It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling, your close rate will never be 100%. But if you’re consistently losing deals you should have won, there’s probably a reason — if not several.
Fortunately, once you diagnose the cause, you can improve your process, and ultimately, your results.
1. You’re trying to sell to everyone.
What this sounds like: “I’m not sure my company really needs [product].”
A good sales pipeline is about quality, not quantity. If your prospects aren’t buying from you, reevaluate the quality of your opportunities. Have they been carefully targeted? Do you know why they’re good fits? Or are you simply trying to sell to anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest in your product?
While it might seem counterintuitive to walk away from anyone, narrowing your focus to the most qualified prospects will make you more successful. Not only are these buyers far likelier to pull the trigger, you’ll have also more time to spend on each one — letting you personalize your outreach and develop compelling business cases.
2. You’re driving customers away.
What this sounds like: “I’m not interested; please stop contacting me.”
There’s a reason most people never answer calls from unknown numbers anymore: They don’t want to be sold to. And if reps continue to use email as a spamming tool — rather than a means of genuinely connecting with and helping prospects — messages from strangers will begin to go unanswered as well. (Even more so than right now.)
Dial back the fake enthusiasm. Stop pestering your prospects. Instead, act like yourself and provide real value. It might be helpful to envision yourself as a consultant rather than a salesperson. You should also learn as much as possible about your prospects so you don’t waste their time asking for basic information like how large their company is and what they sell.
3. You’re not surfacing objections.
What this sounds like: “Actually, X is a pretty big concern for us, so I think we’re going to [go with Y competitor, pass].”
I get it: Digging for objections is scary. Once you acknowledge them, they’re out there — concrete reasons the prospect shouldn’t buy. But the reality is, objections exist whether or not you hear them … and the best (really the only) time to resolve those concerns is in the beginning and middle stages of the sales process, while the buyer’s mind is still open.
To learn what’s keeping your prospect back from purchasing right this second, ask:
- “If this didn’t go through, what would the reason be?”
- “We’ve talked about why you like [product] — can we spend some time on what you don’t like?”
- “It’s very normal to have some concerns about this type of purchase. Are you open to sharing yours with me, if you have them?”
- “We’ve discussed ‘pros.’ What’s on the ‘cons’ side of the list for you?”
4. You’re not creating urgency.
What this sounds like: “Maybe next [quarter, year].”
Your product may be your primary focus, but to your prospect, it’s just another thing fighting for their attention. Without a reason to buy now rather than later, the deal is likely to die on the vine. Want it to come to fruition? Then ask probing questions that reveal why the buyer’s business or well-being somehow hinges on having the product.
Here are five examples:
- “What happens if you don’t solve this problem by [X date]?”
- “Describe the consequences of missing [Y goal].”
- “Can you explain what’s riding on [Z strategy]?”
- “Is [fixing, addressing, improving] this a priority right now? Where would you say it falls on your list of priorities?”
- “How long has this been an issue? Why are you focusing on it now?”
5. You aren’t helping them feel safe.
What this sounds like: “I’m not sure we’re ready for this yet.”
No one wants to put their neck on the line for something they’re not 100% confident about. This fact kills many deals; after all, think about what would happen to your prospect if they advocated for your product, successfully got the budget, led a time- and resource-intensive implementation initiative — and then the solution was ineffective, or worse, completely flopped.
They might not be out of a job, but their internal reputation would definitely suffer.
That’s why part of your job involves making them feel comfortable with the investment and the risks involved. You can do this in several ways.
First, if your company offers any purchase protection terms — like full refunds, a trial period, or your money back if you don’t see certain results — make sure to highlight those throughout your conversations.
You should also establish credibility by:
- Referring to current customers — the more well-known, the better
- Sending case studies and testimonials to your prospect
- Offering to connect them with references
- Sharing positive online reviews you’ve gotten
- Bringing up any awards or industry honors your product or company has received
6. You aren’t selling value.
What this sounds like: “This isn’t a priority for us at the moment.”
Pro-tip: as a sales professional you aren’t selling products and services — you’re selling the value these products and services can offer to the end-user.
Buyers don’t care about what the product is, or what features it has. They care about how that product or feature is going to make their lives easier. When you sell the value of the product, you’re positioning your offer to be something the prospect can’t out-prioritize or be without.
As you work with the prospect, help them get clear on how much simpler, better, or easier life will be once they implement your offer. Selling from this angle communicates the value your product can add to their lives, and they will be more likely to prioritize — or make room in their budget for it, because life without it will seem much more expensive in the long run.
7. You aren’t listening to them.
What this sounds like: “That isn’t quite what we’re looking for.”
Active listening is a key competency for salespeople. If your prospect gets all the way to the end of your sales process and says “this isn’t what I’m looking for,” somewhere along the line there was a missed opportunity to hear their perspective.
If your conversations with your prospects are all one-sided (meaning you’re talking at them instead of having a conversation with them), you can likely yield better results by incorporating active listening practices during your sales conversations. On your calls, make sure you take the time to:
- Repeat back what you hear the prospect say to confirm understanding. “What I heard you say was… Is that correct?”
- Ask thoughtful questions to help the prospect communicate their perspective.
- Pause throughout the conversation to give them time and space to share.
8. Your sales process is broken.
If you find many prospects don’t make it far enough in your sales process to raise an objection, that’s a good indication your sales process is broken, or that your funnel has a leak that needs to be addressed.
In this scenario, that could mean your prospects are either not being properly qualified, or there is a missed opportunity to follow-up and nurture leads who are qualified. Work with your team to go through your sales process step-by-step and identify areas that could be improved upon for a better buyer experience.
Learning it’s not them, it’s you, is never fun. But now that you’ve figured out what’s going wrong, you can take the appropriate steps.
Editor’s note: Marc Wayshak contributed to a previous version of this post.