Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Jared Fuller, VP Sales at PandaDoc. Fuller is a 3x entrepreneur and revenue leader that writes for publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
One of the more frequently asked questions I receive from sales professionals is if I have tips for accelerating deal velocity. We want to grow faster! Often getting into an account isn’t the problem; it is the lag that happens after submitting a proposal.
All sales reps have been there. Whether you are using inbound or outbound techniques, or a combination of both, it doesn’t matter. The situation is that you’ve made a connection with a prospect, they’ve maybe done a demo, and you’ve sent the proposal. Then, a black hole of unresponsiveness…
The initial gut reaction for most sales people in this situation is “I have to get better at closing.” Everyone can always get better, but that’s not the real problem — it’s just an effect.
Often, later-stage sales cycles are where good deals go to die if deal velocity is not maintained or accelerated. In other words, sometimes the faster you win, the higher your win-rate.
So how do you accelerate the time-to-close? Here are five prescriptions that, if employed effectively, will help you close more deals — because you’re closing them faster.
TIP 1: Perform effective discovery.
Even if the meeting you’ve set is an outbound meeting, keep in mind the buyer’s journey started before you got on the call. Correspondingly, so should your seller’s journey. With an abundance of details, data, and social channels that can be leveraged to learn about companies and employees, don’t show up ignorant of your prospects’ businesses. Start building your buyer profile in Salesforce and filling in key data that you don’t need to ask on the call.
I often hear people diving directly from firmographic profiling into pain points for their initial part of discovery. While discovering pain is essential, don’t jump the gun. The best discovery starts with understanding the inputs for ROI. In other words, what are your prospects’ goals for this month, quarter, etc.? What are the KPIs they measure that impact those goals?
You don’t need to have an ROI calculator for this exercise to be valuable. For instance, if you sell a tool to sales leaders that impacts bottom-of-the-funnel productivity, you can imagine that close rates are essential KPIs for understanding your solution’s impact. Talking candidly about the performance of your prospects’ funnel metrics, KPIs and goals give you insight into what areas of the business can or should be optimized. That’s where the gold is buried — not in the details of their operation, but in the outcomes.
TIP 2: Pain mapping
User Experience experts use a technique called journey mapping when looking to solve issues with end-user experience with a product or service. In sales, we should utilize a similar methodology to discover your prospect’s pain points called pain mapping.
Pain mapping is more nuanced though than it sounds. Great sales reps know how to move from what we refer to as “surface pains” to “core pains.” Surface pains are simple. For example, in PandaDoc’s typically sales discovery process, we’ll often uncover that sales reps are spending too much time creating and delivering sales collateral. While a novel insight, it’s not a core pain — it’s superficial.
This is where great reps STOP and employ the “5 Whys Method.” The 5 Whys Method tells you to stop and ask simply, why? A lot, at least 5x if you couldn’t guess. A great follow up question to uncovering this core pain from the surface pain is “why do you think reps are spending so much time on contracts?” And so on…
The goal is to continually ask why, or some permutation of it, to get to the core of the problem.
Don’t be so quick to jump to the subject of the next question. Spending more time on one question and digging deeper is, again, where the gold lies. As you map the core pain, you finally want to understand the three orders of depth to make pain mapping mutually beneficial to accelerate the deal cycle:
- What is the problem?
- What are the impacts?
- How does this problem make the prospect feel?
The key here is to listen and pick up on a prospect’s emotions. Listen for indicators of hesitation and dive deeper when you hear it.
Are you pressing on a nerve? Pain is emotional, and the impacts of those pains are even more emotional. When you map the pain from the surface to the core, you have real reasons to make a purchase — and not just a logical choice, but an emotional one.
TIP 3: Get to the core value.
Similar to surface and core pains, there are surface values and core values. Continuing our previous example, a surface value may be something like “your reps can reduce data-entry time spent by 50%.” A core value, instead, could be something like “because reps will reduce data-entry time by 50%, we can impact the number of opportunities set by two more opportunities per week.”
You see the difference? Sure the surface value is logical, but the core value is almost emotional. Every sales rep and leader wants to set more opportunities — it drives them. Data entry doesn’t.
The key here is to make your solution a painkiller, not a vitamin. A vitamin is something that can make life easier or is something you should do more of. A painkiller is like physical therapy. It is something you need or have to do to feel better. You can sell more opportunities faster than you can sell less time spent on data entry.
Think of it this way: If you go to the doctor for a severely broken limb (not enough opportunities per rep) and she recommends a heart medication to keep your cardiovascular system in shape (50% less time spent on data entry), you’re not likely to have a positive experience or internalize the importance of the recommendation. Mapping the core pain to the core value will yield faster cycles.
TIP 4: Align buyers on their journeys.
Every company (industry, vertical, etc.) has different core pains and core values. And within each of these companies there are different personas with different pains and values. Clearly, if you have a one-size-fits-all approach to closing the deal, you’re missing the mark.
More often than not, sales sends some generic pitch collateral to their main contacts, gains interest, then moves to a proposal or contract phase that ignores the reality of the above.
In short, the collateral does not align the different buyers on their journey.
Combating this problem is easier than it sounds. Instead of sending multiple documents (pitch decks, proposals, quotes, contracts) to different personas, combine them into a single document that speaks to the company, the personas, and the deal.
I call the following a “definitive mechanism of alignment and conversion.” This format not only aligns buyers, it anchors the deal to one single piece of collateral to be signed. Based on the $16,000,000,000 closed with PandaDoc last year, here’s the format we’ve found to be most successful:
- Recap/intro letter: What core pains did you uncover, and why is it important to solve them now.
- How you’ve helped similar companies: Testimonial or case study on how you’ve helped a similar company in the same space.
- How you help the buyer personas: What are the core pains to each persona (not the company), and what are the core value for each (e.g., sales operations, sales leadership, marketing, etc.).
- What happens after they become a customer: Explain your customer success strategy and onboarding.
- Price: What’s the price, ROI, and total cost of ownership.
- Agreement: Include the terms (start, end, and renewal info) and a place for electronic signature.
- Legal addendums: The legalese is important, but don’t lead with this information or separate it into its own contract. Align the buyer’s first then you can provide the legal copy clearly for consumption. Too many people make the mistake of sending a proposal separate to the contract. The finance and decision-making team need to understand not only legal terms of the agreement, but also all the reasons above why this purchase is a sound business decision.
Don’t make buying hard for different personas. Align them with one way to evaluate and close the deal. And then ask for their business and signature. The best and worst case scenarios are pretty good: You either get the deal, or you get the intel as to why they aren’t going to buy right now. In case of the latter, you can adjust your proposal and close accordingly with the new intel.
TIP 5: Prescriptive closing
I’ve always believed that, in sales, suggestions are worthless but recommendations are invaluable. Continuing our doctor analogy, that’s the difference between a “regimen” and a “prescription.”
Doctors assume that while you may follow their suggested regimen, you almost always will fill and take your prescription. Think about it, how much more likely are you to fill and take a prescription versus following a new regimen?
Friends make suggestions, but experts make recommendations. We’re in the business of making good sales, not in the business of making friends. An ill-fated suggestion from a friend doesn’t have nearly the same impact as a recommendation from an expert.
As a result, when it comes to closing the deal with that “definitive mechanism of alignment and conversion” you need to make the recommendation to sign and shut up… Because the person to speak next loses!
It goes something like this: “To hit those two goals for Q3 we discussed I recommend we get started with onboarding next week. To do that, we need to sign off today. Let’s sign the proposal now and get started,” and shut up.
Are you closing like this today? Really? The problem I often encounter is that the sales rep feels like they are getting more out of the deal than their prospect. If your solution is not total junk, that’s simply not true. If you’re a true expert on your solution, your recommendation is going to provide your buyers exponentially more value than your commission check is to you.
Doctors write and recommend prescriptions because they solve a core pain. In short, sales is in the same business. Discover, map to core pain, align, and prescribe and you’ll be on track to closing more deals faster, just like your doctor.
PandaDoc helps organizations win more business by accelerating the way they transact. Learn more at PandaDoc.com
5 Prescriptions for Accelerating Deal Velocity was originally published in Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.