales person might be relying on untested assumptions or implied commitments: it's that the champion they are relying on within the prospect may not understand all the elements of getting a decision made and approved in a tight time frame. It's essential that your sales people politely but firmly test the assumptions that their champions are making, and suggest that it is in their mutual interest that uncertainties are eliminated. 

The danger of untested assumptions

So there you have it: six areas where deals and sales forecasts can easily go astray (and very often do) if you allow your sales people to rely on untested assumptions. Deals go wrong when details are missed. Ignorance or assumption is no excuse. The effects can be career changing. It's in everybody's interest that you constructively challenge your sales people's projections, and isolate the areas of uncertainty whilst there's still time to do something about them.

After all, would you (and your sales people) rather enter the New Year with a sense of pride for what has been achieved or a sense of regret for what could have been? And remember, hope is not a strategy.

Topics: Sales Forecasting, Complex Sales