As a former software sales expert and global VP with over 30 years’ experience, I think it’s fair to say I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the sector, including understanding the red flags that could signify when a deal is potentially at risk. I’ve collated my 15 signs that your software deal is at serious risk:
Red flags signs your software deal could be heading south
- No executive sponsorship from a “disruptive person” strong enough to push through new initiatives, or the supplier fails to show that their solution can solve disruption seen by a customer at an executive level. Any major programme will require the buy-in of at least one senior person with ‘disruptive ambitions’. A lack of either of these factors is likely to prove problematic from a supplier’s perspective.
- No business case or no one in the customer as a “point person” to work with in building a business case. A business case constructed jointly by the supplier and the customer defines and quantifies the value expected from the proposed solution. A lack of a business case will reduce the deal value and often delay its approval.
- The client goes “dark” – depending on a single customer contact person heightens the risk of going “dark” leaving the supplier uncertain if the project is at risk.
- A single customer contact also prevents the supplier being able to ‘triangulate’ deal status feedback from that person for accuracy. How do you know that the individual is presenting facts and not an opinion, perhaps they are not involved in key internal discussions – or have their own agenda? In the same way if the supplier has only one person in contact with customer this also creates similar risks of distorted feedback.
- More stakeholders join – as the deal progresses – and the original sponsor changes or loses interest. Now you have different individuals with different personalities and drivers to contend with and they might not see the deal in the same positive light that your original sponsor did. If all individuals aren’t united in their objectives then it’s likely that difficulties lie ahead.
- Unknown person appears in a meeting. What does this person have to gain from suddenly being present at the table and could it be a sign that the criteria is changing –potentially to favour competitors?
- The scope of the project changes. Another obvious one. This is a major red flag and suggests that someone within the firm isn’t entirely happy with the deal and wants to adapt it to meet their own goals.
- There is no budget, and the business case is not strong enough to create or take budget from another area. If this is the case then it’s likely that there simply isn’t enough buy-in at the top of the organisation for the deal to be approved.
- Timeline. No deadline, or the deadline changes/slips, no milestones, no reviews and stuck at one stage for too long. The same applies here. If the deal was a priority and had significant buy-in from the top level then timelines and meeting original deadlines would be of critical importance to the firm. If progress is slowing then it suggests that the organisation – or your point of contact – isn’t as committed to it as they could be.
- Politics – the losers out vote the winners. Unfortunately, these aspects are often completely out of your control, but if you feel the mood and sentiment in the organisation is favouring those who don’t want to form a deal then you could face challenges.
- An unknown competitor enters the deal at a late stage or a Request for Proposal/Information is issued that you were unaware of or did not influence. This suggests that the firm has started to identify potential alternatives.
- Inconsistent responses from stakeholders. This should raise alarm bells for three reasons – Firstly that the deal involves contacts with differing points of view, or that the firm simply isn’t united in its approach. It could also highlight that the organisation may be trying to hide something from you, suggesting they’re not entirely happy with progress to date.
- Rumours of an organisational change. Again, this could mean that your contact – who has so far bought into the deal you’re trying to close – could be shifted to a different area of the firm, or could leave it altogether, potentially leaving the deal in peril.
- You did not meet the most senior decision maker & key influencer at the start, during the middle or at the end of the sales cycle. Customer contact is of critical importance and even with platforms like Skype, it’s still near-on impossible to accurately gauge the sentiment of your client without actually meeting them. A video conference can be very effective, but it still may not convey the individual’s true emotions. Ultimately, you’re much more likely to assess the real status of the deal by meeting the customer face-to-face.
- You did not rehearse your ‘hero’ to present the proposal to the decision makers. This is your key point of contact and much of the responsibility for the success of the deal rests in their hands. It’s therefore absolutely critical to suggest you rehearse your hero’s pitch with them beforehand to ensure they’re touching all of the key points and selling the true potential of the deal to decision makers.