Take off the blindfold by learning who your buyers are, how they make purchase decisions and why they will choose you over your competitors.

Nothing is more frustrating for a sales person than a deal that goes dark. You can’t get access to the decision maker. Your boss repeatedly asks you when the deal is going to close. Your bonus is on the line and you’re blind. Sales leaders have to provide clarity so their seller can advance the opportunity. As a guide while reading this post,  review the buyer research phase of the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook.


The number one reason opportunities go dark is lack of alignment between buyer and seller.  An example is the seller providing pricing early while the buyer has unanswered questions.


Throughout each of these stages, a deal can fall through the cracks. This occurs when the rep pushes the buyer through the sales process. Does this example below sound familiar?


  1. Meeting 1 – You discuss what the customer is trying to achieve. You talk about your company and solution set. You agree to meet again to determine requirements
  2. Meeting 2 – More technical folks are involved. You talk through functional requirements and objectives
  3. Meeting 3 – You nail down the scope and timeline. Leave the meeting with a plan to provide pricing
  4. You answer an RFP or provide a pricing proposal
  5. You wait and wait and wait… the deal goes dark!
  6. Four weeks later you learn no decision was made. Nothing happened. Why not?


Three Root Causes of Opportunity Darkness


1. You aren’t aligned with the buyer – here are examples.


  • Haven’t fully defined the problem – you are solving a problem that isn’t painful.  You figure that they are engaging with you, so they must understand the problem.  Not really.  They may just be coming to you with a symptom.  You didn’t fully develop the problem and its implications. The buyer is still trying to determine if they need to solve it.  You are misaligned.
  • Give pricing too early – over the years, buyers have been trained by bad sales people.  They have been trained to ask for product information and a price. Then bring it back and socialize it internally.  You have to train them otherwise.  Providing a product and price is the easy way out.  Rushing the price quote makes the buyer hesitate.  They don’t fully understand the total solution and its savings. Your price seems steep.
  • You don’t connect emotionally to the buyer – buyers will always gravitate to those they trust.  If you don’t establish credibility and demonstrate empathy, they will hesitate.
  • Didn’t address the buyer’s fears – there are a lot of risks – financial, personal, operational, if something goes wrong. If you don’t make buyers feel secure, they won’t buy from you.


2. Single Threaded – you only met with one stakeholder that has any power.  The other folks involved are just making sure you can meet minimum requirements.  The people you didn’t meet had questions, concerns, and their own agendas.  You didn’t address them.  The deal
was lost when you weren’t in the room.


3. Too focused on your company and product – this is a very common issue.  You are getting blasted with internal initiatives.  So it is natural to be focused on pushing your company’s agenda in sales calls.  This leads to a lack of differentiation, being perceived as a commodity offerings, and stalled deals.


The Solution


Individual Buyer Personas – a sales tool connected to each individual buyer.  Personas force you to focus on what the individual buyer is trying to achieve. Buyer Personas contain information on:

  • Fears
  • Personal objectives
  • Business objectives
  • Metrics/Measures of success
  • How they do research
  • Who/What influences them


Buying Process Maps (BPM) – a sales tool that maps the decision making process used to purchase a product, service, or solution


There are 3 Main Components to a BPM


  • Buying Phase – the distinct components of the buyer process
  • Key Buyer Action – the actions the buyer is taking in the phase
  • Micro-Decision – the questions the buyer is asking.  They could be asking them directly to you or to themselves.


BPM Blog


The problem with most buying process mapping is it lacks detail.  At the broad sales stage level, you don’t answer all the buyer’s questions.  This leads to a lack of alignment within the stage itself.   Why is the buyer dark?  They are trying to answer their micro questions.  You are trying to complete a list of activities. When those micro questions aren’t answered, the result is the buyer going dark.


These tools will help you sell the way the buyer wants to buy.  By using these tools you will appeal to the buyer’s logical and emotional needs.  You will help them understand the problem in a different way.   You will help them influence other internal stakeholders.  Personas and buyer process maps help you slow down and think like a buyer.  By doing so, you achieve alignment.  Now you can move through the process together.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is a Revenue Growth Diagnostic tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:


  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


Sales Revenue Growth



Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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