Escaping sales purgatory with an NFL umpire

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This is a podcast episode titled, Escaping sales purgatory with an NFL umpire. The summary for this episode is: <p>Deal stuck in limbo? If you’ve ever debated reviving a sale or cutting your losses and walking away, this episode is for you. Bryan Neale, Founder at Blind Zebra and NFL umpire, walks us through the phenomenon he calls “sales purgatory”. We discuss what sales purgatory is, how deals get there, and (most importantly) how to avoid it. This episode is packed with ways to Marie Kondo your pipeline. </p><p><br></p><p>Key Takeaways:</p><p>07:00 - What sales purgatory is to Bryan Neale</p><p>09:26 - How deals get into sales purgatory</p><p>14:48 - Data Breakout - Discussing next steps on your first call</p><p>18:45 - What you can do when you're stuck in purgatory</p><p>20:26 - Questions to ask when figuring out if a deal is in purgatory or not</p><p>25:06 - Measuring ambiguity</p><p>30:52 - Micro action - Identify opportunities that are stuck</p><p><br></p><p>Want to explore Revenue Intelligence for your org? It starts here: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Devin Reed: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Sheena Badani: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Bryan Neale: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
What sales purgatory is to Bryan Neale
01:01 MIN
How deals get into sales purgatory
01:30 MIN
Data Breakout - Discussing next steps on your first call
01:17 MIN
What you can do when you're stuck in purgatory
01:30 MIN
Questions to ask when figuring out if a deal is in purgatory or not
01:44 MIN
Measuring ambiguity
02:03 MIN
Micro action - Identify opportunities that are stuck
01:05 MIN

Devin Reed: Welcome to 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, making data- driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.

Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars, people intelligence, deal intelligence, and market intelligence. You know, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and 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.

Devin Reed: Sheena, this is going to seem like a random question, but I promise I've got some direction here. Have you ever read Dante's Inferno or are you familiar with it?

Sheena Badani: I think in high school, honestly, I don't remember that much, but I remember the general gist. I was not an English major, like you, okay.

Devin Reed: Which is fine and it's a literary classic. Many people have read it outside the English major circle, but yes, and I think everyone knows in theory, the main thing people take away are the multiple levels of hell. So that's kind of what the whole book is about is there's levels to hell and purgatory being a vibe of one or a theme of the book. The reason I asked if you had read the book is because sales sometimes can feel like purgatory, especially when you've lost momentum.

Sheena Badani: Very true. You can very easily just get stuck and in this rut, and I think it's particularly true when folks who are on different sides of reality, like what's actually happening. You know, the rep may think one thing and the customer is somewhere else and you're just in this constant loop of unknown and that's when your deals get stuck.

Devin Reed: Constant loop of the unknown is a great way to put it because that's both Dante's Inferno put well in one line, and also what we covered today with Bryan Neale. Now, I was excited to talk to Bryan because he's the first professional referee that I've ever met in my life and he is a professional NFL referee. And he also runs the Blind Zebra, which is a sales coaching and sales training. So it's kind of the best of a couple of worlds there. The other reason I was really excited other than I've probably seen him on Sunday morning yelling at him or for blaming the Raiders for losing, though I know deep, deep down it's the Raider's fault, but also the topic that he wanted to talk about and that we discussed today was removing ambiguity from sales, and I had a really fun time talking to him about it because he started both at the strategic level and kind of like the why, but also shared a lot of the, how to, how to spot it, how to break it down and how to either cut a deal loose or get out of purgatory by regaining momentum.

Sheena Badani: Exactly. He had a lot of interesting perspectives on it. I took away a ton and honestly, it was such a fun conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Devin Reed: I feel bad saying he was one of my favorite, not to Bryan because I know we've had so many fantastic guests on, but this was definitely one of my most favorite interviews.

Sheena Badani: Exactly. Maybe that's just like, what happens. Every time we have an interview we're like, "Oh, that's our new favorite one."

Devin Reed: All right. Well, hey, let's go hang out with Bryan. So Bryan, it is common for salespeople to also be sports fanatics.

Bryan Neale: Yes.

Devin Reed: It is very rare that a sales person is actually in sports.

Bryan Neale: Agree.

Devin Reed: And you are a professional NFL referee, which tells me that you just love being berated because salespeople deal with constant rejection and referees are constantly being yelled at. So what, why did you pick this career path?

Bryan Neale: Thanks Devin. First, I'm really glad to be here and I didn't know this is a therapy session. So, doctor there's clearly something in my psychological makeup from being a kid that loves either lots of pressure or loves to be critiqued or criticized or whatever. I'm telling you. I love my jobs so much. I love selling, I love sales coaching, and I love reffing football, as weird as that sounds. My little phrases and I tell this to my sales clients when they're yelling and they're really mad at me. I say, " They're yelling at my shirt, they're not yelling at me. I'm still protected on the inside, I'm good," but it's great.

Devin Reed: Have you ever refereed a Raiders game in the last 10 years?

Bryan Neale: I have.

Devin Reed: Okay. So I can just blame you for how terrible we've been, that's what I'm going to go with.

Bryan Neale: I'm sure at some point, if you watch the film, you would find me contributing to the demise of almost every NFL team at some point from some mistake that I made, guaranteed.

Devin Reed: I know that multiple seasons they hold the record for the most penalties in a single season and I just like knowing that I'm meeting the person who threw one of them on the fields, lucky me.

Bryan Neale: Yep, I'm sure I've thrown many on the field there. Yeah, if I ever pull them up on the schedule, then I'll give you a shout.

Devin Reed: Let you know inaudible.

Bryan Neale: Then you can bitch by name.

Devin Reed: Perfect. So we've covered one of your jobs, NFL. The other one is you're the founder of Blind Zebra. So folks who might not know what that is, would you mind breaking that down for us and what you guys focus on?

Bryan Neale: Yeah, I would love to. So we've been in the current mode of Blind Zebra for the past eight years, doing sales training and sales coaching for B2B sales teams. We have traditionally been a high touch, high integrated sales coaching group. So we keep a small number of clients on purpose, go really deep, almost like we work there and really partner with their VP of sales, CRO, CEO to implement sales strategy, process, thinking, action, all of this stuff. COVID is actually, and I sometimes I hate saying this just because a lot of people suffered a lot, it's been the best thing that happened to our business because salespeople have learned and I know a lot of us wish we hadn't learned, to do all of our meetings on Zoom. So now Blind Zebra is an international group that can serve sales clients and do coaching anywhere in the world and that's what we've been doing. So in overall, I've been doing sales coaching for 23 years. So you do the math on that, old guy, part of the deal.

Devin Reed: There's no math on this show. Break out crosstalk

Bryan Neale: It's a sales podcasts. Of course there's no math.

Devin Reed: No math rule.

Sheena Badani: There is data though.

Devin Reed: Yes, there is.

Devin Reed: I let other people do the math and then bring the data and I'll just read the inaudible That's great. Very cool. Well, the topic we wanted to talk about with you, Bryan, is eliminating sales purgatory, which is something that you shared when we first met. Can you just open up the conversation with what is sales purgatory to you?

Bryan Neale: Absolutely. Yeah, and this has been a new... it's a topic that's always been around for all of us and I never knew what to call it, and like most ideas to me, the ones that are the best ones are the ones that just sort of pop out of your mouth one day. I was in a coaching class and I said, " This is crazy. We've got to get out of the sales purgatory," it just sort of came out and I thought, " Man, this is interesting." Sales purgatory to me is our biggest enemy in selling. It's not competition, it's not some of the other things we tend to label as our enemy. It's the status quo in the middle where nothing is moving, and so strict definition for me, if you take any CRM that you use and you look at your open opportunities, any deal that isn't a close one, close lost that does not have a next step clearly defined, accepted on a calendar, is in sales purgatory. So if we're waiting on something, if we're intending to get back to somebody, if we're supposed to call them later, that to me qualifies as sales purgatory.

Sheena Badani: What about deals that are just like in a stage and you're going through this loop of pulling in new folks and you're just stuck in a stage for like many, many months? What about that?

Bryan Neale: Yeah, that's a really good question, Sheena. So the kind of a dual sided answer, I'm cool personally and this is all opinion too, some other people can have angles on this.

Sheena Badani: Sure.

Bryan Neale: If we're in that loop and we feel like the loop is progressing and the dates are calendared, I'm cool with us being there. There does come a time and I wish... and this is why I love Gong so much, you will bring science to this, I bring a gut- feel, there's a time at a point where you go, " This isn't going anywhere." Just what you're saying, like" We've been in this stage two, this discovery phase just too long. I would say we just been here too long. Gong will tell us with data, " Here's how you know you've been there too long," which I love about what you all do. So those then become selected choice. Even if someone agrees to another meeting, there does come a time and place where say, " You know, Sheena, it feels like we've been spinning this for a while. Let's take a break. You put it on the shelf, I'll put on the shelf. Let's just go away, breathe, take a little break from each other, kind of like a mutual separation, see how it feels, and let's try to reconnect later and see if anything changes relative to momentum and our energy and all that other stuff."

Sheena Badani: So what's the root cause. Like why do deals get in purgatory in the first place?

Bryan Neale: Yeah, so an NFL referee, I always say, " I can't hide." So I can't go out there on Sunday and hope that nobody sees my calls. There's like 70, 000 people in this stance, 7 million watching on TV and a billion others on Twitter, commenting on everything. So I'm a super high accountability human and this is, to me, the root cause of sales purgatory is that people allow it to happen. They're the answer. Everyone wants to go external and blame, " Well, customers don't get back to me or they don't do this, or they won't commit or their buying process is jacked up," or whatever. The main cause is that you allow this to continue and not in a mean, bad way. People just haven't decided, " I'm not going to play sales purgatory anymore." When that light switch goes off in your head, you go, " Hmm." Hopefully people listen to this and they go, " You know what? I'm done, no more sales purgatory for me." Then I can teach people specific tools on how to avoid it or fix it when you're in there. But that's the root cause, is the decision to not play the game as the sales person. We don't play sales perg, it's not what we do. Not in a cocky way, not in a controlling way, it's just to me, it's not efficient for anybody. I don't think it's efficient for buyers. I don't think it's really good experience for people when I'm in that loop you talked about Sheena, I don't think that feels good to anybody. So I love this idea of a concise, efficient process, very clear on every step, very clear on every calendar invite, moving to a decision, a yes or a no, carry on. That's what I love.`

Devin Reed: To me getting out of purgatory would mean progressing the deal or pulling the cord.

Bryan Neale: Totally.

Devin Reed: And I think what you're saying is like, kind of like your example, Sheena, was like you're kind of running a loop or you're treading water. You're not really going anywhere, but you sure are putting in a lot of effort and time. I think speaking from experience and having known a lot of other sellers, is you don't want to walk away from pipe line, but you're telling me there's a chance, maybe.

Bryan Neale: Yeah.

Devin Reed: So what is your advice, Bryan, for like, I don't know if it's when to walk away or if there's a signal of like... is it right away when you're treading water be aware? Is it tread water for a certain amount of time? You see where I'm trying to get to

Bryan Neale: Yeah, totally.

Devin Reed: When do you just walk away, I guess, is the easy way to put it?

Bryan Neale: That's a really great question. I love technology. I love data. I love anyone that does anything that can help me with data, and I use a whiteboard to teach with.

Devin Reed: Ta- da.

Bryan Neale: See, I just put my whiteboard in front of a screen if you're listening to this. So I wrote a word on here that is part of the root cause, which is a lack of this that says detachment. Detachment. I feel that the first step to this is examining our energy around our sales funnel and asking ourselves, " Do I have a healthy sense of detachment with the deals that are in my open funnel at this point?" and our results can make that oscillate good and bad. We become more attached when we are behind on our quarterly number or monthly numbers, it's just human nature. So I always point people to that first is I say, " Well, I've got to look at this and go, 'Hang on, I've got to get my energy square first. Let me get in the state of healthy detachment.' Then I'm more comfortable with things coming and going." Then tactically what we do is we roll people through a process. I have a tool called stall continuum and I work people through a four stage stall continuum. So you and I have a process going on, we have a meeting set. You say, " Hey, Bryan, something came up, man, sorry. I can't make the meeting. Let's reschedule." I go, " No problem." That's stall number one. Whether you did it intentionally or not, now I'm in the stall continuum. Now my ears are open. I'm going, " Okay. Devin blew me off. " Maybe you just rescheduled real quick and we're back into it. now we're out of the stall continuum. Maybe you don't though. Maybe we ping pong back and forth, no date. Maybe you push off, maybe you do it second time. Now I'm in second stall. And each time we move up the stall continuum, our language and our action needs to move a little bit, needs to change. What most people get stuck doing with purgatory deals is the same message and the same modality with communication. I keep emailing you and saying the same thing, and it's like, " Checking in. Hey, just want to reschedule. Hey, want to get it back on the calendar." It sounds the same. So what we teach people to do is to strengthen the language towards cut the cord because we go in our four stages. We go, okay, first stall, second stall... these are all based off of'90s songs, by the way, What's Up, 4 Non Blondes. So the second style is like, " Hey what's up, Dev?" It's a tone, right? " What's up, man? What's going on? Is something..." The next one, Kris Kross, Warm It Up, Kris. I'm about to. So that means I'm about to pull the cord. It's kind of a warning shot. Like, " Hey man, I'm about to pull the cord. Correct me if something's wrong or whatever, but it just feels like we're heading that direction." Last one, close the file, I'm out. We're done, close it out. We also tactically recommend that all of our clients and I'd love for all of your clients to do this, I prescribe this in the last Thursday of every month because we're usually chasing a monthly goal in sales, that's a very common thing, and on the last Thursday before that, I want to do a funnel cleaning. I want to just move some stuff out to freshen it up. I do that on Thursday, so I still got Friday to do the closing of the stuff that can get done, but there's something cathartic about this that's refreshing, this load comes off. It's scary at first because I suffer from attachment. Once I get past that, man, it's good.

Devin Reed: Bryan highlights how important it is to evaluate your pipeline and ask questions like, " Is this deal really going to close?" but without visibility into each deal to see what's actually happening, this can be tough to answer, making accurate forecasting more of a guessing game than a confident calculation. When Bryan mentioned that not setting firm next steps can kill a deal, it reminded me of a Gong lab stat, which revealed that close rates drop 71% if next steps are not discussed on the first call. This means that when sellers set firm next steps at every stage of a deal cycle, they're more likely to close the deal and possibly within a shorter amount of time. However, the data shows that only 26% of salespeople set clear next steps. Like what Bryan says, " There's a difference between having a meeting early next week and saying, 'There is a meeting set from 12:00 to 12: 30 on Tuesday.'" The best salespeople have visibility into their pipeline and know what's happening in their deals, such as discussing pricing and next steps at the exact right time. Sales leaders looking to improve forecasting and keep an eye on must win deals should use data to track the progress. This way you have a pulse on every deal and you're able to prevent it from going dark and coach reps to help get the deal done.

Sheena Badani: Yeah, I think there's like an emotional aspect to this as well, where a rep is thinking about the time that they've already invested, but at some point it's like, that's a sunk cost. That time is gone. There's like a limited amount of energy that's left, as you were describing it. Take that and apply it towards something else that has a higher chance.

Bryan Neale: Yes. Absolutely, Sheena. There's so much emotional energy that causes this problem. Everyone wants to tactic in it, tactic out of it. What do I say? What do I do? What do I say? What do I do? The root causes in here, Ted Heart and Soul stuff. It's the inability to let go of something or the inability to recognize that just because I worked really hard doesn't mean that I deserve to have it show up a certain way or an outcome a certain way. I always teach people. I say, " Here's the test. Do it with your closet or your garage. Just play this game. Clean your closet out... you just moved, Sheena, right, so you get this, clean your closet, clean your garage, take a before and after picture, send it to me, and then I'll randomly send a text to you in December and say, " Take the picture again and send it. Let me see what it looks like now." Guarantee it's full. Guaranteed. Voids get filled.

Sheena Badani: You got to Marie Kondo, your sales pipeline.

Bryan Neale: You totally do. Totally, that's even better. Thank you. I give away money in my training, Sheena, I'll give you$ 20. Send me your Venmo, that was beautiful. Yes, but that's the truth, the voids get filled. So we have to create our own voids. I call it closed loop prospecting. People work the same deals over and over. You got to break those out, you got to pull some out, let them go. Take pressure off of them too.

Devin Reed: We got similar advice from Marcus Chan, Sheena, if you remember. He did the same thing. He was talking about, I think it was how to get a deal unstuck and he was saying, " What happens is our..." this might be my wording, but was like, " It feels like someone's just tapping you on the shoulder." So you know if something comes up from the side or behind, you know that nice double click, like, " Oh, what's up? What's going on?" but if you ignore that and then you get the double, double click, you're kind of like, " Eh, I'm kind of like not feeling this," and then the repetitive like, " Hey, I need your attention." Then you turn around, you're like, " What the... do you mean," right, you get super upset. It's the same thing with prospects. Like you're saying, if you just email, " Hey, can we reschedule?" Email, " Hey, can we reschedule?" " Hey, we're doing this thing," it conditions your buyer that this is a low value communication outlet, and you're also limiting yourself to that one channel or I think you call it modality.

Bryan Neale: Modality, yeah.

Devin Reed: So what are some tactics folks can use to expand on that, like a text. Obviously calling is not new, but what do you coach, Bryan, to get out of that single lane?

Bryan Neale: Yes, excellent question. The first bit of coaching. So the phrase I use and your listeners can hang on this phrase, " Change the channel, change the message," the channels, the modality, " Change the channel, change the message." I want that to resonate in people's heads. When I'm stuck, " Okay, I got to change the channel, change the message." So let's go channel changes first. Any and all to me are available as long as your intentions are good and pure. So if my intentions are good and pure, if I'm selling for Gong and I believe Gong can help a CRO be a better coach and mentor and leader and everything else, then I'm going to call her as much as I can because I feel good about it. So if that's clean, I'm clean there, then any of the modalities work, and Devin, you mentioned a few. Text, absolutely. If someone gives you their cell phone number, to me that's permission to text them. Some people disagree with that. If it's on their business card or if it's your mobile phone... Now some people are like, "Uh, that's kind of creepy," or whatever, but we've talked already and if they don't like me to text them, they say, " Please don't ever text me again," " No problem, I won't. Okay?" Any sort of social media direct reach, so LinkedIn, if I can go direct there. Some of my clients, now this is a debatable one, some of my clients will go direct on other social medias. Now from a business standpoint, the person has a business Facebook page or something like that and maybe try an angle there, but I'm always trying to move around if I can. Phone call, voicemail, non- voice mail, all those sorts of things. I'm just constantly fluid with the channel.

Sheena Badani: So for managers who are inspecting their team's pipeline, what questions should they be asking to figure out whether deals are in purgatory or not?

Bryan Neale: That's brilliant. My favorite thing here, and I love the word inspecting. This is a great word, isn't it? Because that's what you should be doing, you should be inspecting, looking over it. So I call this the green check rule. This is the green check rule, and what that means is if I have an open opportunity and I'm calling on Devin and Sheena, and we have a next step that in my calendar, on my phone, if I showed it to you right now, there would be a green check next to the invitation that I have that we have a scheduled date on whatever date, Tuesday, June 23rd, a Zoom from 12:00 to 12: 30 to talk about the alternatives document that I already sent you, super clear green checked. So the first thing you can do is audit for, we call those clear future dates, CFDs for short. You audit for clear future dates. It's got to have a green check. What can't happen and this is what happens, manager's inspecting, she's looking over the pipeline says, " Hey, Devin, how are we with the Blind Zebra thing?" " Oh, really good, Sheena. We're good. Yeah, we're supposed to talk early next week." Hear all that language, that qualifying language, " We're supposed to talk early next week." What does that mean? There's no clarity in that. So then I start to go, " What is supposed to mean?" Then I go, When is early, next week, by the way? When does that start? This Sunday night, is it Monday morning? Is it Wednesday at 12:00?" See, there's no clarity. We have to have clarity and certainty in our process to stay out of purgatory, and you're not trying to be a jerk, you're not trying to be like a micromanager. You're trying to help the team and the way to help the team is to hold them accountable to the green check, that's when it counts. And it's not perfect, me included. I sell first, coach second, and I have them, right, where something slips you, but you're constantly chasing the green check, that's what you're doing.

Sheena Badani: It sounds like in that response, there's some advice for reps to on, first of all, know your book.

Bryan Neale: Yes.

Sheena Badani: Be detailed oriented and be specific in your answers. Don't be vague.

Bryan Neale: Always. All these cloth and I'm from the Midwest, so we do lots of qualifying words. " Hey, would it be okay if maybe possibly we could perhaps might?" We do that all the time in the Midwest, I'm sure other places, they do too, but I like to try to remove those, I call them Midwestern qualifiers. Not, " Hey, maybe, perhaps we can maybe, possibly," I say, " Let's do this. Let's get our calendars out and set our next step while we're sitting here." This other little thing too and I don't know, Sheena, do you have your phone nearby?

Sheena Badani: Yes, I do.

Bryan Neale: Okay. So I don't like sales trickery, but I'm telling you... so we're on a visual, like a Zoom ish thing. If you want to set a clear future date with a prospect and stay out of purgatory, that's what we're talking about, you grab your phone and you wave it like I just did to the camera and I say, " Sheena, do you have your phone?" She just grabbed hers and waved it back to me, didn't she, Devin?

Sheena Badani: Right here.

Bryan Neale: Everybody does that and so all we're doing in the spirit of clarity and efficiency is that I'm just going to look at my calendar and say, " Hey, great chat today. I'll be able to send some stuff over. Can you grab your... take a look at your calendar if you could, I'm looking at mine." I look at mine and it's just not optional, this is what we do.

Sheena Badani: That's so good.

Bryan Neale: And I say, " Okay, let's look at this. So next Friday you tell me, we need 20 minutes, probably tops, maybe schedule 30. You tell me next," and then she looks at hers and then, here's the thing. I actually type it while I'm talking to you. So I say, " Okay, hang on, I'm going to send it. We said Friday, Zoom, 8: 30 Eastern Okay, send," and I go, " Okay, I just sent it, tell me when you get it," and I look right at the camera and she'll look at her phone and go, " Got it," and I go, "Accept that, we're good to go." Then I hang up. Now I'm not in purgatory.

Devin Reed: It reminds me of something... I was talking to Shep Maher, he's the head of sales at Better Works, he's been on the show a long time ago. He was doing a session with our SDR team and he had this great line, and he said that" Pipeline reviews should be a hopeless place." Now what he means is you should be certain in what you know, and what's going to happen and what isn't, which is just adding onto what you said, which I think when you say it should be hopeless, people are like, " Oh, that seems kind of negative," but not really. When you're operating in a world of ambiguity and you want to be certain, you don't want hope, like you said.

Bryan Neale: Uh-uh (negative).

Devin Reed: "I'm waiting for them to get back to me. I hope that I'll hear from them tomorrow." We all know hope is not a strategy, but I absolutely love that, that pipeline reviews should be a hopeless place.

Bryan Neale: Love it. I love it. I'm stealing that one.

Devin Reed: So Bryan, you're on the Revenue Intelligence podcast, as you know, we love facts, opinions and measuring data, as you know.

Bryan Neale: Yes.

Devin Reed: So I have to ask, is there a way that you measure ambiguity or a way that maybe you measure exiting ambiguity using some of the tactics that we talked about?

Bryan Neale: Yes. That's a phenomenal question. So the first thing, and again, whether a tool can do this, like can Gong do this or another tool, you can do it by hand also, and we do this at Blind Zebra. So we measure the percentage of open opportunities with a green check, clear future date. Our goal is a 100%, which I know, and I'm an NFL referee, I'm never going to work a perfect game, but I'm always chasing it and I will, my whole career and I'll never work when I know that players and coaches are the same way in the National Football League, same in selling here, but we do measure. So we can show you a stat, we can show you a KPI that says of the open opportunities that we have open right now we have 91% green check, clear future date, set, 9% nos. Then we can approach that 9%, and take action on them to work to set those. We still may not get 100%, but we'll get a little closer. That's the first thing I would have to do, is to measure, take any snapshot in time and say, " What is my percentage of clear future dates set? What percentage of open opportunities do I have that have or don't have clear future dates?" and use that as a KPI. That's one. Secondarily, now this gets into Sheena's question earlier about what if you're in this stage and how long is too long, which I hate this now and I'd love for Gong to research this and tell me so I can go teach it all my clients because you guys are awesome, is can I age? So the way I think about it, can I age my normal days to close from open to... And when I say close, I'm a decider. So close to me means won or lost. It means opportunities, open opportunities closed, won, or lost. What is my average days on that? Then I create a tolerance level around those average days. When I get outside of the tolerance, then it comes time to close it. So if my average days to close on two years worth of data is 60 days for easy math, I create a tolerance level that says... I give a standard deviations away, say, when I get to 75 days, then I think, " Okay, is it time to close because they don't have clear future dates set," if I'm in a loop, that sort of thing. Somewhere in there's the answer, Devin.

Devin Reed: No, that's great. That's great. It's always going to depend, right, when you asked that kind of question to any business, if you have a transactional business along enterprise sales cycle, but the deviation of time spent in stage can apply to everybody and anybody you can have that check, mark, whatever it is, whether it's the one you provided or a slightly varied one for their business. So, the pass, if you're looking for a pass from me, you got it.

Bryan Neale: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and the other thing people forget is no never means forever. So I can close, I can send you a note that says, " Hey, Devin, we tried each other four or five times and we haven't gotten each other. I'm going to go and close things out on my side. Wish you guys, lots of luck, we'll stay in touch." You may call me the next morning. We can pick up where we left off. Or you may never call me again, and I can still prospect you down the road. There's not like these tight rules like, " Well, Gong's opportunity is closed, never talked to Devin again. Don't ever call Sheena." That's not how it is either. Everything is fluid, right? We have to keep that in mind too.

Devin Reed: Yeah, and that's that detachment, right, which I think a lot of times we apply social norms, which is like, " Oh, well, if me and Sheena aren't friends anymore, I feel that we're not friends anymore. I'm not going to call her or text her," and we apply that to, " Well, Sheena had stopped responding to my sales communication, so she must have written me off forever."

Bryan Neale: Correct. Not true.

Sheena Badani: I would never not respond to you, Devin.

Bryan Neale: See that?

Devin Reed: See inaudible a little like compliment, like a little validation from Sheena there.

Bryan Neale: Yeah, we keep that. We have a happy note file here at Blind Zero. We keep happy notes like that, and so we read them back when you don't feel good about ourselves. It's great.

Devin Reed: I have one to do. I have an Evernote called niceties.

Bryan Neale: Yes.

Devin Reed: I screenshot compliments and nice things. I look at it once in a great while, but sometimes you just need to pick me up, a little reminder it's not so bad.

Bryan Neale: That's what it is.

Sheena Badani: What a good idea. I love that.

Bryan Neale: It's a great idea, I'm telling you, but yeah, obviously not a vanity metric thing, there.

Devin Reed: No.

Bryan Neale: Right?

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Bryan Neale: When I'm feeling really bad about my own, I'm like, "Okay, I'm maybe I'm not such a bad guy or girl."

Sheena Badani: Don't go post all of that on inaudible

Bryan Neale: Exactly.

Devin Reed: Yeah, that's different. Like here's 90 crosstalk said about me, that's pretty great. I didn't say it, they said it. I'm just showing you what-

Bryan Neale: Just so know.

Sheena Badani: So Bryan, we ask all of our guests one question, which is how would you describe sales in one word?

Devin Reed: For those who cannot see Bryan, he has his eyes closed. He is in deep meditation or he's thinking.

Bryan Neale: I am. I keep coming up with this word, that is glorious. I don't know why, I've never thought of it, never described anything like that. It's just such a cool process. There's so much to it. It's just glorious. There's so much to it. There's human interaction, there's business. There is math, a little bit every once in a while, there's problem solving. There's just such a glorious profession. It's fantastic. I love it.

Sheena Badani: Profound, I love it.

Devin Reed: No one has said glorious, so...

Bryan Neale: It just kept... I closed my eyes and things and I kept trying, I kept fighting it away and it kept coming back. I'm like, " All right, here it comes, out the mouth, out the mouth we go."

Sheena Badani: You were in a state.

Devin Reed: I love it. I love it. Bryan, I had a fantastic time hanging out with you today.

Bryan Neale: Same.

Devin Reed: Thanks for stopping by the show. Tons of takeaways, pages full of notes for listeners, so want to say thank you and excited to see you hopefully before on TV, on a Sunday morning, but either way, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.

Bryan Neale: Stay in touch. You guys are awesome. Keep doing... you're doing great work for our profession. I can't say thanks enough to, to Gong and all that you do.

Devin Reed: Thank you.

Bryan Neale: And just keep it up and we love it. Appreciate you both.

Sheena Badani: Thanks, Bryan.

Bryan Neale: Okay.

Devin Reed: Every week we bring you a micro action, something to think about or something you can put into play today. Bryan mentions ways to get out of the dreaded sales purgatory, something I can definitely relate to. Maybe you feel lost on where to go when a deal has stalled or you keep chasing that prospect you met with who just isn't replying. This week, try what Bryan calls a funnel cleaning. Take a look at all the opportunities in your pipeline and identify which ones are stuck. Then work with your reps on how you can either move them down the pipeline to close or take a step back and ask yourself, " Is it time to table this and revisit it later?" If you want to keep chasing coach your reps on what Bryan said, don't keep the same message or modality to your outreach. If the prospect has gone dark, it's time to change up your messaging to see if you can restart the deal. This will prevent your team from entering sales purgatory and as a result, you'll close more deals. If you liked today's episode subscribe now, so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.

Sheena Badani: And if you really liked 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.


Deal stuck in limbo? If you’ve ever debated reviving a sale or cutting your losses and walking away, this episode is for you. Bryan Neale, Founder at Blind Zebra and NFL umpire, walks us through the phenomenon he calls “sales purgatory”. We discuss what sales purgatory is, how deals get there, and (most importantly) how to avoid it. This episode is packed with ways to Marie Kondo your pipeline.

Key Takeaways:

07:00 - What sales purgatory is to Bryan Neale

09:26 - How deals get into sales purgatory

14:48 - Data Breakout - Discussing next steps on your first call

18:45 - What you can do when you're stuck in purgatory

20:26 - Questions to ask when figuring out if a deal is in purgatory or not

25:06 - Measuring ambiguity

30:52 - Micro action - Identify opportunities that are stuck

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