It’s that time of year…quarter close and, in many cases, fiscal year close.  There’s nothing like it to turn up the anxiety for sales professionals.  Each year there are many articles written on how to close the quarter strong. There’s no magic, and I don’t have any “silver bullets” to add.  However, by focusing on the basics, we can identify the risks in our opportunities and take steps to shore up those weaknesses to improve the probability of finishing strong. Below are five questions to ask yourself to evaluate the amount of risk in your deals.

1. Does the customer have a reason to buy?
We start with the reminder that customer’s buy for their reasons…not ours.  No amount of pressure or discounts will get someone to move forward if it doesn’t help address their goals and objectives.  So, do we understand the customer’s reason for buying?  What is their top priority, goal, or issue they need to address?  By how much and by when?  Why do they need to do anything differently than they have been doing?  If we can’t answer that – from the customer’s perspective – we have risk.

2. Do we have unique Business Value?
Is there enough unique Business Value for the client to select your products or services over other alternatives?  Would the client acknowledge that our unique strengths solve problems for them uniquely or better than the alternatives?  If we can’t clearly articulate our unique Business Value, we have risk

3. Have we established both Business and Personal Value?
Next, have we established what the Business and Personal Value is for the customer…from their perspective?  Why do they need to address this issue now vs. a year from now?  What is the impact of NOT doing something different or moving forward with you?  If we can’t answer that – from the customer’s perspective – we have risk.

4. Is there a clear understanding of Power?
How about Power?  We can’t sell to someone who can’t buy.  However, we try.  And at the end of the quarter, we really try.  Ask yourself, honestly, can our contact sign or approve this deal or does someone else up the chain need to?  If we don’t have access and engagement with the ultimate decision maker, we have risk.

5. Is there an agreed upon Plan in place?
Finally, what about a plan?  Do we have a mutual plan, in writing, that ends at value realization for the client?  We’re not talking about a close plan which is an internal document.  We are talking about a mutual plan that provides line-of-sight to the client on what steps or milestones we will be taking to help de-risk and ensure delivery on the impact to their goal.  If we don’t have a mutual plan or our plan with the client doesn’t include these characteristics – you guessed it – we have risk.

So, we may have risk.  Here’s the good news…we have time.  Maybe not a ton of time, but we can still prepare the right questions that can help uncover these important buying criteria and help us understand better how healthy our forecast is and how likely deals are to close.  We don’t expect to have zero risks or unknowns in our opportunities, but our ability to minimize those risks will improve our probability of finishing the quarter/year strong.

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Jason McKarge

Jason McKarge

As a Vice President of Visualize, Jason helps organizations improve business metrics by creating a better connection with their customer’s definition of value. Following a successful career in sales and sales leadership, Jason has rejoined Visualize and now focuses on refining his client’s selling approach to differentiate; to drive increased revenues, market share and profitability.