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    Three bad things that happened to you in 2016 and how to make 2017 better

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    If you’re like most sales organizations, 2016 is unlikely to go down in history as a banner year for you. We’ve seen declining effectiveness across the board for nine years running, and there have been no major shake-ups to reverse that trend.

    Odds are that your sales organization is either struggling, or simply maintaining the status quo. In fact, I’m willing to bet we know at least three specific unhappy things that happened to you this year. Read on to see if I’m right--and how to make sure the same things don’t happen again in 2017.

    You experienced longer sales cycles

    To some degree, the length of your sales cycle is determined by the complexity of your buyer’s decision-making process, the size and risk of the transaction, and a number of other factors outside your control. However, when an organization’s sales cycles grow longer over time, without a clear cause, it usually means there’s a problem.

    If your organization saw longer sales cycles in 2016 over previous years, you probably also saw lagging overall sales performance. Unnecessarily long sales cycles result in slower return on investment, increased uncertainty, and decreased odds that the deal will go through at all. The primary causes of unnecessarily long sales cycles include:

    • Failure to engage high-level decision makers
    • Failure to create a sense of urgency
    • Inability to build adequate trust

    More opportunities ended in no decision

    A “no decision” is one of the most frustrating and costly outcomes for a deal. Not only does it represent lost time and investment, this outcome also provides very little insight for the sales team to draw conclusions from.

    If “no decision” outcomes have been increasing on your sales team, likely causes may be:

    • Lack of alignment between sales process and buyer’s journey
    • Failure to connect to a critical business issue
    • Failure to communicate and prove business value
    • Failure to properly disqualify unlikely opportunities

    Your competitors took business from you

    You probably even know which of your competitors are the worst culprits. Nothing is more frustrating than losing business to a competitor that you know is not a better fit for the client. If this is happening to your sales team, you have to plug the leak before the whole ship sinks.

    Assuming that your product or service is as good as or better than the competition, here is why you’re losing to them anyway:

    • Failure to adequately differentiate
    • They got to decision making consensus and you didn’t
    • Inability to discuss and remove perceived risk
    • Failure to connect with the true business issue

    How to make sure it doesn’t happen again in 2017

    If you’re hoping for a better year in 2017, now is the time to uncover the root causes of the problems you had in 2016 and build a process to address them. Your sales process should be dynamic, aligned with the customer’s journey, and enable salespeople to:

    • Uncover the qualified prospect’s true business issues
    • Identify direct competitors and effectively differentiate from them
    • Align differentiation with the prospect’s critical business issues
    • Identify and connect with the prospect’s decision makers
    • Understand the business value that you bring and how to communicate and prove it
    • Build trust and reduce risk with relevant content, testimonials, and expertise
    • Create urgency on the part of the buyer
    • Quickly qualify and disqualify prospects and focus on the right opportunities
    • Quickly identify when an opportunity is faltering or lost, and discover the reasons
    • Agilely change course when an opportunity falters
    • Apply learning from each deal to future deals

    Selling in today's competitive landscape is no easy endeavor. As a sales leader, you can't leave execution to chance by assuming that salespeople know what to do with whom and when. You need to bridge the gap between theory and practice, reduce mistakes, increase skills and discipline to drive value in each customer interaction. Your best practices need to be captured and converted into workflows that are easy to learn and follow. You need to systematize success. 

    Now is the time to examine your sales effectiveness and put a plan into place to make 2017 your breakout year. For more on how to build the process that will get you there, check out our guide or reach out to us to discuss how we can help.

    George Brontén
    Published November 30, 2016
    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