The Epidemic That Is Killing Sales Pipelines

“I’m confused. I’ve had great meetings with the right people in the organization. They said that our product looks terrific…but that was 8 months ago. I’ve continued to call…followed-up by email…still no decision. I know that the competitor hasn’t gotten the business. If they love the product, why aren’t they buying?”

Every sales person can relate to this story. Chances are your pipeline is loaded with these kinds of situations. A tremendous amount of sales time has been spent; the company has invested thousands of dollars in pursuit of this “done deal” prospect, and still, there is no revenue in sight.

Meeting after meeting with your sales manager includes the continued mantra of “where’s the deal?” Then comes the inquisition…” Did you tell them this? Did you tell them that? Did you show them the latest…?” The answer to all of those is, “Yes!” Still, there is no sale.

Now the excuses start…”I’ve called and emailed them, but they haven’t responded. You have to understand…this is a senior-level decision-maker. They are busy, that’s why they haven’t gotten back to me. They have a full plate!”

First, there is some bad news to share about full plate syndrome. This issue has reached epidemic proportions in the sales profession. Decision-maker after decision-maker has come down with this dreaded affliction. Sales pipelines everywhere have come to a screeching halt as decision-makers fall to this syndrome at record levels. It’s very difficult to identify those who have contracted this syndrome. They meet with sales people and are very friendly. They even give the appearance that the sale is imminent.

Don’t fret! The government has been researching this issue and a solution has been found. As a matter of fact, the White House addressed the full plate syndrome issue late last night at a press conference.

“We are acutely aware of the issues associated with full plate syndrome and recognize the tremendous impact on the sales profession. This matter has been investigated fully and it is with great excitement that we announce a remedy for this syndrome. This remedy will once and for all eradicate full plate syndrome from sales. Effective immediately, all decision-making business professionals are being issued a second plate. Thus, the issue of the decision-maker not returning calls to sales people due to their having a full plate has been eliminated. We expect this remedy to open-up sales pipelines everywhere.”

One of the easiest things for sales people to do when they don’t get a return call from their prospect is to explain it away as full plate syndrome. Perhaps, your prospect has a full plate, but the items on their plate can always change if you present the right solution.

Consider this…Just before you go to bed, you check your Blackberry one last time, and it’s a good thing you did. There is an email from the CEO of your company. She wants to meet with you tomorrow at 9:30am to discuss tripling your salary. You read it five times to make sure you read it correctly. In an instant, you reply, “I’ll be there!” In doing so, you didn’t even check your schedule you knew already was booked solid.

After all, who wouldn’t you be at a meeting with their CEO to discuss tripling their income? Whatever is in the 9:30am timeslot is being moved because you are going to that meeting and getting that three-fold income jolt. Nothing is going to get in the way of that meeting.

That said, why would you accept this meeting knowing that you already had a full day planned? The answer is obvious! Making more money is high on your priority list. When the call comes for that opportunity, all else goes by the wayside. The CEO has a solution that is aligned with your top priorities.

The same concept holds true in working with your prospects. If the solution you are presenting to a prospect is aligned with the primary area where they are challenged, full plate syndrome does not afflict your sale. The sale moves readily through the process. If not, the deal languishes in the pipeline. Similar to the old Roach Motel, the deal goes into the pipeline, but it never comes out. No return calls.

If you are in a simple-sales environment (one decision-maker), the process to align the solution with the focal area of the buyer is not overly difficult to do. However, in a complex sales environment (multi-person decision), it can be daunting. Different buying players (those who influence a sales decision) have different priorities. While cost reduction for the CFO may be a front of mind priority, the plant manager may be focused on quality improvement, and the CIO may be focused on ease of integration. The key is to align the solution for each of the buying players congruent with their priorities. While the product is the same, the positioning with each of the buying players is different.

The question to ask yourself is why should your solution be a priority for each of the heavily influential buying players? Better stated, “Why should they do this now?” Before you can answer that question, some homework is needed to find out where each of these buying players are focused. For example, if the CFO is a heavily influential decision-maker, research CFOs to find out their front of mind issues. With that knowledge, you can ask yourself, “How does my solution solve this primary issue for the CFO?”

The same process is conducted for each of the identified strong buying players. Here is the kicker…If you can’t identify how your product solves the front-of-mind problems for the heavily influential buying players, you will find the sale languishes in the pipeline, forever. Forever is an overstatement. It will stay in the pipeline until your competitor presents a solution that is aligned with their priorities and they will get the business.

By Lee Salz

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