There's nothing more frustrating than having worked on a deal for weeks or even months just to have the prospect say, "You know, I'm not sure this is the right time for this project. Why don't you check back with me in six months." As soon as that sentence is uttered, the deal is essentially dead. Time to start all over again with someone new.
Deals that end in no decision can be even tougher to swallow than those lost to a competitor. The interest was there. The budget was there. The timing was right. So what in the world went wrong?
According to Anthony Iannarino, president and chief sales officer at Solutions Staffing, closing isn't merely a matter of asking the prospect for their business at the end of the sales process. Instead, closing is a series of commitments -- both big and small -- that the salesperson secures from the buyer along the way.
During InsideSales.com's virtual Sales Acceleration Summit, Iannarino listed the 10 commitments that dot the path to the ultimate close. If a significant number of your deals end in no decision, you might be neglecting one of these critical steps. More of a visual person? Check out the infographic at the bottom of this post.
1) Secure a commitment for time.
If a salesperson can't get on their prospect's calendar, they won't be able to do the discovery and qualification necessary to launch the buying process. For this reason, the first commitment reps should secure from their prospects is for time, Iannarino said. He recommended empathizing with buyers by acknowledging how busy they are, and then promising to add value by saying, "if you give me X minutes, I wont waste one minute of that time."
2) Secure a commitment for exploration.
After the prospect agrees to give you time, they then need to agree to explore problems and potential solutions with you. What would change look like at their organization? "You need to do discovery work and offer the customer the chance to do discovery work as well," Iannarino said.
3) Secure a commitment to change.
The commitment to change is more difficult to establish than the actual close, Iannarino said. But it's essential to winning the deal.
"At some point in this process, you have to ask the customer if they're willing to make changes, spend money, change internal processes, [and] devote energy to this," Iannarino said. "Until you can get very real about what change looks like in their organization, what you have is a lead, not an opportunity."
4) Secure a commitment to collaborate.
If the buying process is 100% led by either the prospect or the salesperson, it's not going to end well. Iannarino pointed out that buyers are knowledgeable about their problems and have opinions on how to solve them, and therefore, salespeople need to collaborate with them to create the solution.
5) Secure a commitment to gain consensus.
"When I look at stalled deals [and] deals that die because they end in no decision, this is generally what's missing -- consensus," Iannarino said. All it takes is one dissenting stakeholder to sour the rest on your product or service. With this in mind, salespeople need to ask their contact to involve all relevant parties in the buying process and help those stakeholders get on board.
6) Secure a commitment to invest.
According to Iannarino, there's no such thing as "better, faster, and cheaper."
"If you're really building a solution that’s going to drive their business forward, you're going to have to ask them to make the investment," he added.
7) Secure a commitment to review the solution.
Get the buyer to agree to review your solution with you before deciding one way or the other. This gives you the opportunity to iterate if they're not blown away by your initial proposal.
8) Secure a commitment to resolve concerns.
Cold feet at the end of the process is natural, Iannarino said. But good salespeople will help their buyers work through their concerns instead of fading into the background and allowing doubt to take over.
9) Secure a commitment to decide.
After checking off the eight steps above, reps then need to ask for the prospect's business -- point blank.
"If you’ve done all this work and gained all these commitments, you're obligated to ask for the business. More than that, they want you to ask for their business," Iannarino said. "Give them the opportunity to say yes."
10) Secure a commitment to execute.
Most important of all, salespeople need to ask the customer to deliver on the promises they made during the sales process. To drive real and lasting change, a new product isn't enough -- buyers need to make the necessary internal changes as well.
"Really what we sell are strategic outcomes. We don’t sell products, services, or solutions," Iannarino explained. "The execution is where they get that outcome."
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Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.