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Knowing the difference between roadblocks and no deal 

Everyone who has sold something has experienced it before - everything has gone well to this point; you’ve found a use case, scoped success criteria, and even agreed upon a POC and the prospect goes dark. What happened, and what do we do? Below are some common examples, but it’s important to find the root of why this happened in your deal by reviewing the gaps in where you may not have answers in your Deal Scorecard


Roadblocks vs. Unqualified Deals 

The way we define a roadblock in this scenario is that something is slowing down a deal, but you have a truly qualified opportunity (refer to your Sales Scorecard). Anyone involved in the sales process (Founders, salespeople, etc.), always get over-excited about a POC. Although it's a good signal, it means nothing until the digital or physical ink has marked the contract and you’ll want to have the most clearly defined path to decide how much effort you should allocate towards a deal. 


Roadblocks

A few common roadblocks are:


  • Timing - In most cases, you are inserting yourself into a process that has been defined by a team or broader organization. For a Product to be tested, someone needs to approve or insert your solution into some window (a sprint, team meeting, calendar block, etc.) for evaluation. Sometimes this is extremely difficult depending on the Seniority and abilities your Champion has to navigate the political dynamics of testing something new. 
  • Political Dynamics - If your solution is the better, faster, cheaper version of an incumbent, the chances are someone in the organization you’re selling to has built or is using an alternative version of your solution. Don’t expect them to be on your side during the evaluation process. That said, you’ll need to uncover where the existing challenges are with the current approach today and why your prospect needs to test your tool now. This is where the rubber meets the road in the sales process. However, if there is no real challenge with the prospect’s current approach, and your solution doesn’t solve a critical business requirement, the chances are this is an unqualified deal and not a roadblock. 
  • Lack of Urgency - The prospect or Champion you’ve been working with knows they need a solution like yours, but can’t articulate why they need your solution, and why they need it now. This is a good opportunity to build a stronger business case with the prospect to help them partner with you to sell. If you continue to hit this roadblock and can’t find any urgent need, then the chances are this is an unqualified deal and not a roadblock. 


Unqualified

Sometimes, the deal is unqualified. A few examples:

  • No true Champion - The common definition of a Champion is someone in an organization who has “influence and authority” on a buying decision. If you don’t have someone who is vouching for you or actively selling your solution to the naysayers in the organization, you will have a very difficult time securing the contract you expect. 
  • No Buyer or no budget - If you do have a Champion, can they secure the funds and/or sign the contract if you meet their Success Criteria? The chances are unlikely. It’s why you want to ensure you understand the Buying process when creating the Product Testing Doc and Mutual Action Plan. 
  • No Critical Business Pain -  Maybe you have a Champion, but the business doesn’t quite understand the problem you’re solving, therefore the company isn’t willing to pay for your solution (yet or ever). This is where you need to decide if there is an area of opportunity that you can resolve (roadblock) or is unlikely to be worth the effort (unqualified). 

Controlling the Product Testing Process

Controlling any part of the sales process is challenging, especially once you are competing with conflicting schedules, priorities, and other variables. There are certain ways you can improve the quality and efficiency throughout your Product Testing Process which includes, but is not limited to:


  • Frequent Checkpoints or Check-Ins

Schedule time with the end-users and your Champion once a week (at minimum) to confirm the product is meeting your mutually agreed upon Success Criteria and expectations. 


  • Establish Asynchronous Communication (Slack Channel, texting, etc.)

Since most organizations use Slack, we always encourage founders and salespeople to create a shared slack channel with your prospect to answer any questions or address challenges that may arise vs. scheduling a high volume of meetings. Many challenges can be addressed through Slack, and other escalations can be moved to a call as needed. Assuming your contacts are comfortable with it (and confirm), text messaging allows for more asynchronous communication as well. 


  • Ongoing communication with your Champion

Learn from your Champion the areas of opportunity for your solution and how to ensure you meet the Success Criteria their team and the Buyer need to see prior to executing an Order Form. 



Reviewing the Results

When walking through the Product Testing Doc and creating the MAP, make sure to timebox the product testing phase and schedule a date for reviewing the results with the prospective User and Buyer. 


Assuming you’ve met the Success Criteria during the evaluation, you’ll want to highlight in your Product Testing doc and/or a short slide presentation: 

  1. What did success look like and what quantifiable results came from it? (ROI, reduction in cost, reduction in risk, etc). 
  2. What business value and requirements does your solution meet? 
  3. Why the company needs to buy your solution now and how the value your solution provides outweighs the costs you are proposing. 
  4. Recap and confirm the paper process and identify how long its going to take 


Securing the contract 

If you’ve reviewed the results of the completed POC, work with the Buyer and your Champion to understand the signing process. Ask who needs to review once you send the Order Form, when they plan to review it, and set a firm date by which you’ll answer any final questions prior to signature to timebox the conversation. 


Pick any e-signature solution (preferably HelloSign or DocuSign) where the prospect can sign electronically. This may seem obvious, but just sending a PDF or other static document causes presents several challenges including not being able to track if anyone has viewed the document and creating additional friction for the signer (ie. printing it out, signing it with a pen, faxing/mailing the completed contract). 

Closing Thoughts


The reality is you won’t have full visibility or control over 99.9% of deals. Still, the best way to increase your odds of closing a deal is having as much visibility and control over the process as possible. By creating a Product Testing Doc with our prospect, you can gain a better understanding of your prospect’s decision and buying processes and help them justify why your solution is valuable to their organization. The POC Scoping Call is also a critical opportunity to come up with a Mutual Action Plan to agree on clearly defined Success Criteria and build a clear path towards securing a contract.


Looking for ways to close more deals for your startup? Happy to chat: dakota@unusual.vc 

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