The ‘great deal graveyard’ and how to avoid it

There is a place where a sales conversation and a great deal goes to die.

Once they were pipeline diamonds. Target destroyers. They were commission earners. They were the talk of the sales floor but now that sales conversation is just a memory.

Where did they go and how did they end up there? More importantly, how can you ensure that your next great deal doesn’t end up in the same place?

There is a point in every great deal’s life where it needs to stop just being an exciting vision shared by a sales person and a single buyer and become an actual purchase decision signed off by a committee of buyers. This is the ‘great deal graveyard’. This is where so many great deals go to die.

Why does it exist?

Well, the numbers say it all:

On average there are 6.8 people involved in every B2B buying decision. The likelihood of your deal ending up in the ‘great deal graveyard’ increases by almost 20% as soon as another stakeholder is involved. Once there are 6+ stakeholders involved, the chances of it avoiding the graveyard fall off a cliff.


Because not only are you dealing with 6.8 different people, you are dealing with 6.8 different perspectives. These people are paid to have different perspectives.

Colleagues from IT, Marketing, Sales, Legal, Finance and Procurement don’t tend to agree on much. When they do get together, they quickly look to find something that they can agree on. Unfortunately, normally, that’s to avoid risk, save money and not change.

So, how do we ensure our deals avoid ending up in the graveyard?

The obvious answer is that we need to tailor our solution so that it appeals to each stakeholder individually. If they all see personal value then they will all say ‘yes’ right?

Unfortunately not.

Research from the CEB shows that when you attempt to tailor your solutions to multiple stakeholders, you are likely to exacerbate the differences between them and they will revert to their common denominator: avoid risk, save money and not change.

So, what is the answer?

To quote Brent Adamson: “You are not looking for a collection of ‘yeses’ but a collective ‘yes’.”

The trick here is not to try and tailor your solution for each stakeholder, but to identify and articulate a challenge that the entire group can identify with before presenting your solution as uniquely placed to overcome it. For example, a CFO will not be interested in an expensive, complex marketing campaign just because it has some fancy new targeting capability. She will only sign it off if she sees how it will overcome an underlying challenge for the wider business.

Unfortunately, the ‘great deal graveyard’ will probably continue to grow. However, that doesn’t mean that any of your deals have to end up there…

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