Today’s post is by David Varner, author of The Sales ChecklistTM: Get It Right Every Time!
I’ve been in the sales training industry for the better part of 20 years, and I’ve observed countless companies re-implement their sales training or pursue the latest shiny new thing.
I’m not talking about ongoing sales skills development and optimization. I’m talking about the belief that their overall sales process isn’t yielding enough conversions to sales. In response, sales leaders feel the need to start over, invest in more training, “and do it right this time.”
Why Is the Average Closing Rate Only 25 Percent?
Why do sales organizations continually do this? Was the training they invested in flawed? Seeking the answer to this led me to write my new book, The Sales ChecklistTM.
The reality is that most salespeople already have an acceptable level of selling skills. Can they get better? Absolutely. Is lack of skills the real sales conversion problem sales organizations are facing? No.
From our research, the average closing (conversion) percentage today, across all industries, is approximately 25 percent. This means three out of four of the sales pursuits that make their way through your sales process will result in a loss, no decision, or an unknown conclusion.
Disappointingly, this losing rate has stayed the same for many years. With access to so many sales skills programs, why is this happening?
The reason sales are lost (or pursued when they should not be) is that the salesperson missed something he or she knew was necessary to do. Why did they miss it? Because, in the real world, it may be something they don’t consistently execute. However, there are required steps that must be systematically covered to ensure a positive outcome – either a closed sale or an informed, early disengagement.
The Sales Checklist™ – Get It Right Every Time!
Checklists minimize avoidable failures due to lack of attention, memory, or thoroughness. They empower professionals to have a higher baseline of performance by reminding them of the necessary steps in a process – where missing one step potentially has the same consequences as missing all the steps.
Although we don’t typically think of a shopping list as a checklist, it is. Without a checklist, we forget to pick up items we know we should. A checklist for shopping ensures you don’t have to go back to the store to pick up the milk!
In aviation, checklists are vital. Pilots use them as part of their protocol because they have found it could mean the difference between life and death. The first known use of a checklist for pilots occurred following the 1935 maiden flight of the prototype Boeing XB-17 (later B-17) WWII bomber. The flight, conducted by one of the Air Force’s most experienced pilots, ended in tragedy shortly after takeoff: the pilot had forgotten to release a locking mechanism on the rudder and elevator controls. The pilot had known he had to do it, but he simply missed a step. Once Boeing identified the cause of the crash, they developed a checklist to ensure that, going forward, pilots didn’t miss any steps.
Once the checklist was adopted, the impact was two million flying miles without a similar incident.
The Power of a Checklist for Sales
How do we, as salespeople and sales leaders, gain the same consistency of a pilot successfully executing a flight from departure to arrival? How do pilots get it right, statistically, almost 100 percent of the time? How do they apply their knowledge consistently and correctly every time? How do they make the preflight look so easy, so simple? How do they manage extreme complexity so consistently?
Simple. They follow a checklist.
Overall, salespeople are competent and know how to ask questions, probe, develop solutions, develop coaches or mentors, and so forth. The reality, however, is that the majority of their time (75 percent losing rate) is wasted on opportunities where they have missed a step or more.
This leads to lost sales (or sales that were never going to be won) being pursued to the end of the customer’s buying process – representing a tremendous opportunity cost.
Typically, customers require three to four companies to quote or bid on any major purchase. This means the customer must motivate two or three of the salespeople who are not going to win the order to stay engaged to ensure they receive the necessary number of quotes.
Using The Sales Checklist™ will ensure you have visibility when you’re the third or fourth quote – empowering you to make an informed decision whether to stay engaged or invest your resources where they will produce a greater return.
A sales checklist minimizes avoidable failure. No longer will missed steps lead to being blindsided by a surprise lost sale. Checklists minimize avoidable failures due to lack of attention, memory, or thoroughness.
Yes, You Can Build a More Successful Sales Organization and Win More Sales
Sales leaders, are you tired of the following?
- Struggling with the difficulty of growing sales organically
- The lack of data to make informed sales decisions
- Managing and coaching salespeople who all seem to have their own ways of selling
- Implementing sales methodologies that consistently fail to meet your expectations
- Low closing rates, inaccurate forecasts, wasted resources, and surprise losses
- Poor adoption and impact of CRM
If so, my book enables you to implement a simple checklist – one that will empower you to run your sales territory or organization with the confidence and consistency of a pilot. Simple solutions get adopted; complex ones do not. Sales meetings, sales coaching, and deal reviews will be short, focused, productive, and consistent.
Data will enable your team to systematically disengage from business they’re not going to win. Do the math: If using the checklist empowers your sales team to intelligently fire one out of four of your pursuits and replace it with one more likely to close, how will your numbers be impacted? All of a sudden, a 10+ percent growth in organic sales is very reasonable.
Salespeople, are you tired of attending the “flavor of the month” sales training programs every year or two, only to have it be essentially forgotten in a few months? For this reason, many of you have become jaded and don’t take new training seriously.
In the short time it takes to read this book, you’ll learn a framework to consistently navigate any business-to-business sale, with no long implementation process. This book is written from a sales leader’s point of view, but the concepts also apply to everyone within an organization. It will provide you with immediate, measurable results, including higher commissions.
The Sales Checklist™ and COVID-19
In the past few months, the worlds of our customers have been turned upside down. The majority of (if not all) the opportunities in our sales forecasts have been impacted – and will continue to be impacted.
With all the uncertainty we’re facing, we need data more than ever to quickly answer key questions. What does our forecast look like now? Where do we spend our time? How can we move opportunities forward? Which opportunities are no longer qualified? We can’t afford to guess or assume. Gut feelings are dangerous.
Time is of the essence. We need solutions that are easy to use, simple to coach, and produce immediate results. We need to do something now – not next quarter.
The Sales Checklist™ is uniquely suited to help. Using the checklist will allow you to use data to quickly review every active opportunity on your forecast, accurately determine where you are positioned, and decide what you need to do next to either move it forward or make an informed decision to disengage and invest the sales resources where they will produce a greater return.
Unfortunately, it’s irrelevant if a deal had been forecast to close the end of April. That may not be accurate any longer.
Additionally, if yours is one of the few businesses that has seen a positive spike in business from COVID-19, what’s your forecast and pipeline going to look like when the spike subsides?
We must strive to run our sales organizations with facts, not faulty assumptions. The Sales Checklist will empower you and your team to make timely, informed sales decisions minimizing your current risk and positioning you for success in the future.
If you’re seeking a simple yet sophisticated tool to immediately improve your sales results, get your copy of my new book, The Sales ChecklistTM: Get It Right Every Time!