Why have your December unclosed deals vanished out of the January 2018 forecast? Did the customers get kidnapped by aliens? Did the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas steal your deals instead? Did a Bermuda Triangle mysteriously open up on New Year’s Eve and swallow the decision makers? Or did the sales people who were so confidently forecasting winning those deals in December get hypnotised by a pen, like the one used in ‘Men in Black’, and forget how close they were to a decision?
It’s a worldwide sales conundrum affecting every sales person and sales leader. In the cold reality of the new year, a good start to Q1 is crucial and clearly the deals that did not close in December, and into which so much effort, time and resource were invested, are the natural target to get some early wins. However, this simply does not happen on anything like the scale it should do – but why?
If we can answer this question, and apply some standard operating procedures to solving the problem to any degree then the rewards will be of material benefit – and not just to the sales people who close the deals in January. The entire sales team will be more motivated by early successes and leaders will have some breathing space to carry out planning for their new year strategies.
Why deals slip in December
There is a myriad of reasons why deals don’t close in December:
- Budgets may not have been approved
- Decision makers may not have been ready to sign
- There may not have been enough time for all deals to be given the sales resources needed to close them
- Requirements may have changed too late in the sales cycle for the proposal to be modified
- Other projects may have swallowed up the budget
January is the time you’ll overhear conversations like this: “Well we tried to close that deal in December but we always knew it was unlikely” or “We upset the customer trying to close it too early so now we have to wait till ….” pick any month other than January, February or March!
So, what is causing those deals – which should be closed in January – to slip away into the distant future. In my view it’s all to do with the mindset of the sales team. Let’s face it, no-one likes to be reminded of their missed December forecast so instead they focus on getting busy with new prospects to divert attention from those lost sales. Somehow, it’s easier to bear the pressure of a poor Q1 because everyone knows that new deals have long sales cycles so generating lots of leads is the order of the day. Then there’s new prospect meetings, kick-off meetings and new year planning sessions all of which will fill up January.… leaving no time for those slipped deals.
How to close December slipped deals in January
If you keep the accounts or territory in 2018 that you had in 2017, there is every reason to try to close the slipped December deals, now.
From the customer’s perspective your deal sponsor will also have been working hard to get the sale approved and so for it not to happen on time is as frustrating for them as it is for you. However, it is rare for the customer to drop a deal completely. The customer had a business need and the need is usually still there!
Here are my three specific actions to raise the probability of a January close:
- Ditch the blame culture: The sales leader must create an atmosphere in the sales team where praise is given for trying to win deals in December rather than blame for missing them and in parallel holding positive deal review and coaching sessions to determine the facts of why each deal slipped and what new initiatives can be taken to get the deal back on track.
- Ringfence the slipped deals: Don’t let the slipped deals get lost among the new deals in the January forecast. Ring fence and track them separately in the Q1 forecast. This visibility will keep everyone’s efforts focussed on early close dates.
- Visit the customer: Larger deals need a visit to the customer deal sponsor from the sales leader with the salesperson (and the assigned pre-sales expert where relevant). This will ensure that the leader has first-hand, unfiltered data on what is needed to close the deal and ideally an agreement with the sponsor to a time-bound set of actions during the rest of January. This should include a reinforcement of the business case that is driving the deal to close.
So, let’s banish the Grinch, steer around the Bermuda Triangle and get Q1 off to a flying start by closing those slipped December deals.
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