10 Deal Killers in 2018

Ralph Grimse

The calendar has quickly turned to February. Sales teams are shaking off their SKO hangovers and back building pipeline and closing deals. We’ve been busy in the field, too. During the past month, Brevet has conducted over client 100 ride-alongs and sales call reviews. We’ve been alongside reps in such diverse sectors as tech, healthcare, services, and distribution.

Our consultants recently got together to compare notes: What are we seeing? Where are reps struggling? And most importantly, how confident are we that sales teams will hit their number in 2018? Comparing notes, we’re seeing some troubling early indicators.

Fresh from the field, we’ve compiled our top 10 list of 2018 deal killers. Going forward, we’re confident that the teams we observed will steer clear of these pitfalls. But our observations in January give us pause for others.

To make the 2018 number, leaders and enablement must prioritize helping their teams avoid these far too common issues:

1. Not clarifying the next step AND getting it on the calendar – Hanging up or leaving the meeting without a calendared action seems like sales 101 stuff. Yet, we see it happen every day. Reps have lots of excuses: they forgot, they don't want to ‘push it’, the belief that the prospect will certainly respond to my next email, and on and on.

Pro Tip: Before the meeting you should know two things: 1) Your desired next step (good, better, and best) AND a few follow-up dates. Book the next appointment during the call or meeting.

2. Wasting time with the ‘wrong’ person – Far too much time is spent with contacts that won’t be Champions or Decision Makers. Don’t waste calories on the wrong people. Even experienced reps continue to fall into this trap. Your highest-performers have strong situational awareness around buyer roles.

Pro Tip: Build a mental checklist to vet the stakeholders: What is their potential to be a Champion or Decision Maker?

3. Selling without a Champion – Solution developed, proposal drafted, pricing submitted. Did we test this with anyone in the organization? Too often, no. We’re seeing too many late-sales stage activities with no input from a Champion. We can all guess where these deals are headed.

Pro Tip: Identifying a Champion should be critical early stage gate. Encourage your reps to spend more time in the mid-stages developing a Champion vs. rushing forward.

4. Sending a proposal or quote via email – You’ve done the demo. You’ve delivered your value prop. It’s now time for a proposal or quote, right? Typically, this is one of your last pivot points to exert influence. Far too many reps send quotes and proposals via email with no next step. What follows for most is the dreaded – ‘hey, just checking-in on that quote’ email.

Pro Tip: Avoid this by scheduling a call to review the quote. Gather pricing feedback early. Address concerns and assess if other stakeholders need to see this quote as well. Don’t lose control of the sale.

5. Making an Ass out of U and Me – All reps bring historical biases into a deal. They have a gut sense for how a call is likely to go. And they pounce on what they anticipate, whether right or wrong. Overall, we saw far too many decisions made on assumptions from customer interactions.

Pro Tip: Sell skeptically – develop tests through customer verifiers. Make sure the prospect is where you think they are.

6. Stepping on your deal landmine – Every business knows what’s going to blow-up a deal. For some, it’s procurement coming in too late. For others, it’s a specific technical requirement/hurdle. It’s critical that reps understand the situational factors that typical derail opportunities. 

Pro Tip: Like trigger or compelling events, sales enablement should help reps understand the common reasons that deals go south.

7. Running the wrong play at the wrong time – Misreading the situation happens to even the best reps. We all hope to hire reps that have high levels of insight and savvy. But every rep has their own built-in blind spots.

Pro-Tip: Take the time to understand the factors that compose your common deal scenarios. What does the deal landscape look like? How will you adapt if your current situation changes?

8. Lack of coordination among team members – Congrats, you’ve got an opportunity to talk about your solution. You decide to roll up the ‘company bus’ loaded up with pre-sales, implementation, account executives, leadership – each with their siloed PowerPoints. Selling is a team sport, but we’re seeing too little coordination and too much stepping over each other.

Pro Tip: Build a plan not just for what to say, but who’s going to say it. Understand roles and hand-offs so you work in sync.

9. Selling Scared – We saw a few reps feeling the pressure already – quota increase, new comp plans, and PIPs. This pressure is already creating lots of adverse behavior. Pressured reps didn’t prepare as well, relied on pre-sales/SMEs more, jump on any positive thing they hear. Most critically, they’re the fastest to discount.

Pro Tip: Managers need to identify folks that are exhibiting these signs. Help them get back on track through practical coaching.

10. Not adapting the message – We saw lots of reps deliver great value propositions and impactful ROI statements. But in many of these cases, the buyer was in early stage and looking for education. Oops!

Pro Tip: When equipping reps with messages, make sure we’re clear not just about the “what”, but also the “when”. This awareness helps reps avoid delivering a ‘Why Us?’ message, when the buyer is in ‘Why Change?’ mode.

Our early observations paint a disconcerting picture of the year ahead. Too many reps making unforced errors that will make their jobs – and yours – a lot harder. Attention to these 10 issues is key to hitting 2018 targets.

To learn more about avoiding these pitfalls, or for a quick assessment of your team, contact usNext week, we’ll highlight some troubling sales management practice we’re seeing already this new year. In the meantime, learn more about our sales training methodology and and how to train to these pro tips.

Ralph Grimse

Ralph Grimse

Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.