August 27, 2018

The Zone of Doom

Gary Knight

Gary Littlefair often uses the phrase “Zone of Doom” in reference to when an opportunity goes unexpectedly quiet. You’re moving along through the deal stages and suddenly the buying team goes silent. Emails are unanswered, phone calls go straight to voicemail – suddenly you’re up a creek without a paddle.

We’ve all been there – and in the moment we might make excuses, pass blame, or rationalize what happened. But after we take a step back and analyze where things went wrong, we often realize there’s more we could have been doing to proactively circumvent the issues.

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify

Deal qualification methodologies are the first line of defense against the “zone of doom.” Regardless of your preferred methodology, each system is designed to ensure there’s proper alignment between the buying team and selling team. It’s important to ask these key questions, but critically important to document the answers in a structured way. We built our Deal Scorecard to quantify the scoring questions and visualize the results so teams can instantly recognize the missing elements and take action.

It’s not what you know…

The people involved in the deal are what truly matter, and without a complete view of the stakeholders involved in the decision process you can’t possibly prepare for outcomes. Our stakeholder map is designed to visually connect stakeholders in a traditional organization map, but we take it even further with the ability to mark decision-making power and relationship lines. Relationships between key stakeholders can be positive or negative – recognizing potential conflicts early and modifying your approach can make the difference between closing a deal or losing it.

Follow The Path

Sales Events reflect the critical sequence of events that every deal should progress through from opportunity to close. When you get out of sequence, you create unnecessary risk. I’ve personally been a stakeholder on buying teams that progressed a deal into contract negotiations only to have development teams pull the plug. They didn’t panic because the product was bad, they stopped the deal because they were out of the loop and felt uncomfortable. Can you blame them? The selling teams could have prevented this issue by insisting on technical reviews prior to contract delivery.

Sales teams routinely deal with complex environments that bridge personal priorities, team dynamics, and business objectives – and let’s face it… those rarely align. When you manage against a tight process with tools to identify the critical people, events, and knowledge for each opportunity – you’re giving yourself the best probability of success.

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