Formalize your deal review in 7 simple steps.
As David Brock notes in his book, Sales Manager Survival Guide, sales managers spend their lives in reviews. So it might come as a shock that it’s likely that the majority of the time you spend in reviews is wasted. The core reason is that most sales managers never learned why you do reviews and what you are supposed to accomplish in them in the first place. You are likely simply copying reviews that you’ve experienced in the past.
Let’s focus specifically on your deal review and look at the seven reasons it is likely a complete waste of your time, and how to fix it.
1. You Are Mixing Reviews
In his book, Brock calls it “comparing apples to oranges.” All too often, sales managers allow forecast and pipeline reviews to degenerate into an ad hoc deal review. The result is that neither you nor your sales team will acquire the relevant information they need for either.
Another common mistake sales managers make is to do the deal review as a one-on-one. When deal reviews are done as a team, everyone on the team benefits from learning from their peers’ deals. A sharing of tribal knowledge naturally occurs and reps have the opportunity to apply that knowledge to their own deals.
How To Fix It
The most simple way to fix this issue is to put a formal review process in place and follow it closely. Different reviews have different objectives, so they should be separated to ensure you and your team are efficiently managing the pipeline.
2. Neither you nor your reps have prepared for the deal review
You are extremely busy. Hopping from meeting to meeting, phone call to phone call is exhausting. How are you ever supposed to have time to actually prepare for each meeting when you barely have time to grab another cup of coffee to keep you going.
But a little bit of preparation goes a long way in giving you back your time. There is a return on time invested when you learn how to manage an efficient deal review, rather than winging it.
You should also not tolerate a lack of preparation from your reps. Both you and your reps need to do a little bit of pre-work in advance of a deal review to ensure the meeting runs as efficiently as possible.
How To Fix It
First, place ownership of the deal review into the hands of your sellers. It takes a bit of sales team development to accomplish this, but as reps get used to the new dynamic, you will find that they are arriving to deal reviews much better prepared.
Schedule just 5 – 10 minutes prior to each deal review on your calendar for prep time, and instruct your reps to do the same. Treat this time as sacred as any other meeting you attend and use it to review the details of the deal. This means understanding the background, pain points, solutions, and risks of the deal based on the information already available.
Since you have created a list of set questions (from #1 above), your sales rep should be using this time to prepare their answers to these questions.
3. Your deal review is one-sided
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Sam, an average-performing rep on your team, calls your office line during the scheduled time for his weekly deal review with you. He is working on a fairly important deal that has the potential to bring in $82,000 upon closing, and more in renewals and upsell potential. The problem they are looking to solve has clear synergies with your solution and, up until about two weeks ago, they were moving through the pipeline smoothly.
Sam starts the conversation by talking about the company, where they are located, when they came in, what their issues are, what solutions have been presented to them, what conversations have happened, etc, etc. He continues on and on as you listen to background and historical information that you’ve heard before. You are also looking at the majority of this information as you scan the account record in Salesforce while Sam continues to talk.
“…and now they’ve basically gone quiet. I haven’t heard from them for almost two weeks.” Sam ends his spiel. You happen to glance at the clock on your screen and you’re 15 minutes into a 30-minute meeting and you’ve barely said two words.
One-sided reviews can go either way—either you are doing all the talking or your rep is. As in this scenario, sellers can have a tendency to tell stories and simply do a “data dump”, rather than provide facts and data that are relevant and concise.
On the other hand, when the manager is the one doing all the talking, they are not providing their reps with career development coaching that will help both the rep and the manager in the long term. Managers tend to fall into the habit of telling and instructing, rather than asking and listening.
Tweet this: When your deal review is one-sided, neither side gets the full story or the opportunity to understand. You think you know all the right answers, even though it is your rep who is closest to the deal. And your rep leaves the meeting without a deeper understanding of how to win a deal on their own, without needing to involve management as much.
How To Fix It
Your deal review should be a conversation, where both parties are contributing. To become a good sales manager, work on developing your coaching methodology within your routine interactions with your team, such as during a deal review.
Ask coaching questions that not only improve your understanding of the deal but will also get your rep thinking about the deal themselves and understand the “why” behind your recommendations and outcomes. Why, what, and how questions are typically how good coaching questions begin.
4. No action items come out of the deal review
I have observed many deal reviews that have simply ended without an action item. Time’s up (or overdue) and the two parties simply part, neither of them much better off than they were 30 or 40 minutes ago.
One of the important objectives of a deal review is to identify specific action items that will help your rep win the deal. If you do not establish clear action items with your reps to accomplish this before your next meeting, you have completely wasted time.
How To Fix It
Tweet this: A sales manager who is also a great coach will get buy-in on action items from their reps. This means asking specific “how” questions that will help your reps determine what they need to do to ensure the win themselves.
Help your rep build a list of action items that they will commit to completing and the timelines associated with each. Document the action items so that you can track and reconcile that they were acted on later.
5. Action items are not reconciled from week to week
Those managers who do set action items during the deal review often do not reconcile them from week to week. There is little point in setting action items if you are not going to follow up on them to make sure they were completed and find out what the result was.
This behavior leads to a lack of accountability and responsibility from your reps.
How To Fix It
Incorporate about 5 minutes for action item reconciliation in your weekly deal review agenda. During this part of the deal review, refer to the action items list you created with your rep the week before and quickly go through each, asking what the result of the action was.
6. You are too focused on late-stage deals
A big part of your job is to be hyper-focused on the short-term results of your sales team. The problem is that the relentless pursuit of short-term objectives means that you tend to be so focused on the late-stage opportunities in your team’s pipeline that you all but ignore the top of the sales funnel.
Deal reviews should include qualified opportunities that are in the earlier stages of your sales process as well. After all, these are the deals that are going to pay dividends during your next week, month, or quarter.
How To Fix It
The fix here is pretty simple: do deal reviews on early stage deals! Creating a strategy for winning a deal early on and executing it will only help reach your goals.
7. You are trying to make your deal review “one size fits all”
Not all deal reviews should be the same. Trying to make them one size fits all will simply make them irrelevant and waste valuable time.
If you manage a team that has different roles or focuses on different geographic areas, products, industry targets, etc. your deal review has to be customized to those variables. Often, the difference isn’t dramatic, but you can’t expect deals to all play out the same way.
How To Fix It
Think about the different segments and/or roles of the people on your team—maybe make a list to map them out. Next, think about the goals and objectives that each of these segments on your team has, and the differences in the deals that they work on.
Come up with a clear structure for each of the different areas on your team that you manage. This may include a specific agenda, objective, list of questions, and coaching questions for each. Planning these out will help you run a deal review with each more effectively and help improve your deal reviews on an ongoing basis.
The deal review is a critical activity for sales managers, so it’s astonishing how much of a waste of time so many of them really are. While we looked specifically at deal reviews in this post, the truth is that these mistakes and fixes can be applied to all of the reviews scheduled on your calendar.
Tweet this: Take the time to improve your reviews, formalize your management processes, and develop your sales team so that you can run a more effective, more efficient sales organization.