Consider for a moment the potential reasons a buying committee would elect to withdraw from a negotiated evaluation: a change in priorities, an acquisition, a reorganization, insufficient payback on the proposed project, references don’t check out, investigation shows the offering not to be a good fit, and so on.
Now brace yourself as we begin to list reasons for a vendor to elect to withdraw from an ongoing Sequence of Events. Some traditional salespeople cannot begin to fathom any circumstances that would make them effectively remove an opportunity from their pipeline. Here are some potential reasons for a vendor to withdraw: Customer expectations may be unreasonable, the offering may not be a good fit, the transaction may not be profitable, a review may show that the prospect is not creditworthy, and so on.
While all these reasons are valid, the best reason to withdraw is that you realize the opportunity is not winnable. The manager who wants the sales staff to compete to win, not to keep busy, usually must make this decision. As soon as you believe you are not Column A and you cannot change the requirements list, it’s time to find a different opportunity to work on. Traditional salespeople, wanting to hang in until the end (and keep their pipelines inflated), sometimes have to be forcibly removed from the “prospect.”
Most typically, the Sequence of Events will serve as a road map, but will tend to be a living document. That is to say, about once a month it may need to be republished to reflect any alterations that need to be made either to the events or to the timing of events. Once this process is in place, sales managers enjoy several potential benefits:
They can coach salespeople through the process step by step.
Planning for allocation of resources can be done.
Each checkpoint the buyer agrees to further validates the buyer’s commitment and increases the likelihood of a successful completion.
Sales managers have the ability to assess (disqualify) opportunities if they do not appear to be winnable.
It is unlikely that buyers looking for Column B, C, or D would commit to a Sequence of Events with a silver medalist.
It is far easier to forecast close dates because buyers have agreed to tentative dates for delivery of a proposal and a decision. This helps take vendors away from the tendency to close based on their agendas.
Negotiating the sales cycle also addresses a problem that virtually all salespeople face: not knowing when an opportunity is closable. Our belief is that the right time to close is when a Sequence of Events has been completed to the buyers’ satisfaction and the seller’s satisfaction. Our clients learn that each step in the Sequence of Events is a miniature close and that asking for or getting the order is a logical conclusion.
While we are on the subject of buying cycles, one of the most frightening situations occurs when a mainstream-market buyer is being asked to commit to a large expenditure (let’s say $500,000) for an application that has never been implemented before. Many Key Players consider the potential impact on their careers if the anticipated results aren’t achieved. The Sequence of Events can be used to mitigate risk by providing a “pay as we progress” approach. By this we mean that the $500,000 expenditure can be broken into smaller pieces (feasibility study, preliminary design, prototype, and so on) that are billable events. After each, both the buyer and seller assess where they stand and make a determination as to whether to proceed.