Jose Palomino

The Sales Process: Why Do Deals Get Lost?

August 21, 2014

A Sales Leadership Interview With Paul Pelletier

For the last few months, my team and I have been working ferociously on my forthcoming book, Pivotal Conversations. The book delves into and describes the messaging framework we’ve developed for sales teams and sales management. We’ve been looking at the powerful and necessary conversations that commercial sales teams have to engage in to do more business.

In order to have an even sharper grasp on the real world implications of this topic, I’ve been talking to sales leadership at some very interesting and diverse companies – all to learn what they had to say about the current state of sales and how important the right messaging was to their success.

That’s where Paul Pelletier comes in. Paul was the Sales VP at Experian for several years, and is now the Sales VP at a startup (we’re a big fan of those here at VPI). Here’s what he had to say.

When It Comes to Forecasting

A lot of line managers know about adjusting when it comes to the end of the quarter. If your projected forecasts don’t exactly match the closed deals, you have to answer for it. But Paul said forecasting can be more scientific if you approach it in the right way.

If your salespeople are using an SSA or CRM, there are 1-8 stages – give or take. “You can apply an objective probability to each stage,” Paul said—and therein achieve a higher forecast accuracy.

Another way to do it, according to Paul, is a “rep by rep analysis.” That is, sitting down with each rep and going objectively through each stage of the process with them. The difficulty here is that, “You can’t always do this with new reps,” because you don’t know their forecasting ability yet. Paul also offered, “This becomes harder the more reps that you have.”

Bottom line advice: Try to put an objective process in place – applying specific question to each stage of the selling process with each one of your reps.

When It Comes to Risk

Out of the five areas that impact sales (business, financial, technical, competitive, risk), I asked Paul which one had the most significant sway. By far, Paul said risk – especially for small companies.

“Smaller companies are asked more proof points by decision makers. Company risk is a huge deciding factor. People will buy from someone with credibility. It’s all about the brand.”

If you don’t have the benefit of a big brand name tied to your offering, then you need to be able to address this conversation with your buyer. It’s bound to come up – so your reps better be prepared.

Bottom line advice: Know your company and where your salespeople will have the most objections – and then prepare for those tough sales conversations.

When It Comes to the Customer

In order to get your buyer to buy, Paul said it ultimately comes down to the reps knowing the customer’s buying process. There are “key questions about a deal,” including…

  • Are there any changes in priorities? Have you re-confirmed the process?
  • Are you talking to everyone that you should be talking to, to complete the deal?
  • Is legal involved?
  • Is the funding for the agreement available and confirmed?

But, Paul said, the reps must also “confirm the executives are going through the [buying] process.” In other words, if your rep is alleging the deal is going to close in that quarter – you need to make sure the right people at the right level are involved.

Finally, I asked, “So why do deals get lost?” Paul answered quite poignantly: “The #1 reason that deals slip is because what the salesperson is telling you does not line up with the customer’s process.”

Thanks to Paul Pelletier for his insights.

  • How do you ensure your reps know your customer’s buying process?
  • In your opinion, why do deals get lost?

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