What’s Next? Do You Really Have A Deal Strategy?


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I must review hundreds to thousands of deals every year. Often, sales people struggle, the deal is stalled, they are losing traction, they need to make something happen and move the deal to closure.

Often in reviewing deals, I feel as though I am watching a ping pong game. The sales person does something (ping), the customer responds (pong), the sales person follows up (ping), the customer asks a question (pong), ……..

This can drag on endlessly, or it can stop at any time the customer loses interest. Sales people need to be more purposeful in thinking about their sales strategy. Sales people can’t just respond to the customer, but rather have a strategy for helping move this through the company’s buying process. Customers need and appreciate this leadership, sales management expect this.

Yet, when I review what’s going on, too often, it’s “I’m waiting for the customer to get back to me, I gave them the information they asked for.” I usually say, “What else do you have to do to move this deal through the buying cycle, what’s next?” Too often, this gets a blank stare or a shoulder shrug.

We have to have a deal strategy. We have to know the steps and activities we need to go through with the customer to move them to a final decision. There are lots of ways to develop a deal strategy (and many great sales methodologies to help you out). The cornerstone to every opportunity strategy is the selling process. Your company’s sales process defines, at a high level, the best practices, critical activities and steps to help move the customer through their buying process–effectively and efficiently. The sales methodologies, overlaid on your proprietary process provide tools to help in the execution of the process.

Sales people need to leverage these to drive deals forward.

Sales people often struggle with “what’s next.” In the past, I’ve written, “Start With The End In Mind,” it’s still the best way to leverage your process to drive your sales strategy.

When I work with people in developing their sales strategy, I start with one assumption: The target decision date cannot change! We have to develop our strategies and next steps so that we accomplish everything we necessary by the target decision/close date. Stated differently, we need to make deals happen when they need to happen, not when they happen. Without this thinking, both we and the customer drift–pushing the decision date later, until some critical deadline is reached and passed (resulting in tremendous lost opportunity for the customer and us), or it never happens.

Want to reduce the number of stalled deals or no decisions, make sure you have a sales strategy in place and execute it with precision. Leverage your sales process to provide hints on What’s Next!

For a free eBook on Coaching For High Performance, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected], ask for the Coaching For Performance eBook

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave: I like the ping pong analogy. You speak the truth! Unfortunately, the reactive back-and-forth presents an easy trap for salespeople, especially when they can’t see what the other player is doing (I was tempted to use opponent in place of player to underscore how slippery the slope becomes). And the aura of seeming busy adds its own delusion.

    Having a plan or roadmap is great, but the issues you describe highlight why it’s also important for salespeople to be situationally aware in every selling opportunity. More than buzzwords, being situationally aware requires development of a framework of questions gleaned from prior wins and losses, and using them throughout the sales process.

    It’s useful to begin with understanding what a driver needs to know when operating a vehicle, then transferring that concept of awareness to selling situations. The top variables usually include competition (including product, pricing, social network connections, messages and pitches, proposals and counter-proposals), buyer motivations, current economic conditions, forces acting on the prospect’s company and its industry, trigger events, vendor internal issues, and the personal situation of the key influencers and decision makers. There’s more, but I’ll save the space.

    Equally important is management’s commitment to situational awareness. A manager who’s prone to asking “where are we in this deal?” can’t be of much help to a rep when the answer is limited to providing a position on a hypothetical timeline. The manager must be able to piece together sometimes-disparate events and to help the rep recognize when he really doesn’t know what’s happening through the metaphorical windshield, and equally important, how to clear the fog. Which is why so many salespeople are just returning ping pong balls.

  2. Great comment Andy! I particularly like the comment on management commitment. Too often, manager’s just reinforce the ping pong approach focusing on what’t happened, not on what we need to do or a longer term look at the strategy to win a deal.

    If we are to increase win rates, it is important for managers to set the example in their deal reviews!


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