September 02, 2009

How to Spot Sales Opportunities in Trouble - The Tell Tale Signs

In a tighter market, there is increased pressure to maintain, if not improve win rates. This can be a challenge in the face of increased competition.

Visibility and Predictability Can Be A Challenge

Managers and their teams tell us they fell less in control of sales opportunities, or sales cycles, than at any time in the past. They complain of having less visibility and predictability in respect of what deals will close and when.

Salespeople tell us that they are increasingly taken by surprise by events and setbacks in respect of key opportunities. We know however that in many cases however results from a failure to recognize the early warning signs of a sales opportunity in trouble. To put it another way, as salespeople focused on getting the deal across the line, we fail to see when yellow and amber lights that are flashing.

You would imagine that as organisations place more attention on managing sales opportunities, including pipeline reviews surprises would be reduced. However, the nature of most opportunity, or pipeline reviews, mean that salespeople are generally not comfortable in openly expressing their concerns, or anxieties, regards an opportunity. They can certainly be reluctant to reduce the probability figure on an opportunity in the pipeline forecast.

Looking out for red lights?

Below is a list of the most common red, or yellow flags. We encourage salespeople to openly acknowledge and proactively address these issues:
• Don’t have access to stakeholders
• Don’t have all the information you need
• Covering old ground (same issues keep resurfacing)
• Salesperson is doing all the running (buyer does not complete his actions)
• Delays, setbacks, or surprises
• Last minute, or rushed changes in requirements, or specifications
• Price issue arises too early (before requirements / scope has been set)
• The temperature of the relationship appears to have suddenly changed
• You hear conflicting stories
• Credibility questions are continually being asked about your company
• You don’t have a champion / coach
• Sudden internal changes (people, priorities, mergers, etc.)
• You don't feel you are being respected (e.g. buyer turns up late for meetings, etc.)

This is a useful checklist to have by your side when reviewing pipeline opportunities. When red or yellow flags appear the salesperson must slow down and take care. Yellow and red flags are to be welcomed, this is particularly the case when they are indentified early in the sales cycle – that is in time for the underlying issues to be addressed, or for the salesperson to decide to walk away.

No comments: