“We should never intentionally place soldiers in a situation where the price of losing outweighs the rewards of winning.”—attributed to Attila the Hun
How often can you honestly say your sales managers apply this rule to the sales staff? 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: As in any kind of warfare, you have a distinct advantage when you can tap good and reliable intelligence. The problem is, 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 salespeople submit their forecasts, do you or your managers adjust them downward 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 are:
Can we win, and should we pursue this opportunity? If the answer is yes, then:
Which strategy should we adopt to ensure that we win?
Let’s look at each step.
If you’re like most selling organizations, the cost per pursuit is several hundred or sometimes 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 salespeople charge off to fight the next battle, make sure they can answer these questions honestly:
If this was your money, would you spend it?
What are you trying to sell and, more important, why are you trying to sell it? Sounds simple enough until you actually try to quantify it.
What is the sale worth to the organization? Does the return on investment justify your 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?
Can we win?
This is not an all-subjective question. To begin, ask your salespeople:
What do you know about the account so far?
What are the real issues they’re having, and what effect is that having on the company?
If you can help them, will your solution outweigh the change they will encounter?
Have you discussed realistic expectations?
How committed are they to fixing the problem? How do you know?
Did the discussion of investment come up, and are you both in full understanding of at least an estimate of cost?
Most important, if you make recommendations that they believe will help them achieve their goal, what will the next step look like?
Until these things are truly vetted and understood by both parties, they are ill-prepared for battle and will likely lose. Few salespeople understand the cost of pursuing sales and often fill their funnels with bad business. Fewer think through their strategy before going into sales battle. Ask your salespeople these fundamental sales questions before committing resources to a battle you cannot win.
Successful sales professionals qualify their prospects vigorously and religiously before committing time and energy so their closing ratios are 90 percent or better.
So, what are yours?
Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business, a sales consulting and training firm. She is a best-selling author of “To Sell is NOT to Sell” and works with Fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs. For more information or free sales tips go to schulzbusiness.com and sign up for “GretaNomics,” a weekly video tip series, or email sales questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.