When Closing Sales Is Scary
Updated: Feb 17
In the spirit of Halloween, let’s focus on something scary: Closing sales.
Most sales leaders get really excited when deals start to close, especially when multiple deals close in a short amount of time. They use phrases like strong momentum, positive cash flow, implementing best practices, great strategy, effectiveness, and more to describe what’s working -- finally -- in their organizations.
Are they wrong? Not necessarily, but in their excitement, they are often missing the big picture. Namely, has anyone been filling the pipeline during this season of frenzied closing, and what exactly comes next?
If you can’t answer those questions, that’s when closing gets scary. Closing is great, but in order to consistently close (and consistently make money); your pipeline must be full of qualified prospects at all times.
If you have a short sales cycle of fewer than 30 days, an empty pipeline won’t be as scary for you, as you can fill it relatively quickly. But, companies with longer sales cycles need to be very aware of empty pipelines. If you have a six-month sales cycle, for example, and an empty pipeline following a closing frenzy, it could be six months before you start closing again.
Now that’s scary.
(We see this happen with appointment scheduling frenzies, too. Salespeople set up lots of appointments but close nothing. Opportunities get “stuck” in the sales process.)
What’s the solution? Balance. As a sales leader in your organization, your job is to maintain balance by holding salespeople accountable for the following three requirements:
filling the pipeline
moving opportunities through the pipeline
closing the closable opportunities in the pipeline
This needs to happen all at the same time, without breaks in the action, without excuses, and without blinders on. In other words, don’t allow salespeople’s excitement (or your own excitement) to shift your focus from the need to consistently be refilling the pipeline.
Is there balance in your organization, or are you scared about where your next opportunity is coming from?
My partner organization, Objective Management Group (OMG), has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople. When it comes to pipeline, OMG has found that only 46% of all salespeople maintain a full pipeline, broken down as follows:
Elite (the top 5%) 76%
Weak (the bottom 50%) 41%
If balancing closings with new and qualified leads in your pipeline is plaguing your organization, formalizing your sales process is your first step. You need a complete process and it should be customized for your business, what you sell, who you sell to, and the challenges that you face. A strong sales process is critical to refilling your pipeline.
If you already have a process or think you have a process, we encourage you to use this free tool to assess it here.
A CRM that’s properly integrated into your business is next. Selecting the right one is important: If your salespeople don't like it, they won't live in it, and if they don't live in it, the information on the dashboard, which you paid a fortune to customize, will be about as useful as a Rolodex.
Of course, you’ll need proper coaching on holding reps accountable for all of this. We can certainly help in that arena, too.
Bottom line? Don’t let a wave of closings blind you to the reality that a full, well-qualified pipeline is instrumental to the success of your business.