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Sales survey highlights overemphasis on ‘closing the deal’

Sales managers are devoting too much time to late stage sales meetings and ‘firefighting’ to save deals at the expense of vital early stage opportunities, according to a new survey of 1409 sales managers, marketing executives and general managers.

The survey by Huthwaite Asia Pacific revealed only 26% of sales managers’ time is dedicated to early stage opportunities, which provide the greatest chance to influence the course of a sale.
Huthwaite Managing Partner, Adam Thorp said the survey showed these all-important early meetings were often being overlooked in favour of late-stage meetings to close deals (18%) and ‘firefighting’ to save deals (10.2%).

“Initial meetings with potential buyers offer sales teams the best opportunity to create value and influence sales, but for many companies the language of management is too strongly focused on closing deals,” said Thorp.

“Sales teams are asked questions such as: When is the deal going to close? When are we going to get the contract? When are we going to send the invoice? When are we going to get paid? But by the later stages of the sales pipeline, there are very few opportunities left to create value.”

Thorp said sales managers could shorten sales cycles and create maximum value in their sales by focusing their time on early stage opportunities, not opportunities that are about to close.

“The management in a world-class company spends at least as much time – and our research would argue twice as much time – focusing on that front end of the pipeline where the funnel is widest and the opportunities to create value are greatest,” he said.

Huthwaite’s survey, which polled senior staff from such diverse industries as advertising and media, banking and finance, information technology, manufacturing, professional services, real estate and retail, also found nearly 50% of sales managers’ time was being spent supporting presentations or proposals.

Thorp said these results suggested many sales managers were violating one of the golden rules of sales management: that is, only become involved in face-to-face selling when your presence makes a unique difference.

“The more active a manager becomes in a major account sale, the harder it is for that manager to disentangle themselves from customer involvement once the sale is complete,” he said.

“Our research shows that many managers spend more than half their time fulfilling tasks and requests, such as supporting presentations or proposals, that could have been handled by the salesperson but that came directly to the manager because of their prior involvement with the account.”

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Natalie Tsirimokos

Natalie Tsirimokos

Digital Editor of Dynamic Business

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