Problem: Steve called us the other day, frustrated with what he called the usual “end of the quarter scramble.” In an effort to make their numbers at the end of every quarter, his reps were resorting more and more to pricing concessions to get business closed. What was worse, Steve felt that many of his company’s customers had begun to expect these discounts and were waiting until the end of the quarter to place all but their most critical orders. In the last several quarters, nearly 60% of their deals were closed in the last week of the quarter and the trend was getting worse. The results were becoming disastrous to the bottom line and Steve usually had no idea of whether his group was going to make quota.
Analysis: Plain and simple, this is a qualifying issue. Steve’s reps, lacking good qualifying skills, were resorting to giving discounts in order to overcome buyer hesitation. This causes a myriad of problems including, but not limited to, deteriorating margins, reduced commissions and bonuses, attitude problems within the sales force, turnover, and negative perceptions within the customer/prospect base.
Solution: The ability to qualify prospects thoroughly is one of the most important skills salespeople can possess. Part of the qualifying process is to determine when the prospect needs to implement a solution and why it is important to implement the solution at that time. Without that information, the sales process can, and often will, continue indefinitely. Finding this sense of urgency is a function of developing the prospect’s pain. There needs to be a real motivation to move forward quickly. Good questions that can help uncover this motivation are:
- “Is there a target date to get this done?”
- “What would happen if a solution was not implemented by the target date?”
- “Would there be a financial impact if the present situation were allowed to continue and, if so, how much?”
- “Would it be acceptable not to implement a solution by the target date?”
- “Assuming I was able to offer a solution that you felt would fix the problem, what would be the reasons not to implement it by the target date?”
If the prospect can’t give you reasons why the deal shouldn’t be done very quickly, he’s probably not a very good prospect. If you ask the right questions, you can get the prospect to convince you that it’s important to find a solution…now. And if you’ve asked the right questions and the answers indicate that there is no sense of urgency, find another prospect to help you make your quota at the end of the quarter.