Can't close? 10 surprising reasons salespeople lose out

Nobody closes every sale, but why not? A recent post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network lists ten common reasons why sales fail:

  1. Indecision — a good pitch that generates a lot of enthusiasm slowly fades… because… the company… just… takes… forever… to… commit.
  2. Stalled sales cycle – a good pitch that generates a lot of enthusiasm goes nowhere because the very executives who were initially so excited don’t understand the sales process enough to know what they need to do next, whether that’s from an internal or external standpoint.
  3. The 25-foot electrified fence — when a sales person just can’t get an “in,” no matter what.
  4. Product commoditization — when there’s no real difference between competing products or solutions and everybody knows it.
  5. Price vs. value — from a customer perspective, the benefit doesn’t justify the expenditure.
  6. The 800 lb. Gorilla — David vs. Goliath, where David has to overcome the fact that Goliath has 63% market share and a multi-million dollar promotional budget.
  7. “Nice-to-have” not “need-to-have” product — which, in this economy, is sometimes enough to kill any deal.
  8. “Us” — when sales people get hung up with some internal process for justifying a prices concession, generating a contract, getting a sign-off on a proposal, etc.
  9. Administrative overload — forms, reports, updates etc. that leave sales people with less time to sell.
  10. “That will never happen again!” — when bad service and/or support from a past sale makes the customer wonder if the same problems will happen again.

The good news is that all these problems can be overcome in one way or another. Our suggestions?

  1. Indecision — follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, and then when it seems like there’s no point in following up any more, follow-up again. While some companies really are bad at making decisions, most just get distracted by more pressing business.
  2. Stalled sales cycle — be transparent about the sales process, taking time to educate potential customers on not only what they’re buying, but how they buy it, too.
  3. The 25-foot electrified fence — persistence first, creativity second. With few exceptions, there’s always a way in, even if it means tunneling under, going all the way around or figuring out a way to strap on some wings and fly over.
  4. Product commoditization — the traditional solution to this kind of situation is to just compete on price, but a better way is to try to understand why there’s no real difference between competing products and solutions. Is there an opportunity for innovation? Disruption?
  5. Price vs. value — if customers don’t think the price justifies the expenditure, the first question to ask is why do they think that? Sometimes the problem is an ineffective pitch that doesn’t make the case in a simple, vivid way.
  6. The 800 lb. Gorilla — David might be outclassed, but he’s still everybody’s favorite. Play the underdog card.
  7. “Nice-to-have” not “need-to-have” product — Fortunately, the difference between ”nice-to-have” and “need-to-have” is a matter of perspective. Like “price vs. value,” the problem is often in the way the product is pitched.
  8. “Us” — if this problem keeps coming up, it’s time to review internal procedures. (Not that this is easy, unfortunately, as change seems to be universally resisted.)
  9. Administrative overload — For a lot of companies, forms, reports, updates etc. eventually take on a life of their own, existing for their own sake instead of to serve some larger company purpose. That’s why it’s important to periodically take a step back and ask “Why are we doing this?” “Should we be doing it differently?”
  10. “That will never happen again!” — first, make sure it doesn’t. In our increasingly connected world, a bad customer experience today goes viral tomorrow. The upside is that as we move into the age of “relationship marketing,” companies are “allowed” to make mistakes as long as they apologize, take responsibility and explain what steps they’re taking to make sure “it” doesn’t happen again.

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