Posted by AndrewDumont
Okay, maybe not you personally… I'm only speaking in hypotheticals here. But let's face it, some of us are better at closing than others, and that's okay. We can get better.
I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but really wanted to frame it in a way that would allow everyone to pull value from it, regardless of your function. As I thought through that framing, I realized that there's no surefire way to close more deals, per se, but there's a lot of things that you need to avoid to better your chances.
That's what we'll focus on here.
A deal can be many different things, depending on your business — really, I'm just using it as a placeholder. Whether it be a new client, a big partnership, a fresh distribution, a juicy link, even an acquisition, they're all in the same ballpark. From experiencing it first hand in my work to being on the receiving end of some really bad attempts, here's 10 reasons why you'll blow that big deal.
1) You Don't Understand What Drives Their Business
The most common screw-up is probably a lack of understanding or care to understand the business that you're trying to work with. I can't tell you how many times I've been pitched for services that are dependent on Moz being a consulting company. This obviously isn't relevant anymore, which means that you wasted my time and yours.
Each business has very different drivers that dictate the decisions they make. Before you can provide value, you have to take the time to truly understand what they find valuable and what will help their business. Sounds simple, I know. Yet, it's one of the most common mistakes, because it takes extra effort. Before pitching anyone, make sure you do your due diligence; dig through Crunchase or run a quick search.
2) You Don't Know How to Pitch and Maintain Brevity
Aaron Levie from Box said it best.
Email length is proportional to how much happiness you want to take away from your recipients.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) June 11, 2012
The same goes for pitching. The importance of distilling your message down to only the most important information is often times a deciding factor in the what gets ignored and what doesn't. As a rule of thumb, any email over two (very short) paragraphs and some bullets is likely too long. Distill your message down to the most pertinent points, and then refine it even further. It's not dissimilar from pitching press; the same concepts apply.
3) You Talk to the Wrong Person
If you're talking to the wrong person, you're done before you even get started. The organizational structure varies greatly from company to company, which of course makes it difficult to track down the right person to talk to. Just try to think about it as logically as possible — your intuition is likely right. Typically, I like to start from the top and work down. I've found that more senior folks usually have a stronger vested interest in the company and thus help you navigate the waters a bit more efficiently.
I rely on tools like Rapportive (screenshot above) on a daily basis to help refine and guess the contact info of the people that I need to get ahold of, if it's not shown on Linkedin or a personal site.
Pro Tip: If you're trying to guess the right email address, start with first name @ domain.com and press tab, if it's correct, their profile will show up on Rapportive. If not, guess again. The folks at Distilled have some clever tricks, as well.
4) You Get Lost in Legal
Have you ever had anyone ask you to sign an NDA before you even know the context of the discussion? Me too, and it kills the conversation before it even starts. A lot of people let legal take precedence over the basics. Legal is a necessary evil, but it's something that rarely comes into play.
You've got to know where to give and where to take with legal, and less is always more if you can get away with it.
5) You Don't Lay Out Clear Action Items
People can't move forward if they don't know what they need to do. Some of the best folks that I've worked with on a deal are always action oriented. After every call, they lay out a clear list of action items in bullet format. Laying out next steps in this format allows both parties to stay focused on progression. Here's what a typical follow-up email should look like.
- YOU Check in with your legal department to see whether the amendment has been approved
- YOU Send over logo on transparent background for our announcement blog post
- ME Coordinate with team on announcement timeline
- ME Tell Jen Lopez she's awesome, and buy her cupcakes
Bullet format is usually more efficient than putting the action items in a long paragraph. Separate out what needs to get done, and keep on keepin' on.
6) You Drop the Ball
As the person initiating the deal, it's your job to make sure it doesn't fall off the radar. Agree on a check-in timeframe after each correspondence. If you don't hear back after that timeframe, it may not be because they're not interested — it may mean they got busy. Life happens.
There are a lot of good tools out there for remembering where you left off and reminding you to follow-up, Stride is one of them that I helped create. Other good tools are task managers like Wunderlist or FollowUpThen (screenshot above), which is made specifically for email reminders.
7) You Don't Make It Clear Why They Should Listen
This is the #humblebrag portion of the list. I'm not one for name-dropping, Justin Beiber, but it's important to make it clear why others should listen. Use things like customer names, press coverage, usage numbers, success rates, etc. to shine your best light. Nothing wrong with making it clear that you're the real deal.
8) You Don't Walk The Persistence Line
There's a fine line between overly persistent and not persistent enough. When you're actively engaging with another company, it's important to walk the line. The reason why it's so difficult is that it varies on a case-by-case basis, but the signals you get back from the other side can likely direct you on whether or not you're being persistent enough.
As with not dropping the ball, some people need persistence to stay on top of things. It's better to be overly persistent than not enough. Walk the line, but don't overstep. If someone tells you that it can't happen right now or that they're not interested, that's not a cryptic message to keep bothering them.
9) You Look Like Hell (Or Don't Exist) Online
You may be the cat's pajamas offline, but if you're online life doesn't reflect that, who would know? As you're well aware, we all have access to the Googles, and we're likely to research someone before we engage with them. Take the time to clean up your Linkedin, set up a personal site and for goodness gracious, get to tweetin'.
Personal branding is a separate post in and of itself, but for the sake of this post, realize that it's one of, if not the most, important pieces to being able to do a deal with a person or company.
10) You Don't Make a Personal Connection
As with the last point, the personal side of a deal matters. We do business with people we trust. When you're looking to work with someone, you've got to take the time to make the personal connection. Follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook — become top of mind. Don't make it all about business, find commonalities and make the connection.
Let's take the wonderful Sha for example. She saw on my Twitter feed that I was damning myself with trying to learn Ruby. So, she whipped up some Ruby on Rails Cookies to help me through the process. Awesomeness person award goes to… you guessed it. Next time I get an email in my inbox from Sha, guess who's getting an immediate response?
When you're in the sales process, the things that matter most are the subtleties, the tiniest bit of finesse is what separates winning from losing. Go about your business how you'd like, but keep these pitfalls in the back of your mind. Take the pain points that you experience while others are pitching you and learn from them — don't inflict the same.
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