Every sales organization typically has a set of criteria they use to determine if a deal is “qualified” from the get go. Some obvious ones: Budget. Buying authority. Need. A timeframe to buy. (That’s BANT in case you didn’t know, and this is a good article about the limitations of it). There are other ways too. Pain. Urgency. Etc.
As I was talking to the rep about the deals in her pipeline, I could see that she had a lot of deals that were ‘technically’ qualified because they met all the criteria. But the buyers weren’t actively engaged. They were stalling at various stages, and she was viewing this as having unqualified deals in her pipeline.
Her problem wasn’t an unqualified pipeline. Her problem was that her pipeline was littered with dead deals.
Any qualification criteria in the world doesn’t matter if a deal is dead.
I have a simple view in regards to the viability of any deal. The buyer needs to be working the deal with the sales rep. There are no exceptions to this.
When a buyer goes dark, and you’ve followed a process to get them to re-engage with no luck, kill the deal. They may be qualified, they may be a great prospect, and they may even eventually buy. But if they are dark, they aren’t working with you on the deal. They have de-prioritized you.
I take a pretty rigorous view of this—a buyer who is dark for 2-3 weeks is not thinking about buying. Yes, buyers get busy and weeks can slip by even when they intend to buy. But if they intend to buy, or think they want to buy, they won’t go completely dark on you.
And there is another kind of deal to kill as well.
When the deal is so one-sided that all the engagement is coming from the sales rep and the buyer is behaving passively, that’s a dead deal. To buy, prospects need do work as well. They have to gather up stakeholders, engage with procurement, they have to budget, they have to introduce you to key decision makers, they have to make the business case internally. Whatever their particulars are, good buyers have steps to do on their side, and they do them. There are plenty of prospects who will never actually buy, but will still engage with a sales rep as though they intend to buy. They may not like to say no, or they may not realize they can’t buy or they simply may not know how to buy in their organization. If a sales rep is the only one putting effort into the deal, and all the prospect is doing is showing up to calls, then it’s probably a deal that should be killed.
I am a hawk about dead deals.
Get rid of them. Fast. A bunch of dead deals just clog the pipeline and take up mental energy that could be used on opening new, more engaged opportunities.
Close lost the deal and move on. Of course, this doesn’t mean the prospect stops being worked. If it’s the right buyer and you can solve their business need, pursue them vigorously. But they don’t need to be sitting there in the “evaluation” stage for 3 months floundering around.
There is no harm in closing the opportunity and reopening it later when the buyer gets re-engaged.
So often reps, and sales managers, are afraid to disqualify a deal and get it out of the pipeline, but all that does is take up space (mental and actual) for the good deals. A prospect who is dark, or a prospect who is not working the deal with—these are just false positives. False hope. And hope isn’t a strategy to hit quota. It’s a crutch that prevents you from working on the skills needed to sell value and sell solutions to business problems.
As a team, if you have a lot of dead deals in your pipeline (a lot being disproportionate to your usual benchmarks), there is probably a skill gap somewhere. You aren’t selling value. You aren’t compelling enough to create urgency to get and stay prioritized. You aren’t getting to the root of the business problem. You aren’t finding the gap between current state and future ideal state.
Rather than endlessly follow up on deals that are stalled, focus on the skills that will solve for that.