Avoid these 3 mistakes to win big this holiday season
Devin Reed: Welcome to the show. You are now part of Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed.
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue Intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions. It's an unfiltered view of your customer reality. In other words, making data driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guess works.
Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars. People success, deal success, and strategy success. The things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week we interview senior revenue professionals and they share their stories and insights on how they leverage Revenue Intelligence to drive success and win their market.
Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go to market teams win as a team close revenue with critical deal insight, and execute their strategic initiatives. Plus all the challenges that come along with it. The holidays are an important time for revenue leaders. It's also when the biggest mistakes are made. That's why we're sharing Devin's presentation from Celebrate, Gong's Revenue Intelligence Summit. Listen as Devin reveals three devastating end of quarter mistakes and gives data driven action steps to help sales leaders avoid major pitfalls and win big this holiday season. You'll learn how to increase your win rate and gain new prompts you can act on right now. Now Devin will get started by sharing how we learned what end of quarter mistakes to avoid the hard way.
Devin Reed: We're in the thick of the holiday season. So take a second and think what's your favorite part of the holidays? When I say holiday season, what comes to mind? Time with family, maybe big meals, road trips, pumpkin spice lattes, whatever it is, all of these are correct, but it doesn't look like anyone said chasing down signatures. But that's usually part of end of year, right? It's also a very high stress time for sellers. Why? Because quota never sleeps. If you're in sales, you assume that the end of the year it's going to be stressful. But if you have the right tactics and timing, it can actually be the most relaxing and lucrative time of the year. The holidays are supposed to be about cozying up by the fire, not putting out fires. Today, we're going to discuss three deadly end of quarter mistakes and how you can avoid them, so you can win big this holiday season. And here are the three mistakes that we're going to cover. First, selling during dead zones. So you can avoid chasing and spend more time closing. Number two, negotiating over email. It's the easiest way to leave money on the table. And number three, relying too much on driving next steps. Turns out saving three minutes at the end of the call, isn't quite enough to keep deals marching forward. We'll dive into that shortly. But first story time. It was December 2000 something and I was working this deal that was tougher than finishing the third piece of pumpkin pie. I was at 67% to quota and this deal was going to get me right to a 100%. Now, I hadn't missed quota in nine straight quarters and had no intention of breaking that streak. And not only did I need this deal, but my team needed this deal to hit their goal too. Talk about pressure. Anyone is in sales and lives with their spouse or partner, they know that when we start looking like this, it's best to give us some space. Every time you pick up the phone, it could be good news, it could be bad news. Not to mention all eyes were on me. I had my boss, my boss's boss, my CEO, my CFO, deal desk. Everyone was watching my every move. Now, this deal was coming down to the wire. I had momentum, but then my prospect started missing meetings. I got a lot of last minute reschedules. In short, I didn't have control of my deal I was chasing. As Christmas approached, I realized that time was moving faster than my deal. Now, finally, I got to the closing call, the commercials, the last thing that I needed to close this deal and lock it in. The problem was I couldn't get the decision maker on the phone." Too busy," he said, so I resorted to email. What else could I do? I figured some communication was better than none. It's late December now and we're going back and forth, and back and forth. Sometimes he responds immediately, sometimes he takes two days, sometimes not at all. I'm stressed, I'm pacing around my small San Francisco apartment. I'm cursing at the dog, sorry, Cutty. But eventually time ran out. The year came to a close, but my deal did not. Later, I ended up talking to that buyer in January. He basically told me if I just drawn a line, he would've signed. But he didn't have a compelling reason to do it right then, so he punted it into the new year and then time killed my deal. Now losing a deal stings, but losing a deal that would've got you to quota. That's going to hang around with you for a few years. Later, thinking through this, I've had a few realizations. One, my closing plan was weak. Two, I knew negotiating over email wasn't a good idea, but I didn't really understand the dynamic that I had created. And third, I was relaying information to my manager and team, but they didn't know what was really happening. So it was tough to course correct. I could have done a few things better. Okay. I probably could have done a few things a lot better, but let's unpack each and every one of them so that you can avoid the mistakes that I made and end this year on a high note. But first, a quick sidebar, some of the things that I'm going to say in the next 15 minutes are going to seem completely unreal. So before you ask, here's how we get our insights. Gong is a revenue intelligence platform, but simply we unlock reality. We do that by capturing and analyzing all of your different customer interactions. Sales, sales development, customer success, support, so on and so on. And it includes things like emails, phone calls, and web conferencing meetings. We do two main things with that. One, we show you what's really happening across your organization. So you have full visibility and two, we surface insights at scale. So you can understand what's working, what's not, and you can course correct and make better business decisions. For our sales research, we look at buyer and seller behaviors and we publish insights that help teams win more. So let's get into our first mistake. This is one of the biggest problems with my closing plan. I didn't know that I was selling in the middle of a dead zone. You might be asking, Devin what is a dead zone exactly? It's exactly what it sounds like. It's specific calendar days that are very difficult for sellers to close business. That's because one, prospects stop showing up to meetings. No show rates go through the roof and that causes sellers to have to chase and then deal starts to stall or sales cycles extend. The other part of dead zones are that buyers don't sign, the contract sign rate as I call it decreases. And so again, deals stall out and they don't close as forecasted. In short, the holiday slowdown is real and it can be very, very cold. And here's how bad it is exactly. Sign rates drop off in excruciating 78% on the week of Christmas. So if you're forecasting to get a deal signed on Christmas Eve, maybe I'll slide it in right before the holiday. That's a big red flag. Now each of these red flags is risk creeping into your pipeline. And enough red flags and your forecast starts to waiver, gets shaky. And that's because strong forecasts are built on reality. And that requires visibility into every customer interaction. If you have that visibility, you can look for and spot every single kind of risk in your pipeline, including these dead zones. That way you can protect your forecast. So what you want to do is look at the scheduled forecast date for every single deal in your pipeline that you think is going to close in December and swap hope for confidence. Because as my good friend, Shep said," My forecast should be a hope free place." So to remove hope from your forecast, here are three dates in December that attract buyers to DocuSign like Santa to cookies. We have December 8th, December 16th and December 21st. All right, back to my story. What else did I screw up? The second thing that I did wrong was negotiating over email. Now, if you're listening to this, you've been around the block a few times, right? You've maybe got your teeth kicked in a few times, as we like to say in sales. You've probably heard that this is a bad idea. But if you know how bad it really is, let's start here. 50% of written communication is misunderstood by the recipient. That's half. Half. Every other email that you send is misunderstood. Now we've been told by sales leaders and sales trainers that negotiating over email is not a good idea. So why do we still do it? Well, first it's more convenient. And two, it's easier. Negotiating often includes constructive tension. And by emailing that allows us to avoid that tension instead of speaking face to face or screen to screen. So at Gong, we wanted to look at the data to see exactly how negotiating price affects your win rates. Here's the good news. Discussing price is great for sales, who would've thought? Makes sense, right? If you don't know the price, you can't buy. Makes sense. But let's dig into what's really happening here. So as soon as pricing is shared, boom, win rate skyrocket, however, there's a really quick decline around that 10% mark. This is when negotiations start. So you might be wondering how do I know if I'm negotiating? Once your buyer asks for anything negotiations have begun. And it's important to know this because once you introduce pricing, it will inevitably evolve into a negotiation. And it might be obvious someone saying," Hey Devin, can I get a 14% discount?" Or it might not be so obvious, like," Hey Devin, does your finance team allow net 60?" Now it's really tempting to say," Yeah, no problem." Just to keep the deal moving. But it's important to recognize the signal because there's been a shift in the dynamic, whether you know it or not, it does occur. And that's when you need to get proactive. And that means moving the conversation from email to a place where you can win, which is a direct conversation, phone call, web conference, even in person, fantastic. Now negotiating over email is a losing strategy because it gives your buyer control of the conversation. They decide when to respond. Again, it could take two days. It could take two weeks. It's up to them. The ball is in their court. And it also gives them the upper hand and an advantage in terms of putting together the best response, right? They can crowdsource with procurement and their manager, making sure that they're get getting the best deal possible. Neither of these are beneficial for you. So here's how to turn these insights into action and revenue. First, send price over email. It can be after a call, discovery, demo, late in the sales process, whatever makes sense for you. And then next is negotiate in a live conversation. And then third, confirm final commercials via email. So whatever you talked about, make sure that you put it into an email afterwards. Now, the reason this is so important is because negotiations are nuanced type of conversation and the data shows that win rates are highest when you use both channels. When you use email and phone or direct conversation, you're most likely to win. So here's a super easy, crazy effective email template that you can steal today. Hey, Rodney totally makes sense. And this is where you're basically acknowledging any question or objection, that sort of thing. Let's hop on a quick call to align pricing with your budget plus answer any questions. I'm sure we can knock this out in seven to nine minutes tops. Just tomorrow at 4: 00 PM work. It's that simple. The goal is to make it quick to read and easy to say yes, so you can get on that conversation. Okay. We're coming to a close. And just like a sales call, let's save time to chat next steps, because all we need are next steps, right? Well, not so much. Another huge end of quarter mistake is relying too much on driving next steps. So if you've been following Gong Labs or again, been in sales for a few years, you know the importance of driving next steps. It's always a good idea. But most sellers think that locking in the next meeting is enough to keep that deal moving forward. But it's not. Yes, it's incredibly important to the overall state of your deal. But there's another factor that truly gets buyers to sprint through the sales cycle like Sha'Carri Richardson. Something that happens before next steps are discussed and that's discussing the right topics and sales conversations. It has a massive impact on whether buyers continue down the path of evaluating and setting up next steps. And there are two primary types of sales conversations. One, value topics, and two, features. Value topics are things like discovery, business impact, use cases. They tend to make the eyebrows on execs go up. That's a good thing. It means that they're excited. They're interested. Product features are exactly that. They're all about your product and how it works. This button does this. Here's how you run that report faster. This toggles going to show you a dashboard, yada, yada, so on and so on. These tend to make execs eyebrows go down. They don't like that so much or worst case, they start to doze off. Now the data shows that focusing on value based topics is far more productive. Put another way when sellers focus on features, they're significantly less likely to earn a follow- up call. When you sell a product by leading with features, your buyer has to figure out how those features solve their problems. In other words, they need to sell the product to themselves. They need to understand what you offer, what they're trying to solve and make that connection. But when you focus on value based topics, you and your prospect do the problem solving together, causing buyers to stay engaged throughout your entire sales cycle. And that's why value based topics resonate with buyers. That's why they say yes to next steps. They want to hear more and keep the conversation going. Instead of dodging your emails and rescheduling meetings, they ask you for follow- up calls and they reply even faster. That's because they're running towards their desired state. One that makes them look good, more productive, boost their team performance, help their company grow. All those good things. These outcomes are significantly more motivating than buying another tool with shiny features. That's because people buy to solve not to spend. Subtle, but very important difference. Problem finding in sales means identifying and understanding your buyer's most pressing needs. Then showing them exactly how your product addresses those problems. A solution is what makes them believe in your product and it will bring them value. It's what makes them reach for their corporate credit card or go find that budget that they swear didn't exist a couple weeks ago. So to help here are three value selling prompts that you can use immediately, like your next call in about an hour. First, you've got discovery. What's your biggest strategic priority for this year? And what challenges might you run into along the way? Another one is around business impact. What would be the negative impact if these challenges aren't solved? And the last one is around use cases. Here's how similar company like LinkedIn use Gong to overcome their business challenge. So there you have it. Now, you know what to do and most importantly, what not to do to win big this holiday season. You heard three huge mistakes that I made so you can avoid them. And now I want you to picture this. It's December 22nd, you're wearing your favorite flannel PJs. Maybe you have a matching set for your partner and kids. You've got your slippers on, your feet are kicked up, drinking hand. You're smiling because you just closed the biggest quarter of your career and with time to spare. All because you now know the right timing and tactics to use. Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now, so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.
Sheena Badani: And if you really like the podcast, please leave a review. Five star reviews, go a long way to help get the word out there.
Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.
Devin Reed, Head of Content Strategy at Gong, knows that quota never sleeps -- even during the holidays. In this Celebrate replay, he reveals three devastating end-of-quarter mistakes and how to avoid them. He also gives data-driven action steps proven to increase your win rate and shares value-selling prompts that you can implement today. If you want to spend your holiday season cozying up by the fire and not putting out fires, this episode is for you.