We’ve all been there. We’ve poured tremendous effort and energy into responding to prospective customers’ requests and framing up a proposal. Then it fizzles out and vaporizes. In the pipeline review meeting, this opportunity originally in the sales forecast now becomes marked as lost.  It’s very possible however, that there never was a deal to begin with.  This is why it’s crucial to be clear about what makes a right-fit customer, map the customer buying journey, understand customer buying signals and behavior, sync your Marketing and Sales processes to the journey, and be diligent about win/loss analysis.   

These elements, along with paying attention to what we refer to as incremental behavioral commitments in the buying journey, can help you detect a potential deal that is unlikely to close.  

buying signals, customer journey, pipeline, sales forecastIn this post, we’ll provide examples of behavioral commitments to track along the customer buying journey; 3 behavioral signposts to know if a deal is, or isn’t, real; how to recognize “absent” behaviors, and 3 steps to seal the unreal deal when you really, really, want it.  

Behavioral commitments are signals people send that provide insight into their degree of engagement, and are related to where they are in the buying process.  Customers give off defection signals.  The key is to recognize these signals and integrate them into your data models. 

Perhaps your organization uses behaviors to build your lead scoring model and process. Examples of scoring behaviors early in the buying journey might include viewed content, event participation, request for a price/quote, joining a meeting, and content downloads. When properly linked to their corresponding stage (investigative, identification, evaluation, selection, decision, and purchase), these behaviors provide insight into where the prospect is in the buying journey. 

Yes, I Want My Growth Idea


How do You Know if the Deal in the Pipeline isn’t Real? Watch for These Three Warning Signs

Most companies think about, and even codify, behaviors that indicate forward movement. They use this data to assess their confidence in the opportunity.  It is especially important to capture behaviors that occur in the later stages of the journey since it’s at these stages when you’re making a significant investment with your internal resources.  Behaviors absent in the later stages serves as alerts that an opportunity may not be real or is stalling out.   

customer buying journey, warning signs, pipeline, sales forecast, customer journeyIs it real? B2B market deals often entail a consultative approach,  involve multiple people from both the buyer and seller organizations, all around a relatively complex solution. We have found that three categories of behaviors serve as warning lights that the deal is not real: 

  1. The first question early in the interaction (as early as identification) is price. In our win/loss analysis work for customers, we’ve found that this question, when posed first, often reflects that a prospect is vetting or comparing other buying options already further into the consideration process. The same applies when an unrealistic timeline is proposed in the early stages.   
  1. You can’t learn the budget or secure introductions to other key members of the buying team.  Tag these two behavioral commitments on your customer journey map as required before moving to the next stage. Prospects who are viable opportunities know who is involved in the decision making, the timeline for their project, why the project is important to the organization, and the amount their organization is willing to invest. Beware when these are missing.   
  1. Prospects become unresponsive. In the B2B world, customers may need time to assess their options. Even so, they remain engaged and communicative. It’s not a good sign when prospects become unresponsive or constantly postpone scheduled meetings.  It’s a little bit like dating, lack of response suggests lack of interest.  


What’s Missing in The Journey? Three Steps to Seal the Unreal Deal

The three categories of behaviors listed above, provide valuable insight. It’s also important to recognize “absent” signals: those behaviors that should be present. In addition to what prospects do on your website, with your email, and your social media, people who are truly interested demonstrate these kinds of behaviors:   deal that never was, closing, deal, customer

            • Provide details about the problem they are trying to solve and why solving it is important  
            • Ask lots of questions about your process and approach and frame questions in terms of how they want to use the product or service. 
            • Request examples of similar work, e.g. case studies, and connect with or learn from customers who needed similar results 
            • Initiate the purchasing process 
            • Respond quickly to your questions 

When you see a mix of behavioral signals from these two groups, it doesn’t mean you need to cut them off at the quick. Rather, use these signal sets to probe deeper and sooner, so you can weed out opportunities that will fade away, and focus instead on those that will convert.   

If you observe or experience some of the behaviors that signal the deal isn’t real and it’s one that you really want, consider these three ways to move the deal in your direction:  

  1. Quickly communicate your value over alternatives and the status quo. 
  2. Surface and address objections. 
  3. Create a sense of urgency.  

You really can’t lose a deal that never was a deal to begin with. The key is to recognize the deals that will never close, sooner rather than later, so you can focus your efforts on supporting real opportunities. This is why it is valuable to capture behavioral commitments across the customer buying journey and incorporate them into your scoring models.  


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