Today's post is by David Yesford, senior vice president of Wilson Learning Worldwide and contributing author to several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2.
Are your salespeople spending a lot of time on deals they don’t win? As win rates go down, expectations go up – that next deal better close! That next opportunity better be a big one! Margins need to be higher! Do something! Make more calls! Find more prospects!
Do you know what creates frenzied salespeople? Activity for activity’s sake, without a clear direction to invest in high-probability sales opportunities that bring profitable business to your company.
So how do we transform unqualified sales activity into informed and focused outcomes? If your goal is to help salespeople and sales managers invest their time on opportunities that represent the greatest value and opportunity to win, use the following three questions to inform the discovery dialogue and provide a structure to pursue the right business.
Three Questions to Focus on the Right Sales Opportunity
1. “Will the customer buy from someone?”
To conduct an intelligent, informed discussion around, “Shall we pursue this sales opportunity?” the first “Yes” comes from a moderate to high probability the customer will buy something.
This doesn’t mean the customer will buy from you; it just answers the question, “Will the customer buy from someone?” If there is low probability, you may need to rethink whether pursuing the opportunity is worth your time and resources.
The signs are usually clear. Look at the following metrics:
- Is there a strategic importance for the investment?
- Is there a compelling event pushing the customer toward a buying decision?
- Is there a budget?
If you can’t find evidence of a situation in the company that will cause the customer to buy from you or one of your competitors, it’s time to make a “No Go” decision. If you got out now, how would that help your win rate and profitability?
2. “Will the business, if won, be good for my company and me?”
Let’s face it: Salespeople love to win – and hate to lose. As a result, they tend to focus on the time and resources already invested in the pre-sale pursuit of the deal; however, they must also include in their assessment the profitability of the opportunity and the post-sale costs of resources needed to deliver, implement, and support the sale.
If you can’t collect compelling evidence that answers, “Will the business, if won, be good for my company and me?” with a resounding “Yes,” the sales opportunity may evolve into a deal you wish you would have lost.
3. “Will the customer buy from me?”
If you have said “Yes” to the first two questions, then the next “Yes” needs to come from your discovery around, “Will the customer buy from me?” From your customer’s perspective, does your offering match their needs better than the competition’s offering? Is there a competitor better aligned with the customer on value? Are your salespeople offering a clear competitive advantage and do they have credibility with all decision makers?
Uncovering this type of evidence enables everyone involved in a sales campaign to discuss the relative strength of your competitive position. And, if your salespeople lack evidence, it is incumbent upon the salesperson, sales manager, and/or support staff to have a dialogue, ask questions, listen, and determine the strength of your competitive position for increasing win rates.
Consider each of these three questions in order. If you don’t know the answers, stop and find out before considering the next question or deciding to pursue the sales opportunity.
Time is too valuable to spend on pre-sale activities that won’t deliver the sales results you seek. Energize your competent sales force by encouraging your salespeople to use these compelling questions to better inform their sales discovery process.