Sales Tips for the End of the Pipeline

You've listened online and are following your prospective customer - the one you are about to close a big deal with-  socially via every means possible.  If they have a Twitter account, you’re there.  Through LinkedIn you found a company profile, your contact’s professional past, and all of his or her colleagues’ as well. You know these guys through dozens of web searches and references.

The sales opportunity has stalled – which we talked about last week. Through a very strategic conversation with your prospect, both they and you are in agreement, and things get moving forward.  Still, the deal has not come to closure.

At the end of the pipeline, deals come to fruition. In simple transactions, it can happen from prospect to closure in a single series of steps – ah, but in the complex world of business, many sales opportunities are complex as well.

Some quick general tips to help you get to closure (note: there are a wide-range of deals happening as we speak. One size ideas do not fit all, but they should spark other ideas that could work specifically for your business)

  • Ask about timelines, if you haven’t already. Why is  your prospect interested now (as opposed to last year or later this year?) By understanding their urgency you will know more about their buying cycle.
  • Suggest you move forward with the contract or agreement. This is a point where your prospective customer will strongly hesitate if they are not ready, or they will move with you – sharing any last concerns or requirements. Often we don’t try to move forward and everything gets stagnant.  Typically you would offer moving forward earlier in their buying cycle – sometimes you are re-offering.
  • One reason sales opportunities get stalled is because somewhere along the line, you misunderstood your buyer and they very nicely will sit in a holding pattern forever. Check with the customer to see if you are really focused in the same place they are. Geoffrey James has a great post on how to close business, based on a conversation with sales guru Linda Richardson (no relation… but high admiration).
  • Make sure that, assuming you have determined a win for both companies in working together, you ask for the business. When the buying cycle is coming to an end, and it makes sense to them, your buyer will say yes.
  • Be open to an alternative strategy. There is more than one way to bring sales opportunities to closure, depending on the situation – whether competitors are closing in, or the customer may be about to choose to do nothing. Sometimes a new strategy is appropriate, such as creating segments of a deal rather than a whole one, or changing your offering based on new information. Be flexible.
  • We know that most deals are lost (STILL) because sales reps do not follow-up enough and at the right times, with the offer of perceived business value to the buyer. Make sure you’ve covered the basic issues and are compelling with great value. If so, follow-up and engage until you get an answer.  Simply by doing this, your sales will grow.

There is a helpful, short video from Jill Konrath on the topic of bringing up and understanding the WHY of making a change.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012 and speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Sign up for the award-winning blog and the "Sales Ideas In A Minute" newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

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