For many sales teams, 2020 has been a dizzying mix of sprints and marathons. Now, as we round the final corner and race toward the end of the fourth quarter, the final scramble to close key opportunities begins.

At this juncture, it’s all too common for deals to stall out and for salespeople to lament their lack of closing skills as a result. However, moving a sale to close isn’t a specialized skill set as much as the natural conclusion of a well-executed sales process.

As sales leaders, we must encourage our teams to stay process-oriented. If reps trust their sales process, it’s simply a matter of working with the prospect to diagnose where the opportunity went out of alignment and returning to that point in the buyer’s journey, transforming challenges into opportunities that close — with time to spare.

What concrete tactics can sales leaders use to instill this mindset in their teams, uncover potential areas of misalignment and mark key opportunities as “closed — won”? Here are the answers to the three most common questions sellers have when racing to hit quota in Q4.

1. What Is the Process to Close Deals?

Sales has long romanticized the “lone wolf” seller who shines in the room and operates instinctually — but virtual selling has changed things. Now it’s the organizations made up of “cowboys” that are struggling and the process-oriented teams that are reaping the rewards. By staying process-oriented, teams are able to improve in two ways:

Firstly, they eliminate confusion surrounding next steps. If salespeople can methodically move from one step to the next, there’s no productivity loss due to floundering. The beauty of a simple sales process is that it’s easy to follow, it’s more likely to be adopted and it empowers reps to prioritize selling activities.

Secondly, by methodically moving through the stages of a simple sales process, sellers develop the consistency to incrementally improve. A sudden fury of effort that results in a win makes for a good story, but daily habit is by far more powerful — particularly in virtual selling. Without the luxury of the in-office environment, it’s challenging for sales teams to stay motivated. If sales reps develop the discipline to follow the same process day in and day out, they’re less likely to be derailed by distractions and more likely to dedicate themselves to crucial activities that drive results, like cold calling.

2. How Do I Identify Potential Gaps in Alignment?

Again, it comes back to process. Sales reps must be continually qualifying opportunities to ensure they aren’t wasting precious selling time at the end of the year. Encourage your team to review each opportunity individually using a common set of criteria:

Decision Authority

To close any sale, reps need to connect with individuals who have the need and authority to buy.

Change

Resistance to change is an ingrained human behavior. Salespeople and prospects must align on what the critical business issues are and why these challenges are worth solving.

Differentiation

Uncover the “why” behind the “buy.” It’s not features that differentiate a product but the ability to connect your unique capabilities to an individual prospect’s problems.

Motivation

What’s in it for me? If reps are able to connect your solution to an individual buyer’s motivations, they’ll create a reason for the buyer to act.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The value of your solution must be impactful, tied to a meaningful financial metric and aligned to business drivers.

Process

Every company’s buying process is slightly different. Ensure your team is taking a prospect-centric approach and making it easy for prospects to buy by aligning with their processes.

Plan

Put a mutually agreed-upon plan in writing. Remember: Plans shouldn’t end with a signed purchase order but when the customer’s issue is resolved and the value is realized.

Timing

Does the prospect have a budget he or she needs to spend before the end of the year, or is it better to sign now and bill in January to avoid cutting into earnings goals? Reps won’t know unless they ask.

Objections

High five! Objections are often a buying signal. Work with your team on anticipating objections and creating a plan to dispel them and move the sale forward.

Blind Spots

The end of the year means holidays and vacations. It’s key to have a pulse on the schedules of all individuals and departments involved in the buying process to avoid being blindsided.

3. How Do I Make the Best Possible Business Case?

It all starts and ends with value. Uncovering pain points is a useful exercise, but equally useful is the realization that not all problems are worth solving. After all, $50,000 of aspirin isn’t much good if it only cures a $15,000 toothache, which is why sales leaders need to methodically develop their sellers’ financial literacy.

It’s also important to remember that value accrues based on the severity of the business challenge it solves. This knowledge is particularly important at year-end, when leaders are reviewing budgets with higher scrutiny and initiatives are pitted against one another in the fight for capital.

From there, it’s a matter of adopting a prospect-centric strategy. When it comes to value, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Value is measured in the eyes of the prospect. Coach your team members on the importance of asking themselves questions such as:

    • How will our solution impact the concerns that the chief executive officer touched on in the organization’s most recent annual report?
    • How will its implementation affect the key performance indicators that my prospect is evaluated on?
    • Is the impact enough to create the urgency needed to close before the quarter ends?

Once prospects and sellers are on the same page in terms of ROI, they must work together to create a plan to realize the value and tie it to a specific timeline.

Ultimately, looking back at weeks or months of diligent work and finding a glaring gap in the sales process can be an uncomfortable experience. It’s our job as sales leaders to help reps realize that identifying such areas of misalignment is a cause for celebration. Diagnosing the “why” behind an objection or stalled deal is the critical step to bringing the opportunity back on track to close before year-end.

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