As a Nor'Easter barreled across Central Massachusetts today, a few interesting storm-related happenings were analogous to some sales-related occurrences. This article will explore two weather-related analogies:
- It's in 3D - Dinger the Dog and his choice of Doors
- The Magic of Weather Apps
I've written about Dinger, our six-year-old Golden Doodle, several times. The most popular article was when I claimed and proved that Dinger's listening skills were better than those of salespeople.
At the onset of the storm Dinger went out to do his business and got soaked. When he's ready to come back into the house, he usually looks in the windows to see which room we are in, and whether that's in the front of the house or the back of the house he goes to a front or back door and knocks just like we do. Knock-knock-knock. He knew he was soaked so he went to the side door, which opens into a room with a tile floor, where we dry him with a towel. A new trick - he knew which door to use based on the weather!
Dinger is smarter than so many salespeople who regularly use the wrong doors. Some salespeople use the back door which leads to the warehouse. Others use the front door which leads directly to reception and procurement. Some use the side door which brings them to business users and middle management. But the best salespeople, the top 10%, use the private entrance which leads to the C Suite. If you had to rank the doors in order of importance, regardless of what you are selling, it would be:
- The Private Entrance - this is where decisions - about everything - are made. Worst case, you get a top-down introduction to someone who deals with what you sell. I remember the first time that happened to me around 40 years ago. The CEO, who I didn't know, introduced me to the VP Sales, who I didn't know. I wasn't very impressive and was really young but that Sales VP felt pressured to do business with me by what he perceived to be a strong relationship between me and the CEO. Which is easier and more powerful - fighting your way up or getting introduced on your way down?
- The Warehouse - There are only two reasons to enter the warehouse. Either you are looking for door number 2 - the entrance to the Plant Manger's office, or you are talking with people working in the plant to identify issues that you can use in a meeting with the VP of Manufacturing or the VP of Engineering after the CEO introduces them to you.
- The Side Door - I can't think of a good reason to enter through the side door because users and middle managers don't have the authority to say anything except, "looks good," "we'll let you know," and "No."
- The Front Entrance - The only thing worse than the side door is the door that delivers you to the official gatekeepers of the kingdom and of course, procurement. If you are selling the right way, you might end up in procurement to formalize terms, and get sign-off on a Purchase Order. You must never begin in Procurement unless you simply offer no value, have the lowest price, and are selling large quantities of a low priced product. When people write about the death of selling, that's really a phrase about where salespeople go to die. Procurement.
47% of salespeople reach decision makers but 90% of the best salespeople reach decision makers while only 5% of the worst salespeople reach decision makers. Do you think there is a correlation? What about causation? Damn straight.
The storm caused me to regularly check the weather apps. Apps plural because for some reason, despite having access to the exact same data, they all predict something completely different. My four apps of choice were:
- Accuweather predicted 12-18 inches of snow
- Weather.com predicted 4-8 inches of snow
- Apple Weather (formerly Dark Sky) predicted an inch of mixed precipitation
- Fox Weather predicted 2 inches of rain and sleet.
Post Storm Note: We received 3 inches of snow Weather.com came the closest - this time.
Could four forecasts be more different and confusing? Forecasting winter weather in New England is tricky and the difference between rain, snow, ice and mixed precipitation can sometimes come down to the center of the storm tracking a few more miles east or west of the original storm track.
Weather forecasts are the same as forecasting a sale.
There is your personal sales forecast, which by nature will be overly optimistic as you'll have it closing sooner than it actually will, and for more money than you'll actually get. But lost in your forecast are the three forecasts from your three competitors. They too will forecast a win and unlike the weather apps, which all have the potential to get the forecast correct, only one of your forecasts will be accurate. Only one of four can win - a 25% chance of being right.
And you're going to win this because why? They like you better? You have a strong relationship? You have a better product? You have a better price? You have faster delivery? You have a better reputation? You have better references? You've been around longer? Your quality is better?
Who cares about that stuff other than you? If those were truly the difference makers you would win every deal, every single time. But you don't win every deal, do you?
The question isn't "why not?" The question is why are your forecasts wrong?
Most of the time, sales forecasts fail to take into consideration the following:
- If the salesperson entered through the correct door - are they talking with THE decision maker as opposed to A decision maker or influencer?
- Was there a compelling reason for the prospect to take action and is there a compelling reason to buy from you instead of the competition?
- Was the salesperson effective enough selling value so that the prospect will spend more to buy from you?
- Was the opportunity thoroughly qualified?
While 28% of salespeople are strong qualifiers, 77% of the best salespeople are strong qualifiers and 0% of the worst salespeople are strong qualifiers. ZERO! Do you think there is a correlation? What about causation?
Think like Dinger and use four weather apps, become a strong consultative seller and a strong qualifier, and your sales effectiveness will improve drastically!