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    How often do close dates move, and how does it impact your win rates?

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    Recently, a partner contacted us to request a new feature in Membrain. He outlined a common problem on many sales teams - too many close dates being moved over and over again without progress and no good way to track or manage these changes.

    When deals are not won on time, it can create massive problems for companies beyond just missed revenue creation. To deliver on forecasted revenue, companies may have ordered parts to produce products for the expected orders or staffed up to meet service demands. For public companies, deal slippage can impact share prices. That said, having accurate closing dates is just as critical as having the size of the forecast to be correct.

    Most of us in the sales profession can identify times when we’ve moved the close date forward on an opportunity. Sometimes it indicates a problem with the deal, and sometimes it doesn’t. Three common reasons for pushed close dates are:

    1. The opportunity was poorly qualified
      Sometimes, salespeople with happy ears will dump an opportunity into the pipeline that never should have been there. When this happens, those happy ears often stay in place for months, quarters, or even years, always hoping that the client just needs a little more time.

      These opportunities were never qualified for the purchase, to begin with, but the salesperson is unwilling to move them out of the pipeline and back to prospecting. As a result, they end up languishing, constantly moving past their “close by” date, and never actually going anywhere.
    2. The sales team is misaligned with the buyer
      In other cases, an opportunity may be well qualified, but the sales team has inadequate insight into what problem or outcome the prospect is looking to solve or accomplish. This leads to a misalignment between buyers and sellers, where the seller expects the buyer to move forward, but the buyer hasn’t completed one or more steps they need to complete in order to do so.

      This almost always results, at best, in a longer sales cycle while the salesperson moves the close date forward again and again. At worst, it loses the sale altogether, as the salesperson fails to meet some of the buyer’s needs and expectations, and the buyer ends up going elsewhere or choosing to do nothing at all.
    3. Buying takes longer than expected
      Sometimes, the sale takes longer than expected. When estimating the time to purchase, the buyer may have been unaware of internal processes that needed to be followed, or internal stakeholders who needed to be involved. Or, the salesperson just provided a guesstimate.

      When we analyzed our internal processes at Membrain, we found that we, like most companies, had sales projects for which close dates had been repeatedly moved forward. But when we compared win rates on deals that were moved forward versus those that were not, we found no significant difference.

      When we looked closely, we saw that in most cases, the project was simply taking longer than expected due to internal processes on the part of the buyer, but that there was otherwise no problem with those opportunities. We need to get better at #2 and #3 above because, in the end, the length of the sales cycle will be the time it takes for a potential buyer to define their problem, find a solution, and make a decision.

    What to do about close dates that keep getting moved forward?

    The partner who contacted me about close dates being moved forward wanted to know if we could help by adding a feature to Membrain that would make it easy to see which deals have been moved forward repeatedly.

    The length of the sales cycle is the time it takes for buyers to make a decision.

    So we got to work and recently rolled out updates that do exactly that. Now, Membrain users can easily see which opportunities have had the close date moved forward and how many times that has happened. That data can then be analyzed for other trends. You can also send notifications to managers when a deal’s close date is moved forward too often. Teams can also dynamically add steps and enablement content to their sales process to coach salespeople on what to do when this situation occurs. We also updated our out-of-the-box win/loss analysis with this information to help sales teams better understand what impact close date movements have on their effectiveness.

    These features make it easy for you to address any problems that may be causing deals to close later or not at all. For instance, you may:

    • Coach to the process
      By looking at the data, you can easily see if one or more of your salespeople are pushing close dates out more often than others. When this is the case, you can drill down to see where in the process they are getting blocked, and then coach them past that point.
    • Coach to the opportunity
      When a specific deal has been moved forward repeatedly, you can drill down to see where it has stopped and what progress has been made. If steps have been missed or information is missing, you can coach salespeople to address these issues and get the deal moving again. Oftentimes, this means helping the buyer to engage the right stakeholders to better define their problem and outcome definition.
    • Coach to disqualify
      If too many of these deals are due to poor qualification, you can look at your qualification process and coach salespeople to do a more effective job of qualifying in and out of the pipeline.

    At Membrain, we are proud of having built our product to truly facilitate sellers and their leaders to be more effective. We stay flexible and continually build new features based on what our partners and clients ask for. This new feature is only one of many updates, with many more to come.

    We’d love to show you how our product is helping sales teams do better and be better every day. Get in touch and let’s chat. Or spin up a free version of Membrain today.

    George Brontén
    Published April 20, 2022
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn