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Closing Sales in the Final Quarter

Posted by: Mark Solesbury
Category: News

The final quarter (Q4) is often the “make or break” quarter for sales people or indeed sales teams to hit their annual targets. Over the years of working with our customers and listening to their strategies for Q4 we’ve compiled some simple hints and tips we’ve found very useful and we’d like to share some of them with you.

The “Safety Blanket”.

We’ve all seen bad quality deals and some that have been pushed from month to month and have finally ended up living in the final quarter pipeline. Sales people like to keep these deals open and keep pushing them out further and further into the year, rather than admitting to themselves (or the Sales Director) that the deal is unlikely to happen. We call these deals the “Safety Blanket”. Well the Safety Blanket needs to go and these deals should be closed as soon as possible. 

These deals are nothing more than a distraction that waste everyone’s time and often make forecasting accuracy almost impossible. One very good way to avoid Safety Blanket deals happening in the future is to create a report in Salesforce and it should highlight any deals with a push count of more than twice. Salesforce Labs have come up with this simple app to help you with this: Details here.

To get rid of these deals you need to spend time actually speaking to the customer and “Striplining” them. Details and examples of Striplining here. If the customer is non responsive to calls then don’t be afraid to email them and say something like: “Dear Joe, We haven’t spoken in some time. Would you like me to close off your file so that I don’t pester you, please? Or if you are still interested in talking to us I’d be delighted to help.  Regards, Simon.”

The Mutual Close Plan. 

This should be just that; a mutual plan between you and the customer where you outline the steps that need to happen before a deal can be signed. There are so many benefits (and no downside) to MCPs that every salesperson should be using them 100% of the time. 

MCP Benefits include: 

Higher close rates. Deals often go cold by momentum being lost in a deal. A MCP keeps momentum going, the customer stays engaged and the deal stays on track.

Fewer surprises and reduce deal slippage. A mutual plan educates the customer on the steps that need to happen for the deal to be signed but more importantly it gives you visibility into the buyer’s key stakeholders and their approval process well in advance. If the customer is not willing to commit to a MCP then you have to ask yourself why is this the case? Have you positioned it properly or is this customer more of a tyre kicker than a real opportunity.

Faster sales cycles. A good Mutual Close Plan should outline every step that needs to happen, who is responsible for each action and what each action due date is (and ideally each should be on the calendar of you and the key stakeholders in the customer team). If you have a good plan and if the customer has bought into the plan then deals close more quickly. Getting customer buy-in a vital part of this process and it needs to be practised and tweaked on each deal you are involved in. A great tip is to get the customer to help build the plan as she or he will be more likely to buy into a process that they helped to create. This process will really help to build the relationship and trust with the customer. 

Better forecasting accuracy: For sales leaders a solid Mutual Close Plan where the customer is keeping to the plan offers a good level of comfort that the deal is in a good place. Customers that do not engage with the plan are red flags and suggests that the deal is in jeopardy of not being closed as expected.

Here is a good sample Mutual Close Plan that you can use starting today. 

 

Build Trust.

Face to face meetings are a great way to build the relationship and trust with the customer. Where this is not possible (especially during Covid lockdowns, etc) and where you have to use technologies available to meet virtually, it is more important than ever to build trust. You can do this in the following ways:

Value selling. Take time to understand the customer’s pain points and listen to why they are looking to buy now. What is the compelling reason they are looking now? A good salesperson will refer back to each paint point and clearly demonstrate how your product / solution can fix their pains. DO NOT get into a feature / function discussion or comparison as this is just a distraction away from what is important to the customer. Always call out the value your solution can provide – never assume the customer will understand the implied value. You can even use your current or past customer performance KPI improvements to build up a value or return on investment figures to build out a business case. Do this as part of the sales process even if it is required by the customer or not. 

Prepare and Listen: From your very first engagement with the customer you need to research them in quite some detail. Visit their website, read news about them, research them on LinkedIn – do whatever you can to learn as much as you can about the customer to form an opinion on how you can help them. Then when it comes to speaking to the customer, only ask questions that are relevant and demonstrate your understanding of their business. When a customer feels that you have taken the time to do all this and really listened to their pain points this is a great way to build trust.

Be honest: ALWAYS  be honest about what is and what is not possible with your customers. If your product or solution cannot do something then don’t be afraid to answer honestly. If the customer feels like you are not telling the truth about something then the deal will be dead straight away. Honesty is always the best policy.  

Some extra quick tips to help you close the deal: 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the deal especially where you have built a good relationship and trust with the customer, and where you can leverage the groundwork you have put in.
  • Be flexible but don’t be a pushover – if you keep saying “yes” to everything then the customer will come to expect it to be that way forever. You should learn to ask for something in return for each “give” you extend to the customer. 
  • The deal needs to work for you and for the customer – not all deals are good business. Sometimes you just have to walk away if the customer is asking too much. 
  • Make provision for multiple discounts requested by the customer for a number of levels, e.g. Stakeholders will ask for a discount. Then the CFO gets involved and could ask for more discount, Then the CEO gets involved and could ask for more discounts – and you might not be able to give any more discount.