"It's gonna close!" Have you ever said this and it didn't happen? (Oops!)

Salespeople say these words with great conviction every single day in almost every industry. But for many, the sale doesn't close. Something happens on the way to the "pen to paper" appointment and the forecast becomes subject to interpretation.

What's the quick answer to this issue? Identify why your deals don't close--and don't lie to yourself. Here are three things stellar sales reps do that can help you sort out your "close or not close" conundrum.

1. They set and stick to their Ideal Customer Profile

The clearest, most impactful way to determine what deals will close is to identify the characteristics of an ideal buyer for your company. This will set the groundwork for differentiating between those who will close and those who will not.

Common characteristics:

  • Decision-making authority
  • Budget
  • Size of company
  • Buying cycle
  • Location
  • Urgency to buy (compelling event or circumstances)
  • Time frame for signing a contract
  • Delivery or installation deadline(s)

Once you define the characteristics of an ideal buyer, develop specific questions for each of those characteristics. This ensures you acquire all of the information with which to make an educated forecast of the buyer's current sales pipeline.

Quick Tip: Determine the characteristics of your ideal customer. Then, develop questions that are specific to each of those characteristics. Finally, fine-tune your questions and add to them over time. Here are a few examples:

  • Decision-making authority--Who else is participating with you in this decision?
  • Budget--What is your budget range for this initiative?
  • Delivery or installation deadline(s)--What is driving this delivery date?

2. Their lead generation strategy is a set of measurable activities within a process

If your lead generation skills are substandard, then every prospect needs to close because the "mouth" of your sales funnel isn't being fed enough opportunities. The result means fewer sales opportunities and a struggle to make quota. What you really want is a pipeline fueled by activity, not hope. Superstar sales reps define their activities within the larger lead generation process. They know the metrics required to achieve their sales goals. Develop your lead generation skills by role-playing with a peer, coach, or sales manager.

Lead generation self-evaluation:

  • Is the number of contacts I make each day/week/month enough to sufficiently fill my pipeline?
  • What is the quality of my cold-call efforts? (i.e., how good am I on the phone, in email, face-to-face, etc.?)
  • What is my contact to first appointment ratio? (Is this sufficient?)
  • What is the quality of my prospect list? (Do these people and companies align with my ideal customer profile?)

3. They execute fact-based (not feelings-based) pipeline management

This isn't a selling skill, but a personal skill. Top sales reps don't allow their feelings to obstruct their judgment. They set what I call "relational boundaries"--the ability to maintain the emotional distance from prospects that you need to distinguishing between legitimate sales opportunities and ones you hope will close.

A qualified buyer within your ideal customer profile who will buy from you can be determined by facts. Feelings can cloud your perspective and lead you to unsubstantiated conclusions.

Self-reflective questions:

  • Do I tend to increase the pressure on prospects in my pipeline to buy quickly (and alienate them) as the end of the month approaches?
  • Do I allow my personal feelings to cloud my judgment about which deals will actually close when forecasting?
  • Do I attempt to sell to anyone who will meet with me--even outside my ideal customer profile?
  • Do I emotionally struggle with letting go of prospects whom I know won't buy--while holding out false hope that they will?

If you said "yes" to any of these questions, you may struggle with setting boundaries or maintaining objectivity with potential buyers. A good in-depth sales assessment can help you identify if you're challenged by saying "no" to a prospect.

A sales forecast should be based on fact, using objective criteria to determine interest, validity, or probability of buying--not your personal feelings. Save your feelings for the celebration after you get the deal. Superstar salespeople do and that's a sign of what makes them great.

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