Brian is a sales manager at a human capital management software vendor. On a daily basis, he manages the deal pipeline, forecasts open deals, coaches his direct reports and advises on stuck deals. Despite all this effort, too many deals fail to close because he and his team are not focusing on what matters.
Sales leaders need managers to be innovators — to be agile and think creatively about repositioning their offerings
“There are plenty of forces outside of a sales leader’s control that make closing deals challenging,” says Scott Collins, principal executive advisor at Gartner. Customers are spending more time than intended to make a purchase and shop around for the lowest price. “Customers take just as much time to not make a purchase decision as they do to make a new purchase,” says Collins. Yet, Brian’s team, and many others, are chasing every deal with the same vigor and effort.
“Leaders can’t change the customer behavior that drives deals to fail, but they can change how their teams combat stalled deals at the sales rep level and, more importantly, at the manager level,” says Collins.
Sales leaders need to make sure the entire sales process, down to the rep level, is aligned to combating stalled deals. To achieve success:
- Coach proactively to the customer’s buying process
- Prioritize coaching on high-value seller activities
- Explore new and creative ways to reposition offerings
Coach to the customer’s buying process
Sales managers should align coaching to the buying process to help identify and overcome customer buying obstacles. By understanding the customer roadblocks along the way, sales managers can provide tactical, deal-level coaching to direct reports before a deal gets stuck.
Many organizations have already mapped out their customer buying process, so sales leaders can attach effective coaching questions to each stage. The coaching questions can diagnose and overcome customer stall points and, better yet, avoid them altogether. This activity becomes an ongoing deal diagnosis and review.
Coach on high-value seller activities
Most sellers spend a disproportionate amount of time on easy, low-value tasks, so sales managers must prioritize and focus them on the right activities. By identifying high-impact activity, sales managers can stop sellers from chasing every deal with the same effort and resources in favor of the ones that have a higher likelihood of bringing value.
Identify where star performers focus their time and efforts compared to core performers. This analysis translates into the activities that drive the most success. These high-impact activities can be mapped to the seller’s workflow to help frontline sales managers identify and support the most critical sales activities to drive deal success.
Explore new and creative ways to position offerings
Sales leaders need managers to be innovators — to be agile and think creatively about repositioning their offerings. Managers who are able to identify and overcome innovation barriers can help deals move forward.
“Uncover and deliver new pathways to customer deal success,” says Collins. “New pathways deliver huge commercial outcomes.”
Sales innovation isn’t something that can be easily taught, and sales managers already have many responsibilities. Sales leaders must foster and enable this skill in the organization to successfully deploy countermeasures to deal stalls and losses.