I’m sure that we’ve all known someone (or perhaps even done it ourselves) who has visited the casino and won a reasonable amount of money but, rather than walk away, continues to chase the dream and an even bigger pot of money only to have gone home with empty pockets at the end of the night! The next roll of the dice is always going to be the biggest and best yet.
Well, Selling can be a little like that. Much is talked about the sales qualification process. In my experience over many years, I’ve found that most sales people find it much easier to “qualify in” opportunities rather than “qualify out”. By nature sales people are typically quite optimistic – we need to be!! Almost all of us will take many knocks over the years and it’s therefore essential that we rediscover that inner confidence and resilience to get back up again and keep going. But it is crucial that we have the wherewithal to be able to walk away from potentially damaging or negatively time consuming distractions rather than to constantly chase the rainbow.
What is a real Opportunity?
A Real Opportunity is one where there is a genuine possibility to close a sale for your product or service! Simple I know, but that’s the basic truth. Of course there are many factors that add a great deal of complexity to that statement which is where the fun begins! It reminds me of the old Henry Ford quote from circa 1923 when he allegedly said:
“Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.”.
In other words, Ford was selling a product to a pre-defined specification with limited selectable options. Logically that will have restricted his prospect base since there must have been potential clients who, for whatever reason, just would not buy a black car. Therefore, had Ford made cars available in a range of different colours, it is likely that he would have made more sales at that time. Obviously the automotive industry has changed significantly since those early days as I’ve certainly seen some horrendously coloured vehicles on my travels throughout the UK and Europe!
In Or Out?
Like it or not, gone are the days when a partial solution will win you the order. In past years buyers may have settled for a product or service that matched say 70/75% of their requirements. However everything has changed. Not only have economic and market pressures dictated tighter scrutiny of potential suppliers, Technology has changed the way that Buying and Selling is conducted, forever. I’m proud to say that Selling is moving towards being recognised as a serious Profession (at long last). Sales people and Sales Managers at all levels are being up-skilled to learn both the softer and technical skills to win business in very competitive environments. But so too are our prospects! There are several very effective programmes and courses aimed at Buyers where they too learn how to further excel in their roles by improving their negotiation and questioning skills, as examples. Consequently it has never been more important that the sales person Understands The Buyer, their needs and their drivers. To simply promote the features and benefits of your product or service is lazy and just won’t cut it. You must invest the time to really understand your market, your competitors and the key drivers in your industry. And here is the most crucial advice: If your company cannot provide a solution, product or service that genuinely meets all of your prospect’s Needs, Requirements and Budgetary objectives then decline the opportunity to quote on that occasion. Better to withdraw and retain your professional & personal credibility than risk causing long-term damage. Of course, also as a professional, you should always provide accurate feedback to your company as to why it was necessary to decline so that your comments may be considered for any future product changes or development.
Keep Track and be Honest
Another fact of life is that a Sale won’t happen when or just because you want it to. The key is to be working with a sales pipeline that genuinely consists of the right number and value of opportunities. There are key metrics that you must analysis and understand to be able to validate (at any given point in time) that your working pipeline is capable of delivering, indeed exceeding, your weekly, monthly and annual targets. (We will cover this in much greater depth in a separate future article).
The ownership and accurate maintenance of your sales pipeline is your responsibility! It is not that of your manager or the company. Similarly, should you feel the temptation to be somewhat overly optimistic with your assessment of opportunities to impress your peers then don’t do it, ever! That is a recipe for disaster as many, many ethical and conscientious sales people have learned at their cost. Good intentions can never be offered or accepted as an excuse should you fail to achieve your targets.
There are several indicators and reasons that should prompt you to delete unrealistic opportunities. For example:
- Are you only being asked to submit a proposal simply to drive down the costs of an alternative preferred bid?
- Your contact is reluctant to meet with you to discuss your proposal and requests communication only by email
- Access to other people in the DMP (Decision Making Process) is being denied
- A Critical Event (definite justification to purchase) hasn’t been identified and agreed
- Your solution, product or service doesn’t fully meet the full & detailed specification
- The option to “do nothing” (remain with the existing solution) is preferred
- Discussion about funding and available budget is being avoided
- Timescales and potential dates for the order to be placed keep changing
Find a Devil’s Advocate
Because of the aforementioned sales optimism, it is very easy to get emotionally too close to your opportunities. When that happens it really is difficult to remain objective in your thinking. Hopefully you will be managed by an experienced coach who will give you the necessary quality time to review and discuss your sales pipeline on a frequent basis. But if that’s not the case then find someone whom you respect and trust. Someone who will challenge and question your thinking. Someone who has no direct involvement in your deals or even your success. It can be a really healthy and productive process to listen to the how others evaluate the same situation but from their perspective. Often a few new really important questions will arise that will help you to qualify in, or qualify out, particular deals. As a sales person it is crucial that you spend your time wisely and efficiently (that too is the subject of another future article) but be careful…………. a great deal of jealousy and competition prevails within a sales environment so whilst you should absolutely consider and listen to others, at the end of the day it is your prospect: your potential deal so learn to harness & trust your own judgement first and foremost.
A final thought……
“Don’t gamble on Your future, it’s just not worth the bet”
In the coming weeks and months there will be a series of interesting articles covering various Sales & Sales Management topics including (but not limited to):
- Telesales – The Key Skills
- Time Management – Work Smarter not Harder
- Sales Leadership – Be the Benchmark for your Team
- Client Evolution – Change to Retain Your Customers
- Value not Price – Increase your Average Order Value
- Sales process – The Key Steps to Success
- Managing Quota – Know Your Numbers and Make them Work
- Recruitment – Hunter or Farmer
- Employee Engagement – Recognise, Reward and Retain your best employees
Latest posts by Len J Campey (see all)
- Opportunity Management ~ Which deals should you really be working on? - September 19, 2018
- Recruitment & Selection - December 13, 2015
- Prospecting – How to do it Effectively - October 30, 2015