14Stalled Deals and Next Steps

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.

—Saul Bellow

This is dialogue from an actual pipeline review:

Me: “So what's the next step?” [I'm pointing to the 11th deal down on the sales rep's pipeline report. Not one of the previous opportunities we'd discussed had a solid, scheduled next step.]
Sales rep: “Um, well, I'm calling her back next week.”
Me: “What day and time is your appointment?”
Sales rep: “She just said to give her a call.”
Me: “You mean ‘Call me maybe’? How is that a next step?”
Sales rep: “Well, she seemed interested in getting a proposal.”
Me: “Okay, let's keep this real. Out of the 17 deals in your pipeline, how many do you have a set meeting with on your calendar and theirs?”
Sales rep: “Maybe three of them.”
Me: [Staring back incredulously.]
Sales rep: “You don't understand. It's not like that.”
Me: “Like what?”
Sales rep: “In my industry people won't set meetings.”
Me: “Really? That's interesting. You mean on our calls this afternoon—the ones you scheduled meetings with on the phone—if we were to ask to schedule a follow-up meeting to present a proposal, 100 percent of them would tell us to go pound sand because they don't schedule meetings.”
Sales rep: “Well, no. That's not what I'm saying. It's just hard.”
Me: “Okay, let me ask you a question. Be honest. When you schedule the next meeting, what is your close rate?”
Sales rep: [Thinking…] “I guess pretty high.”
Me: “And when they don't schedule the next ...

Get Sales EQ now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.