Skip navigation
All Places > Partner Corner > Blog > Authors Brandon Sellers

Partner Corner

3 Posts authored by: Brandon Sellers

You’ve seen it before: the red flags clogging up your CRM. The close dates that get pushed back—further, and further, and further.

 

The panic at quarter-end: your sales forecast is way off! You're going to miss your benchmarks! There are blocks in your pipeline and it feels too late to fix them.

 

What you’re dealing with is called deal slippage—and it’s one of the most taxing, and most solvable, drains on your sales pipeline.

 

What is deal slippage?

Deal slippage is exactly what it sounds like. You have a target close date for a deal that has gained some momentum, but then, uh-oh. The buyer's company hires a new CFO, a few emails go unanswered and a meeting needs to be scheduled and Voila! The deal slips into next quarter.

Lack of communication usually means the deal isn’t going to close anytime soon!

 

So you work to get back on track. However, there’s a question of security. IT needs to audit before things can move forward. The deal slips another month.

 

Then your contact takes a vacation. The deal slips. There’s something in the terms that the new CFO doesn’t like. The deal slips. Legal needs to approve. The deal slips.

 

Sometimes, your deal slips because of lagging communication. Your emails aren’t making it to the company’s key decision makers—or your communication has become totally one-way.

 

But month after month, quarter after quarter, the deal slips, until, just maybe, it gets dropped all together.

 

Why does deal slippage matter?

Meeting your sales benchmarks and effectively allocating your team’s resources is dependent on your sales pipeline. The plaque on your sales pipeline is deal slippage.

 

When deals get pushed back, month after month, your sales forecast gets murky. Expectations aren’t met. Team morale is hurt and your potential customers are unhappy.

 

That’s right. More than anything, deal slippage hurts relationships with your potential customers. When you set a target close date, you set an expectation. If your product or service does, in fact, provide value to the customer, the problem they're trying to solve or the opportunity they're trying to capitalize on remains while the deal stays open.

 

Making sure the deal closes on time requires strong sales leadership. It’s a key part of a customer-centric sales culture. It impacts your reputation and your overall sales effectiveness. Because if you push a deal back too far, and it might not close at all.

 

To help you, we’ve broken the battle against deal slippage into 3 phases and developed tips for you to follow in each phase—so you can close on time, keep your customers happy, and develop a sales forecast you can count on.

 

Phase 1: Learn

Ask Tough Questions

One of the biggest ways to combat deal slippage is to make sure the deal is closable in the first place. Before you even start to even think about your target close date, ask:

  • Is the buyer aware of our pricing structure? Have they been introduced to this early on?
  • Am I in touch with the key decision-makers? Does my point of contact have any clout in this deal closing?
  • Are the potential buyers familiar with our solution—or do they require a lot of education before they purchase?
  • What internal and external regulations, checks, reviews, and audits will this potential customer have to go through before the deal is done?
  • Which of our customer’s departments have a say in how and when this deal is closed?

 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to give the deal an accurate and attainable close date. And you’ll be able to outline milestones, contact the right people, track progress, and flag potential hold-ups.

 

Keep an Eye on the Calendar

It sounds obvious, but when you’re looking at a deadline 6 months away, it’s easy to miss a few common delays. Before you set a target close date, consider holidays and standard employee vacation time. Christmas and New Year’s Day are international holidays, which many of your points of contact will take off. When working internationally, factor in holidays in your customer’s home country.

 

Maybe the company you’re selling to takes a retreat in August. Or has all hands on deck for a conference in July. Maybe they’re budget for next year is due quarter 3. Or maybe you’re taking some time off yourself in February.

 

Either way, knowing the external factors that could hold your close date back is essential for setting that target close date in the first place.

 

Phase 2: Plan

Make Your Close Date Sacred

You should be adjusting your sales strategy to meet your target close date, not the other way around.

 

That means looking at the customer buyer process, identifying verifiable outcomes, and making sure those milestones are being met in time to close on your target date.

 

To break this down: verifiable outcomes are just steps the buyer has taken to confirm where they are in the buying process. They’ve presented your solution to the team or they’ve confirmed their budget with finance.

 

Once you have these, work backwards. And adjust your milestones and communication patterns—rather than your target close date.

 

Write Up a Give/Get List

Preparing a list of “gives” and “gets” helps you move through all those pesky particulars at the negotiating table. Take a few seconds to identify some agreements or concessions that you might need to make in the last stages of your sales cycle.

 

Are you willing to shorten the agreement terms? Cut back on some fees or restrictions? What value does each of these “gives” have—and what, of equal value, can you “get” in return? Come prepared with your “gives” and “gets” in mind, and you’re more likely to close the deal on time.

 

Sales Performance International has a great cheat sheet for outlining your Give/Get list, to get you started.  

 

Build a Strong Connection

Your customers are people. They are facing their own stresses and obstacles throughout the buying process. Genuine rapport is a key to pushing them past their internal hurdles.

 

When a new executive wants to look at competitors again or their company imposes one last bureaucratic step, potential customers will remember you. They will remember how you reacted at each touchpoint and how diligently you worked to overcome obstacles. Building trust throughout the entire sales process despite delays and last-minute hiccups will encourage loyalty. And that loyalty will help you make the deal on time.

 

Review your past deals and start to understand what communication patterns signal that a deal will close

 

 

 

Step 3: Accelerate

Remember: Time is Money

Think about the value the customer is losing every day they don’t buy. We’re talking about specific, big impact digits that are sure to light a fire.

 

This means first knowing the ROI your product will bring to your prospect—and making sure they know it too. Little concessions and agreements get turned around quickly when hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line. And motivating your customer to act quickly is easy when they’re reminded: “As this deal slips—so does my bottom line.”

 

Chase Small Wins

Sometimes, it just takes getting your foot in the door. It’s easy to get hung up on an initial deal size—the five year contract, the enterprise pricing option.

 

Instead, make the smaller sale happen. Once your customer trusts you and starts to rely on your product, it’s easy to land-and-expand. And as you start to upsell, you’ll find fewer and fewer roadblocks between you and your loftier end goal.

 

Remember Their CTRAs

You’re not the only one with deadlines. Why does your customer need what you’re selling? For what? Take the time to learn about big CTRAs, or “compelling reasons to act.” Maybe they need your product for a new launch, a particular event, a conference, or a presentation. Maybe they’re relying on what you offer to meet their own monthly or quarterly metrics.

 

All of those events have deadlines. Reminding a potential customer of how your capabilities will help with their big milestones can keep a deal from slipping.

 

So what’s next?

You won’t find a CRM without the footprints of deal slippage, and you won’t find a sales team that isn’t frustrated by all the delays. But by spotting the deal slippage in your sales pipeline, you’ve already taken a big step towards meeting your benchmarks, clearing up your sales forecasts, and building loyal, lifelong relationships with new customers.

Spot the signs of deal slippage early

 

Luckily, Sugar users can use Collabspot Connect Pro to spot the signs of deal slippage early on so they can save the deal and update their pipeline accordingly. Contact the Collabspot sales team for a free trial.

Let’s sit down and have a chat about sales data.
 
Maybe it’s just a bit messy. Maybe it’s totally decayed. Maybe it’s incomplete, or irrelevant, or you just can’t get to the bottom of it all. 
 
Either way, odds are: it’s costing you sales. 
 
Luckily, collecting, utilizing, and preserving your data is easier than you think. Let’s break down how the future of data can transform your sales potential, how you can beat back some of the biggest threats to your data’s integrity—and how you can turn those new data-driven insights into cold hard cash. 
 
Data is Your Sales Team’s Super Power
 
From email response rates, to direct sales—data is linked to your profits. 

In fact, 50 to 75 percent of a B2B marketing campaign’s success comes down to the accuracy of data. And in some stages of your funnel, clean data can net you a 25% higher conversion rate than your disorganized competition. 
 
Now, saying “who cares if my data isn’t perfect” is as good as saying “who cares about a HUGE potential profit loss.”
 
The answer to the second question is “everyone”. The answer to the first question should be the same. 
 
Here are just a few game-changing ways that you can turn big data, into big wins. 
 
Game Changer #1: Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a crystal ball for lead qualification—and just about every other decision your sales team needs to make. Put simply: it’s taking the data you’ve built up in the past, and using it to predict who will buy in the future. 
 
Predictive takes your current customer database, mixes it with data from external providers, and gives you a holistic view of who your prospects are. Then, using machine learning, it funnels data through statistical models—continuously refining it into concrete patterns. The result? Nearly spooky insight into who your customers are, where you can find them, and when they’re ready to buy. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

The data that comes out of predictive analytics yields some seriously powerful patterns. They can improve customer databases, source net-new prospects, and give near psychic-insights into which prospects are ready to buy. 
 
Or, in a nutshell, as defined by Swift Capital:  
 
“We know 80% of our revenue will come from 20% of our prospects. And 80% of pipeline will come from 20% of our campaigns. Predictive identifies the 20%.”
 
Beyond that, predictive analytics is set to grow...and fast. A recent report suggests, within the period of a year, 36.8% of high growth companies will have invested in predictive. 
 
Hint: if you’re hoping to be a “high growth” company, this is where to look. 
 
Game Changer #2: Sentiment Analysis
 
If you think of data as a set of digits and demographics—you're missing some pretty big opportunities.
 
Introducing, sentiment analysis: data that reveals how your customers (and potential customers!) really think about your brand. 
 
Sentiment analysis software can extract meaning from millions of messages—revealing the positive and negative emotions behind the torrents of text. Now every email, social media message, or chat pop up, can be broken down—dissected by syntax, voice, and tone—and harnessed for a better understanding of your customer base.
 
Why is this a big deal?
 
Sentiment analysis hones the masses of inbound intel your company gets everyday. From that, it creates a nuanced portrait of your market, in a time where that understanding is critical. 
 
Looking forward, the companies that excel, will win on customer experience. Right now, of companies that deliver best-in-class service, 70% rely on customer feedback
 
So for a customer experience that gives you a competitive advantage—you’ll need a better understanding of who your customer is. And for that—sentiment analysis is the key.
 
But if emotional data still sounds a little “soft” to you, know that sentiment analysis doesn’t live in isolation. Pair these insights with behaviour models, and you can easily increase your predictive power—yielding more accurate revenue projections, better leads, and a higher sales volume. 
 
Game Changer #3: Pipeline and Data Visualization
 
Your sales data is only as good as the impression it makes on your team. Maybe moms who like you on social media convert better than the business owners on your newsletter. But if that insight is buried in spreadsheets, it might as well not exist. 
 
Collabsport Connect Pro visually represents contact engagement data—right on your dashboard. We’ve seen this feature boost sales’ teams accountability, and better define their goals and action items. 


 

 

One of our favorite new visualization tricks is pipeline visualization. When you model your sales pipeline, you see (literally) where your deals fall. Your sales team knows when to reach out. Everyone saves time, and you make money. 
 
However it’s modeled, data visualization is the key to understanding your CRM’s data—faster, more accurately, and more insightfully. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

As the wealth of data we have access to grows, data visualization becomes more and more important. Reports show that you’re 28% more likely to find timely information if you rely on visual data discovery tools—rather than a typical reporting dashboard. 
 
Ultimately, data visualization answers the question of: "I have the numbers—now what?" 
 
And that answer leads to smarter insights, more relevant action items, and in the end—an increase in sales. 
 
Inaccuracy is Your Sales Team’s Kryptonite
 
As the sales landscape changes, your team will rely more on data. And the teams who have a handle on their data, will have a clear competitive advantage. 
 
So it’s time for a moment of truth. Ask yourself: how accurate is my data? 
 
And before you answer—take a good look at where your data lives. In all likelihood, that’s your CRM. 
 
83% of senior executives claim their biggest challenge with CRMs is getting their staff to use the software. They're not wrong. Less than 37% of sales reps actually do use their company’s CRM correctly. 
 
Meaning: if your system isn't automated, it’s definitely not fully accurate. 
 
But even if it is, or your team is made up of flawless input robots, there’s a greater threat to your data integrity be aware of: decay—the pesky result of our shifting digital footprints. 
 
A prospect gets a new job? Their old email is mucking up your database. Someone signs up for your email list, but uses a nickname? You might be stuck with duplicates. 
 
Some estimates put the average annual database decay at 25%—meaning every year, a quarter of your records could be irrelevant. 
 
And with visualization, sentiment analysis, and predictive analytics changing the sales landscape—75% accuracy just won’t cut it. 


Here to Save the Day: A Healthier Database
 
So the bad news is: most companies are struggling to reign in their data. 
 
The good news is: once you reign in yours, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. 
 
Here are a few, easy ways to get ahead. 

 

 

1. Give your database a checkup. Keeping your data healthy means giving it a thorough diagnosis. At a minimum, take a look at your: 

  • Email Bounce Rates: Are they much higher than 2%? Are they increasing, or decreasing? 
  • Auto-replies: Are they mostly out-of-office? Or do many indicate a job change?
  • Last Touch Report: Check your CRM. Who hasn’t heard from you in 90 days? 6 months? A year? Those contacts have probably gone stale. 
  • Non-responses: Maybe they're just not that into you. Maybe their contact info, just isn't that accurate. 

 
Throughout this process, data visibility can make all the difference. Investing in software that makes bounce rates or non-responses clear, current, and easy to observe—can go a long way towards making database checkups painless. 
 
2. And do it regularly. Ideally, you should be monitoring and cleaning your database at least once a month. If you’re a small business—make sure to give it a thorough scrub yearly. 
 
And when we say scrub, we mean every single data point. Reports show the cost of dirty data escalates. It’ll cost you about $1 to verify a record as it's entered, $10 to scrub and cleanse it later, and $100 if you do nothing at all.  
 
3. Improve your CRM adoption. So scrubbing your data cuts you from $100 to $10. But if you want that expense down to a dollar per record—your data entry needs to be spotless. 22% of all reported problems to successful CRM implementation were people-related or linked to user adoption. Tools like Collabspot, simplify manual data entry by integrating your CRM with your inbox. Automating this process can save you time, and save your data’s integrity. 
 
4. Prevent duplicates. Duplicates are a plague every database. They waste your sales team’s time, as they sift through redundant prospects. And they skew the results of your emails, tests, and audience insights. Investing in software that automatically deletes or merges duplicate contents, could save you money and time in the long run. 
 
Next Steps
 
The future of sales is data driven. The present of sales is filled with data that doesn’t work. 
 
The companies that grow, are the companies that take data seriously. They’re the ones that harness it: to predict how and when prospects will buy, to mine how their customer base feels about their brand, and to visualize which action items will lead to success. 
 
To be a company leading the future of sales, look to your present CRM. And remember not to look away from it for too long.
 

If you’ve been paying attention to tech over the past few years, you might have noticed that Artificial Intelligence is emerging as the largest disruptive force in both consumer and business technology.

Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are working collaboratively through open source libraries to develop their A.I. systems, and one of the most popular use cases for A.I. has become sales.

So it’s no wonder that sales leaders everywhere are asking the question: Will A.I. be replacing B2B sales reps anytime soon?

 

Well in 2015, Forrester analyst Andy Hoar stated that he believed one million sales jobs would be displaced by 2020. This can be a frightening at first. However, sales can't be viewed as a monotonous, generic, single-sided, single-colored industry. It has many different facets and pockets. So in other words, all sales jobs aren’t equal.

 

In fact, we see at least four types of salespeople across B2B Sales:

  • Order Takers
  • Navigators
  • Explainers
  • Consultants

 

It is true that Order Takers, Navigators, and Explainers may see job losses over the next few years. However, the consultive sales person’s (aka Challenger salesperson) job prospects will increase over the next few years by 10% according to Forrester. Instead of taking jobs away from consultive sales people, A.I. will enhance the ability for these people to educate and challenge buyers. Let’s take a look at how.

 

Sales reps will spend more time consulting, building relationships, and challenging

Today, the average sales rep only spends about 33% of their time selling according to CSO Insights which means about 67% of your sales reps time is devoted to non-selling activities like answering emails, gathering information, creating content, and *shudder* data entry.

 

Going into the future, we imagine salespeople spending much closer to 100% of their time selling and consulting decision makers, and A.I. will be the driving force behind this. The first time waster that is being eliminated by technology is data entry. Though they are not yet A.I. products, tools like Collabspot are already saving sales reps more than 4 hours per week while increasing data accuracy and completeness. Sales people that utilize tools like Collabspot are already able to focus on less replicable activities, such as interacting with the customer, building strong customer relationships, solving customer needs, and improving the business.

 

The next shoe to drop will be predictive analytics solutions that will analyze the accurate and complete data in your CRM and help sales reps understand what their next best action should be. Sales reps will have custom playbooks for each prospect that will let them know when to reach out, what message to send, and how to send it.

Soon it will be commonplace for B2B sales organizations to leverage A.I. to highlight at risk deals, build prospecting pipelines, and create razor targeted forecasts.

 

A.I. will likely act as the perfect sales assistant, guiding the sales people to take the “perfect” actions at the perfect time.

 

How can my company take advantage of A.I.

So now we’ve established that A.I. is going to turn your sales organization into a legion of super sales soldiers. But, how can you start to implement this tech into your organization?

 

Well, it all starts with data and infrastructure. AI requires an immense amount of data that it can learn from which will allow it to make accurate predictions and appropriate decisions.The more accurate, clean, and up to date data that you have, the better A.I. is going to work for you.

 

So the #1 thing that every sales organization needs to be doing right now is collecting data. This extends beyond simple contact information and firmographics. Intelligent A.I. systems will be able to recreate the best conditions for your team to close a deal. To do that, it’ll need to know what opportunities you won, which opportunities you lost, when did your team members communicate with the prospect and what was said?

 

The B2B sales organizations that will win over the next ten years are going to be the ones with the most robust data which allows them to pinpoint their activities the best.

 

So yes, technology will transform the B2B sales industry just as it has every other industry, however that doesn’t mean the occupation is going anywhere anytime soon. Sales people will be required to be more consultative, and technology will help them to educate and challenge their prospects more than ever.

So I for one, welcome our new A.I. sales overlords, and you should too.