Wess Roberts in his book “Victory Secrets of Attila The Hun” credits the battle-savvy leader with having said, “Chieftains should never intentionally place [soldiers] in a situation where the price of losing outweighs the rewards of winning”. How often can you honestly say that your sales managers apply this rule to their salespeople? And what systems do your salespeople have in place to ensure victory, even before they go into battle?
You have two challenges when your sales force prepares for battle:
Challenge 1: Like any kind of warfare, you have a distinct advantage when you can tap good and reliable intelligence. Here’s the problem: Your salespeople don’t get enough accurate intelligence about their prospects. As a result, their pipelines are filled with flaky opportunities. And your sales managers don’t have enough guts to call them on it.
Here’s the litmus test. When your sales people submit their forecasts, do you or your managers “adjust” them down for realism? It’s typically easier for salespeople and their managers to discuss why they didn’t win business, instead of asking themselves the right questions before going to battle.
The right questions:
- “Can we win and should we pursue this opportunity?” If yes, then
- “Which strategy should we adopt to ensure that we win?
To begin, ask your salespeople: “How much does it cost to win a new account?” Calculate the actual costs associated with generating a lead, a contact, an appointment, a proposal and a sale. Now add in the opportunity cost of missed business they could have won if they weren’t wasting time on business that won’t close quickly.
If you’re like most selling organizations, the cost per pursuit is several hundred or even thousands of dollars. Multiply that by the number of opportunities you chased and didn’t close in the last 12 months. Staggering isn’t it?
Before your sales people charge off to fight the next battle, ask them, “If this was your money, would you spend it?”
Challenge 2: Your sales people don’t do enough planning work before going to battle.
Before going into battle again, make sure your salespeople can answer these questions (honestly):
- What are you trying to sell and most importantly, why? Sounds simple enough until you actually try to quantify it.
- Is the project funded? What if there’s not enough? Who has discretionary use of the funds? Who can get more?
- What is the sale worth to the organization? Does the ROI justify the investment of time, money and effort?
- Have we sold this prospect anything in the past? Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
- How many contacts have you already had with this contact? How many phone calls, face-to-face meetings and so on? Do you have a clear next step?
- Do you have an organizational chart? Do you have an inside coach?
- What has been (or will be) your sales strategy?
- Where are you in the selling process? Here is a checklist:
- Were you invited in or did you beg for an appointment?
- What were the prospect’s reasons for seeing you?
- What were the challenges, problems, and frustrations that you identified in the interview?
- How important is it to the prospect to fix those problems?
- How committed is the prospect to fixing those problems? (Time, effort, money, willingness to fail?)
- What is the agreement you and the prospect have reached concerning the decisions that will be made each step of the way?
Few salespeople understand the cost of pursuing sales and often fill their funnels with bad business. Fewer think through winning strategies before going into sales “battle”.
Ask your sales people these fundamental sales questions before committing resources to a battle you cannot win.
Successful sales professionals qualify vigorously, and religiously before committing time and energy so their closing ratios are 90% or better.
So, what are yours?