Warning Signs For Sales Opportunities About to Die

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jun 05, 2014 @ 13:06 PM

Tornado

It is not rocket science to conclude that timing is critical in sales.  In fact, it’s said that timing is everything.  While I agree, whether or not you properly execute your sales process will indeed either lead to success or cause timing problems.

Things do change.  Decision-maker’s leave, priorities change and budget freezes occur.  In some cases, you simply can’t control these.  For example, in the movie Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carey asked a woman he likes what the chances are of them getting together.  Just like a prospect, she first offers a non-answer.  After he asks some great follow-up questions, she says, "One out of a million."  His response is, “So you’re telling me I have a chance!”  While the odds are extreme, I guarantee you that every salesperson on the planet has thought exactly the same thing at some point in their careers.

Before we discuss warning signs, let’s look at some of the potential causes of this.  

There are belief system problems, such as these few:  believing that prospects are being honest, that you can’t lose this deal, and that they seem to be committed.

Issues with Sales DNA can present challenges too, including:  

  • Incomplete discussions about finances and budgets as a result of Discomfort Talking About Money;
  • Failing to clarify or question contradictory comments because a need to be liked makes it difficult to ask questions or confront;
  • A need to educate (a form of free consulting) caused by a belief that says you need to do a lot of research to make the right decision;  
  • Failing to hear the most critical things a prospect says because you are trying too hard to reach an outcome (thinking while you sell or Getting Emotionally Involved).

If we approach opportunity management from a purely data-driven perspective (the science of selling), it could manifest as a desire to validate a conclusion that we have already reached.  Not asking others for their opinion is a perfect example of this.

I recently heard a youth hockey coach say that virtually all of the parents who come and ask his opinion on whether or not their child should play in a summer league or attend a skills camp have already made up their mind and simply want him to validate their opinion.  Worse, most do not listen particularly well when the child is not really interested in or committed to playing hockey.

My conclusion is that the warning signs of a deal going wrong are always there in big, bright, flashing, red neon lights.  As quoted in Pogo, "We have met the enemy...and he is us."

What are the warning signs that we so frequently ignore?

  • Momentum shifts – slowing down and sometimes speeding up,
  • Behavior changes – interaction, calls, email response,
  • Missed or extended deadlines on agreements,
  • Unexpected holding patterns,
  • Lack of follow-up or follow-through by prospects,
  • New players arriving on the scene, and/or
  • Requests for additional data or information.

Your solutions are either important to your prospects or they are not.  If it is important and within their control, it will happen.  If it isn't important, it won’t happen.  While the accuracy of this statement is not 100% correct, it is probable in the 70-80% percent range - pretty good odds if you were playing the lottery.

Warning signs connect to the sales process.  This means the warning will arise from one of the following areas: 

  • Quality of the Relationship,
  • Existence of a Need,
  • Compelling Reasons to Buy,
  • Whether or Not the Decision Maker is Involved in your Meetings,
  • Whether or Not you Completely Understand and can Influence their Decision Making Process and Criteria,
  • Whether or Not you are Aware of and Aligned with their Timeline, and/or
  • Whether They Can and Will Spend the Required Money with you.

It’s very likely that in most cases of delay or eventual loss, one or more of these areas was not thoroughly addressed.  Things were said that you accepted as the truth and you moved forward without questioning anything.  Having missed the first warning sign (one of the steps was not completed), you may begin to understand and accept the warning signs described above and ignore the flashing lights that say trouble lies ahead.

So what can we do to prevent these things from happening?

  • Slow Down.
  • Develop more effective listening and questioning skills.
  • Be sure they are serious, rather than simply interested, in moving their business to you.
  • Become more effective at selling value.
  • Thoroughly qualify every real opportunity.

 

 

Topics: changing sales performance, better sales techniques, better coaching of sales people, better sales outcomes, better closing percentage, adjusting the sales process

What are Your Salespeople Thinking When Management isn’t Looking?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 08:12 AM

Coaching Salespeople, better coaching of sales people, changing outcomes of a sales call

Cost of Sales is a critical KPI, particularly when you operate on thin margins.  Influencing factors include attrition, training, travel, equipment, compensation, recruiting and administrative costs.  Some of these are generally fixed while others can vary widely.

If 100% of your salespeople consistently make their quota or budget at the desired margin, much of the concern about Cost of Sales would evaporate.

So why worry about it? I was speaking with an SVP of a brand-name company with thousands of salespeople.  He told me that most all of their sales teams have only a few (2-3) salespeople achieving quota while the rest consistently struggle.  Let's take a look at a typical sales team of 8 people.

Salesperson

Quota

$ Delivered

Percent

 

 

 

 

1

$1,000,000

$1,100,000

110

2

$1,000,000

$1,100,000

110

3

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

100

4

$1,000,000

$900,000

90

5

$1,000,000

$800,000

80

6

$1,000,000

$750,000

75

7

$750,000

$600,000

80

8

$500,000

$400,000

80

 

 

 

 

Total

$7,250,000

$6,650,000

92%

35% Margin

$2,537,500

$2,327,500

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Margin

 

$210,000

8%

The net gap in margin, $210,000 in this example, replicated 6 times to account for the 5 similarly performing teams in the organization, has a direct impact of $1,260,000 on the Cost of Sales.  You don’t need to be a financial wiz to see that even a small drop in margin has a significant effect on profitability.

My experience is that when salespeople consistently do the things which they don’t want to do (healthy behaviors), good things happen.  Highly-effective people do the hardest and least desirable things first, assuring greater productivity.

In this light, the SVP’s comments illustrate both a huge problem and an amazing opportunity.  Yet most senior executives assume the 80/20 rule will be true, but simply leads to more unacceptable behaviors and outcomes.

Consider what would happen if your financial people were able to account for only 92% of your money or if operations shipped only 92% of your product.  It’s virtually certain that things would change quickly.

Let's put aside the impact on profit and look only at the salespeople.  Self-limiting thinking impacts everything.  For example:

  • I can’t help a prospect who's happy with their current supplier.
  • The economy is hurting our business.
  • It’s OK if I miss my quota as long as I come close.
  • I’m not an executive.
  • I wish that I didn’t have to deal with being rejected.
  • People are under pressure to buy the lowest priced products.

These thoughts influence bravery, execution, adherence to sales process, motivation, outlook and most importantly whether the salesperson can execute the call strategy.

What are your salespeople thinking when management isn’t looking?  Is sales management skilled enough to address this challenge?  What don’t you know about your sales force that’s costing you 8% or more of your margin dollars?  Are you accepting the 80/20 rule, the one which says that 80% of your sales organization is underperforming?

evals2

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales culture, sales personality, better coaching of sales people, coaching salespeople, lost sales analysis

Boxing Cornermen - The Chemistry of Great Sales Leadership

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Dec 06, 2012 @ 09:12 AM

Boxing Cornermen Chemistry of Great Sales People

HBO’s 24/7 chronicles the pre-fight training camp for significant upcoming bouts.  This Saturday, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez square off in Las Vegas.  It’s the fourth time that they’ve met.  Pacquiao leads the series 2-1, but Marquez defeated Pacquiao in their last bout.  Expectations and excitement levels are high as the boxing experts see these two being incredibly closely-matched.  We definitely can expect a great fight on Saturday.

Behind the fighters are two of the greatest cornermen in the game, Freddie Roach and the legendary Nacho Beristan.  Nacho’s fighters have won an amazing 25 world championships.  Freddie Roach has trained some of the best fighters in the world and has a storybook following.

What struck me was the nature of the relationship between the fighters and their coaches.  To say they trust and respect each other is a huge understatement.  And, the personal rivalry between Nacho and Freddie is perhaps greater than that of the fighters.  In short, there is a tremendous amount at stake including pride, history and legacy.

Putting the chemistry between the cornermen and fighters aside for a moment, Freddie and Nacho can teach us a lot about being world-class coaches and mentors. 

  • They are creatures of routine and habit.
  • Their workdays start early and end very late.
  • Details are never missed.
  • They will do whatever it takes to win.
  • The emphasis is on fundamentals.
  • Conditioning is paramount to success (behavior).
  • Mental toughness trumps everything.
  • They are masters at diagnosing the situation.
  • Changes are made incrementally and build on each other.

Listening to Manny and Juan talk about their coaches was similar to hearing grandchildren laud praise, honor, respect and unconditional love on their most adored grandparent.  It was a thing of beauty and a wonderful illustration of people helping people for all the right reasons.  My sense is that it’s almost more important to the fighters that they win for their coach than for themselves.

How committed to your salespeople are you?  Would they walk through walls if you asked them?  Is your relationship based on deep respect and trust?  Which elements of a cornerman’s approach are you missing and what are you going to do next?  A sales force evaluation would be a great first step into the ring!  Why not contact me directly?

evals2

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales management best practices, compelling reasons to buy, sales personality, Bonding and Rapport, better coaching of sales people, achieving trusted advisor status

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