When Your Sales Opportunity Stalls, Do You Call Roadside Assistance?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 18, 2021 @ 14:10 PM


We were driving on the highway when the dashboard indicated low pressure in the left rear tire.  That can't be good!  As we exited the highway eight miles later, the tire was flat and we were able to drive another mile to a safe location and call roadside assistance.  Until that moment, I wasn't aware that the car did not have a spare tire but was equipped with a tire inflation repair kit instead.  Roadside assistance told us that the lack of a spare tire meant the car would be towed to their nearest dealer.

There are typically three possibilities when you have a flat tire:

  1. Change the tire if you have a spare and know how to do it or have roadside do it for you
  2. Use the tire inflation repair kit and keep the tire inflated long enough to get to your mechanic
  3. Get towed.

In my opinion, getting towed is the worst possible option and the last thing we want to deal with and in the waning days of a pandemic, they'll take your car but not you, so that doesn't solve anything.  Your car is still broken, you are still stranded, and you are temporarily separated from your beloved vehicle.

When salespeople get into trouble and an opportunity stalls out or goes off the rails, their sales managers are the sales version of roadside assistance.  In the context of a sales opportunity, there are typically three possibilities:

  1. Change the tire - put another salesperson on the opportunity
  2. Repair the tire - the salesperson does enough damage control to keep the opportunity alive until they can get coaching from their sales manager
  3. Call Roadside and the sales manager calls or shows up to get the opportunity back on track if possible

If you agree that a tow would be your last possible option, then it should follow that a rescue from a sales manager would be equally bad.  The prospect loses respect for the salesperson and will only speak with the sales manager after the rescue. Salespeople learn to lean on and use their sales managers as crutches, salespeople never become strong enough to handle these situations on their own, and sales managers fail to develop strong teams.

According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments on more than two million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders, only 18% of all sales managers are well-suited for the role and only 7% are actually good at coaching. We know from this article on being an underdog in sales that the bottom half of all salespeople totally suck.

When you combine those three pathetic data points, there are a few insights that pop to the surface.

Most sales managers are a lot better at selling than they are at managing and coaching and are at their best when salespeople call for roadside assistance.  That explains their universal desire to accept those calls without pushing back, coaching and challenging their salespeople to do better.  Salespeople improve when they have no choice but to improve!

Most sales managers actually believe it's their job to be the hero and that is one of the biggest impediments to developing strong salespeople.

There are far more salespeople whose opportunities go off the rails and need help but who end up following one of three even worse scenarios than calling their sales managers:

  1. At the time, they lacked the situational awareness to realize the opportunity went sideways on them so they follow up as if nothing bad happened.
  2. They realized the opportunity was going sideways but chose to use the tire repair kit instead of calling for roadside assistance
  3. They knew it went sideways but lacked the commitment to call for roadside or use the tire repair kit and simply gave up.

These scenarios play out every day, on every sales team, at every company, all over the world.  Isn't it time to raise the bar on both sales mangers and salespeople, train them up, coach them up, and stop accepting so much mediocrity?

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales managers, ineffective salespeople, ineffective sales manager, OMG Assessment

Opinion: Why Sales Win Rates Have Reached an All-Time Low

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 @ 07:11 AM

conclusionOne of the findings in the most recent Sales Performance Optimization Study, from CSO Insights, revealed that the win rate for deals has reached an all-time low.  

Does that surprise you?  

Does this represent a change in buyer behavior?  

Is it a result of more competition?  

Are salespeople less effective?  

Is it the economy?  

Has there been a decrease in demand for our products and services?  

Is sales process having an impact?

Let's discuss the degree to which each of these possible reasons may be the actual cause.

Change in Buyer Behavior - Behaviors are always changing and while it may be true that sales cycles are getting longer, there are only four buyer-side behaviors that can really impact sales outcomes:

  1. Relationships,
  2. Access to Decision Makers,
  3. Making price a primary criteria for decision-making, and
  4. An eventual decision to do nothing.

The reality is that all four behaviors have always been in play and there is nothing to suggest that any of them are suddenly having any more of an impact than before.

More Competition - Competition tends to be somewhat cyclical, but for some businesses, the effects of globalization, the internet, mergers and acquisitions and the ability to buy from anyone, anywhere, at any time, have increased the number of customer options.  Practically speaking, most companies do not increase the number of vendors they decide to speak with.  If they usually select from among 5, they are still selecting from 5.  It's too much work to look at 10 and most companies are attempting to create less, not more work for themselves and their staffs.  So, while there are more companies that can provide products and services in more locations, companies are not including more of them in their searches.

Ineffective Salespeople - The latest reports indicate that there are now 15.8 million people selling in the US alone.  Objective Management Group (OMG), having assessed 700,000 salespeople, tells us that one key piece of data remains unchanged.  The divide between effective and ineffective salespeople remains the same.  There is still an elite 6%, another 20% who are quite effective, and then the rest, 74% continue to be ineffective.  With the sales population increasing to nearly 16 million in the US, 74% of a much larger number means that there are simply more salespeople that are ineffective.  The two primary areas of ineffectiveness continue to be the inability to sell consultatively (customer-focused) and ineffective qualifying.  While these two factors make a considerable contribution to lost sales, the reality is that they aren't contributing any more today than they were in the past.

The Economy - There is no question that the economy is still having its troubles.  The Obamacare fiasco is scaring business owners and consumers alike.  I spoke with an owner yesterday who was totally freaking out over the 40% increase in his costs to provide health insurance.  

Despite that, the report in question indicated that the loss rate is at an all-time low.  That has to include 2008-2010 when the economy was really in the tank.  So, while the economy isn't creating a confidence-fest, it shouldn't be having any more of an impact than it has in the years 2011-2012.

Decrease in Demand - If you're selling typewriters or newspapers, sure.  If you own a travel agency selling anything other than tours and corporate travel, sure.  But all indications are that for most other products and services, the only thing going down is margins, so I don't believe that this could be the cause either.

Sales Process - Despite the pleas from me and a host of other sales experts, it is my opinion that most companies are not taking sales process seriously enough.  Oh sure, they have sales processes, but OMG's data says that these processes are either ineffective or not being followed in 91% of the cases.  Salespeople are in love with the demo - perhaps more than ever - and when you combine that with the following factors...

  • The internet,
  • Availability of knowledge and information,
  • Technology to demo online and on-demand,
  • Free trials, and
  • Demo-centric metrics,

...it's no wonder that companies, their sales leaders, and salespeople are demoing early, skipping over the most important milestones in the sales process and selling much more transactionally than they would like to admit.  But demos are like the 15 minutes of previews we see at movie theaters.  As each preview finishes, we make a 1 of 4 decisions:

  1. Must see it as soon as it is released.
  2. Can wait for it to be released on DVD.
  3. No hurry - we can see it anytime.
  4. No way. No interest.

Your prospects are making the very same decisions about your demos and if your demo isn't creating reaction #1 above, then the quotes and proposals that follow are sure to create...losses.

My assessment of the all-time low win rate is that there are a combination of factors that may be having a slight impact on this metric.  However, the ease of getting people to watch a demo, while failing to follow a modern, best-practices sales process, is the biggest factor.

I have written extensively on sales process and you can find more on that topic here.

Image credit: dskdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales study, closing ratio, sales win rate, sales loss rate, ineffective salespeople

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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