The Secret to Sales Success: Timing and the Closed-Lost Opportunity


I’ve been working at the HubSpot for the past few years doing Business development and sales. In my third year, I noticed that even though I hadn't changed my tactics very much; my success rate with the deals are going up!

It was surprisingly shocking to know that, even though I hadn't changed my tactics very much, the companies I tried to do business with (and it went nowhere), in the preceding two years; now reaching back out to me to do business

Even if I wasn't expecting a success of this sort from any of these "closed-lost opportunities" (often called); I kept in touch with a few of these past opportunities.



So what exactly was going on?


In my previous blog, I’ve mentioned about jobs having a pattern for me.

Out of low expectations and being lauded more for hard work than results, I usually do well in the initial year. There’s always a struggle in the second year and there will be a mistake or two made by me in the worst case it can even be a big one.

I tend to outperform in the third year onwards, if my boss has the fortitude to mentor me through these mistakes.

I used to think this was simply a function of experience, but -- in sales, at least -- there is another explanation.



Right Product, Right Time


I just realized one of the biggest reasons for not closing deals in sales. It is nothing but just timing! It is not necessary for the customers to be often in the right place for accepting or appreciating your product. The issue may be due to funding or maybe due to the absence of political alignment needed at the customer's company to utilize your product.

Indeed, this is why even great salespeople have win rates far less than 50%.

However, people tends to be having long memories and they won't be forgetting you and may eventually be coming back to you when the time is right; only if you were having a good interaction with your prospective customer.

As it turns out, this was what I was talking about in the beginning, that’s happening to me with so many old opportunities.


That's why it is always a good strategy for salespeople to have an honest, thought-provoking discussion. You're essentially sowing the seeds for future sales if one doesn't materialize now. Just because of the fact that closed-lost opps are still likely to refer someone to you; if they find that person to be a better fit! also you're growing your network of referrals. People inherently want to help, and simply asking for referrals can often spur that engine.

Now, as a salesperson, it’s hard to foot the timing of prospects showing a readiness to buy; especially with quotas that start when you begin your job and when you don't have the benefit of closed-lost opps. Hopefully, you're coming into a job with your own referral network to bolster your chances. But certainly, as time goes by, you'll have the benefit of closed-lost opps and be able to reach your quotas more easily.



When to Reach Out to Prospects


Rather than just waiting for opportunities to come back to you like Godot, now let’s look for something, a little more practical:

How does one gauge the right time to reach out to a prospect?


Certainly, external events like funding, the rise or decline of your business (depending on what your product does), new product launches, and partnership or hiring announcements could be catalysts for engaging with a prospect.

In order to help you keep abreast of these developments, you can make use of features like Social Inbox and Google Alerts. To see whether your prospects are opening your emails or not, (something that's really valuable when multiple people at a prospect's company are suddenly engaging with your content.) you can use other tools like new Signals product.

Also, you can make use of LinkedIn, to tell you about various changes in your network.

Indeed, using such resources to research your prospect, their company, and their industry is the best way to engage them in that thought-provoking discussion I mentioned earlier.

Overall, there's never been a better time to be a salesperson.

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