Zombie Sales Opps – Your Survival Guide

Zombie Sales Opportunities
586 314 Pete Furseth

Updated – October 31st, 2018

What is a Zombie Sales Opportunity?

Your sales pipeline has Zombie Opportunities! You can’t escape them. They just keep showing up. A Zombie Opportunity is one of those opportunities that fester in the same stage for too long. During a recent customer conversation, we were talking about opportunities that show no sign of life when she suddenly jumped up and said, “Ah, these are Zombie Opps.” She continued, “They are dead, but keep plaguing us.” If you are like most of us, you let these Zombie Opps sit and rot because you don’t think they are doing any harm, but you are wrong. We will walk through how to identify a Zombie Opportunity, explain why they are harmful, and provide tips on how to survive them.

A Zombie Opp is one that has remained in the same sales stage for at least 12 months. This definition can change depending on your industry and sales cycle, but we use this definition for SaaS businesses with a 3-6 month cycle. On average, 4%-10% of all open opportunities are Zombies. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Unless you drive a disciplined process, there is little incentive for a sales rep to mark an opportunity as Closed Lost. When they do, their win rate decreases and their pipeline shrinks. Plus, they may be holding on to hope that the opportunity can be resurrected in the future.

Why Are Zombie Opps a Problem?

If there is no incentive for a sales rep to mark a Zombie Opp as Closed Lost, why should you care about it? As a data-driven sales leader, these opportunities are messing up your reporting metrics and will lead to bad decisions. Zombie Opps are dead; they are losses. If they are not marked as such, your reported win rate will be too high. Similarly, when Zombie Opps are valued in your pipeline forecast you overstate the true value. Finally, any sales training program will tell you to cut the losses and only spend time on wins. Your data, however, will tell a different story. On average we see lost opportunities take 10x longer than wins to go from open to close.

How to Defeat Zombie Opps

If you are observing these symptoms in your sales data it is time to eliminate all of the Zombie Opps.

  1. Find all opportunities that have not changed sales stage in the last 12 months (based on 2x sales cycle). Mark them as Closed Lost.
  2. Establish an ongoing review process with your sales team to routinely identify and mark these opportunities as Closed Lost. This should include some incentive for the sales rep to do this before 12 months goes by.
  3. If these opportunities exist in your pipeline for a reason, make sure you exclude them from your pipeline forecast.

The most common objection we hear about marking Zombie Opps as Closed Lost is, “If we re-engage with this prospect we will have two opportunities for them.” This is true and that is ok. Each opportunity represents a discrete buying decision from the prospect. Plus, with modern CRM systems, the sales rep will have all of the account data and will be able to see all of the conversations associated with the previous opportunity.

You now know how to identify Zombie Opps, you can mitigate them, and have a plan to get your sales data healthy again. Be sure to keep track of your pipeline health to avoid any resurgences of Zombie Opps. At ORM we specialize in predictive analytics and optimization for sales and marketing. Specifically, we can help you with a CRM Health Check. If you have questions, or if we can help you with anything, please let us know at info@orm-tech.com.