At the end of every year, sales leaders and sales managers direct their salespeople to close strong, to win every deal they can, and to be creative in pushing deals across the line. “Pushing” isn’t a very good word in sales, as it is likely to cause the one being pushed to push back or to walk away. A better word is “compel,” but even that word also comes with a set of problems.
Some companies believe they should offer a discount for taking action now, a tactic that sometimes works. One well-known software company has a history of doing everything they can to close their year strong, and by doing so, has a reputation for being very loose with pricing at year-end. You may win business now and also train your clients to crush your margin.
Other companies often sweeteners instead of discounting by adding extra services in trying to move their prospective clients to act before the year ends. These additional offerings, like discounting, sometimes work. However, they don’t generally do enough to move enough clients to change the results for a lot of sales organizations significantly.
Some companies threaten to take pricing or terms or solutions away, hoping that the threat of losing something is enough to get their dream client to sign a contract.
To understand why and how these attempts fail, you have to understand the underlying reason the deal is difficult for your client to accept.
First, unless your pricing is holding up a deal, then a discount isn’t likely to motivate the client. Instead, it is proof that you need the deal enough to give up margin to get the deal. That same client will likely ask you for the offer on the other side of the calendar year and may use your offer to discount against you later.
Second, if the sweetener you offer isn’t something valuable enough to already part of the deal, it may not be the kind of offer that compels action. If it were valuable enough to cause them to take action sooner rather than later, it might have been better to use it as part of the solution in the first place. Mostly these sweeteners are things that cost you little to give away and aren’t all that important to the client.
Third, the idea of taking something away can strike people the wrong way. It can feel like pressure, and it can feel like a change in the relationship to some of your clients (even though there are many ways to talk about these kinds of things that are neutral or that improve relationships).
Here’s what’s most important to know about why it is difficult to compel buyers before the end of the year: They have not gotten through the process they need to get to get through to make a decision. When you try to compel them to buy now instead of later, you are trying to get them to decide before they have the confidence to do so.
In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the ten Commitments That Drive Sales, I outlined the ten commitments that occur in most B2B sales. It’s a non-linear view of the sales conversation, but it’s helpful here. If you can look at the commitments you are missing and help the client accelerate them, you can increase the velocity of your deals—and their speed to better results.
Here is a list of commitments: Time, Explore Change, Change, Collaborate, Build Consensus, Invest, Review, Resolve Concerns, Decide, and Execute. There are eight commitments before Decide, and if you are missing them, do what you can to gain them.