As sales people, we get frustrated with customers that are slow, reluctant, resistant to change. We want them to embrace change, moving forward; because moving forward presents us an opportunity to sell.
But turn the mirror on ourselves, and we are as reluctant as everyone else to change.
We cling to what we have always done, we resist, we stay rigidly entrenched in our comfort zones.
Even when nothing is working!
We may do what we have always done with greater intensity. We may wrap a veneer of the latest technology around it, not enabling us to improve, but rather enabling us to fail much faster and too look cooler in the process.
We continue to do these things when the numbers come in, week after week, month after month.
If it’s us, as individuals, management fires us.
If it’s the organization, the organization becomes irrelevant, disappointing long time customers, shareholders, our communities, families, and employees.
Customers don’t stop buying, they just buy from someone else. A more nimble or responsive competitor. Someone new, completely disrupting the industry.
We know the organizational response to this, most often it starts with endless cycles of “right-sizing.”
We see the same patterns, both with individuals and organizations.
Individuals who don’t change their approach to selling wander from job to job, never quite meeting performance expectations of others.
Organizations that don’t change, join the ranks of most of the US steel industry, much of the automotive industry, dozens of high tech corporate carcasses, and countless other examples. Or they are absorbed into other organizations who force the change.
I think this is a line from an old science fiction movie, but “Resistance Is Futile!”
If things aren’t working, we have to change! The personal and organizational consequences are too grave!
I’m empathetic, but not sympathetic to the frustration.
In a recent conversation with a very good sales executive about a massive change in the organization, she made the comment, “They are certainly feeling the pressure.” With another organization going through massive change–to survive, people started saying, “This is a hostile work place, we want to go back to the old ways.”
It is difficult, it is challenging, but the alternatives are even more hostile!
Thank goodness, the world doesn’t stand still. The pace of change seems to be accelerating.
We cannot sit back and do nothing, we get left behind and fail.
We have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have to continue to adapt, to learn, to re-invent ourselves as individuals and organizations, to change, to lead change and disruption.
Change for the very best is no easier, but they know it is a requirement for growth. The very best, create greater discomfort with everyone else, all the competitors, and the industry.
We expect our customers to change, we can expect no less of ourselves.
We’ve run across some startling data on sales performance:
- 99% of sales reps making quota pee at least once a day!
- 98% of sales reps who show up for work on a regular basis are more likely to makes quota than those who never show up for work!
- 96% of sales people making quota, brush their teeth at least once a week.
From these startling pieces of data, clearly the secret to sales success is peeing at least once a day, showing up for work, and brushing your teeth at least once a week (sorry we didn’t test daily brushing, so we don’t have that data).
Frankly, much of the data on sales success is just as silly as the data I’ve quoted. But there are any number of people quoting statistics try to get you to believe that all you have to do is whatever they sell, and you will be successful.
- All you have to do is use social selling and you will be successful.
- Using CRM causes you to make quota.
- All you have to do is have at least 5000 LinkedIn connections and you will be highly likely to make your quota.
- People who take this sales training program are more likely to make their numbers.
- 14 “touches” of a prospect is all we need to do to get them to respond to a marketing campaign.
I could go on and on, but you know the point.
Using numbers is very powerful. Numbers tend to have authority, even if they are meaningless, we tend to believe something that has a number–particularly a % associated with it.
But we always have to drill down beneath any number to understand cause/effect relationships and what they really mean. We have to understand specifically what drives success (and it’s never one thing) then sharpen our ability to do those things.
What we do know about success is top performers do more of the right things and don’t waste time on the wrong things. And they do this day after day, relentlessly!
So top performers:
- Use a sales process, always.
- Leverage CRM and other tools to improve their efficiency.
- Are constantly building relationships, and trust.
- Are visciously protective of their time.
- Plan and prepare rigorously.
- Create value in every encounter with their customers.
- Are constantly learning.
- Are very disciplined.
- Are interested in their customers success.
- Collaborate well.
- Actively seek coaching, feedback, and try to improve.
- Leverage referrals effectively.
- Have great product, market, customer, and business knowledge.
- Are great problem solvers.
- Are constantly networking, leveraging every tool possible.
- Put in the hours.
- Don’t give up.
- Focus on the customer and what they are trying to achieve.
- Are comfortable with ambiguity.
- Are appropriately confrontive and challenging.
- Are comfortable talking about money.
- Seek to be accountable and responsible.
- Are appropriately skeptical.
- Are fact and data driven.
- They use the telephone, email, social media, snail mail, face to face meetings and whatever works to connect and engage.
……. and I could go on.
What’s interesting is that bottom performers do lots of this stuff too!
So what’s the difference between top and bottom performers?
I think it’s really boils down to a few key issues:
Top performers do more of these things more consistently than bottom performers. Bottom performers may try some of them, but not consistently, nor do the do as many of these things.
Top performers know why they do these things, where bottom performers are just going through the motions.
The quality of how they top performers to these things is far different than bottom performers. Both may put together a deal strategy, but the quality of thinking and analysis from the top performer is far different than the bottom performers.
Finally, it’s how top performers put all these things together that separates them from everyone else. They are obsessive and relentless in what they do!
I’ll stop here. I have to run to the bathroom. I don’t really need to go, but figure, if I pee 2 times today, perhaps my results will be twice as good.
Afterword: Be sure to read: How To Lie With Statistics by Daniel Huff and Irving Geis. It’s a fascinating, fun read!
After-afterword: To those of you who may be new, please don’t be offended by my examples, sometimes we have to just laugh at the ludicrousness of things.
Sales people continually looking for the killer close. Somehow, there has to be something the sales person can say or do which causes the customer to immediately issue a PO.
Through my career, I’ve been “taught” and subjected to 100’s of different closes. The assumptive close, the puppy dog close, the limited time close, and the list goes on and on and on.
As a customer, I think the best response these techniques have ever elicited is a quiet groan and eyeroll. Usually, these techniques evoke an internal reacion, “I’ll buy when I’m damn ready to buy and from who I want to buy from!”
As a student of sales, I suppose I get some perverse fun out of hearing hopeless or manipulative techniques.
But, I’ve decided to be bold and declare the single, money back guaranteed, killer closing technique.
It’s something that applies in virtually every situation.
But there are some caveats about when and how it’s used that impact it’s effectiveness. If you don’t leverage this technique correctly, it won’t produce the results you need.
The first critical element of this closing technique is the timing.
Most people “close” after all the proposals have been submitted, after all the objections have been handled, when the customer has no other questions—at the very end of the selling process.
The timing for this technique is very early in the qualifying process. And we revisit and revalidate it through the customer buying process. In the end, the customer probably has the close imprinted in their mind and, possibly, provide a PO before you expect. If not, you can always remind and revalidate with the customer. So use this technique early in qualifying to have maximum impact!
The other key aspect of this closing technique is understanding the response this technique elicits–understanding it deeply, assuring the customer understands and owns the answer they will provide when you pose this closing question.
So here it is, the one, the only , the always reliable closing technique you will ever need.
More so, it’s a technique the customer will appreciate–sometimes painfully so–but it constantly refocuses the customer on why they are buying in the first place. So it’s a closing technique that reinforces the value you create from your very first conversations and throughout their buying process.
I know you are eager in anticipation and preparing to run out and use this technique immediately, so I won’t taunt you further.
Drum roll please……
“What are the consequences to you and your organization of doing nothing?”
That it, there are some variations of this, but fundamentally that’s all you need.
We start this in the qualifying process. We are talking to the customer about changing, about doing something new and different. But there has to be a compelling reason to change, not just because it’s cool or fashionable (everyone else is, so I should).
The beauty of doing this in qualifying, if there are no consequences, if there are no problems, lost opportunities, no need to change, then there is no reason to continue selling and trying to get the customer to buy. We simply disqualify them and move on–no harm, no foul.
But exploring this with the customer, getting them to articulate and quantify the consequences of doing nothing, serves as the basis for creating urgency and a compelling need to change now!
The answer to this in qualifying, sets up much of the next steps in their buying process. It sets up, the issue, “If the current state is unacceptable, where do we need to go? What outcomes should we expect? How do we get there?”
As the customer goes through their buying process, every once in a while, they get derailed and lose their way. Revisiting this closing question, “What are the consequences of doing nothing?” Something may have changed, understanding this is critical to both the customer and us. But the customer may have gotten distracted, revisiting this reinvigorates and refocuses them in their buying process.
Helping the customer have great clarity on this helps them in their internal selling process. Yes, they are going to have to sell this, getting support both up the food chain, but within the organization. Doing this is critical to moving to the point where they take action.
In the end, there may be various reasons they slow down in making a decision. There may be uncertainty, they may want to leverage witholding an order as a negotiating technique with you.
But we can always come back to this issue, reminding, and revalidating it with the customer.
For example, a number of years ago, a CEO was witholding signing a contract. We were quibbling over a few $100K on our fees, I wouldn’t change, he knew I wanted the deal so was holding out, hoping I would cave. After a week of going back and forth, I finally said: “For every week we wait on starting this project, you are losing $10M in revenues.” All of a sudden, the difference in our positions disappeared. For a few moments, he had forgotten why he was doing this in the first place. The, perhaps not so gentle, reminder immediately refocused him and we moved forward.
But this example, points out an important point in leveraging this technique appropriately.
When you are discussing the consequences of doing nothing, it’s critical to drill down and quantify the consequences of doing nothing. You and the customer can not stop at, “We will lose competitiveness, our costs will be too high, we’ll miss some critical deadlines.”
Make sure you and your customer dig deep and understand what those mean. If they are going to lose competitiveness, what’s that mean, how much share will the lose, how many customers will they lose, what is the revenue impact……? If their costs are to high, what’s it mean, what will the costs be, what do the costs need to be? If they will miss critical deadlines, what does the mean? Will they fail to meet commitments to customers? Will they fail to meet compliance or government regulations? Will they lose a window of opportunity to create revenue? Will competition overcome them and what is the impact of that?
So don’t clutter your mind with the hundreds of closing techniques. Don’t worry about figuring out which one to use to manipulate the customer into issuing a PO.
This one closing technique is all you need, all the time! Try it!
Actually, the title of this post should be: You Can’t Have Pipeline Integrity Without Deal Integrity; You Can’t Have Deal Integrity Without A Sales Process People Use! But it was too long.
This is one of those “hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected to …….” posts.
Sales managers seem to be obsessed with pipeline reviews. They tend to take precedence over deal reviews or anything else. To some degree, this makes sense. After all, sales managers are focused on making the number, and the pipeline is the key indicator for making the numbers.
But I don’t know how many pipeline reviews I’ve participated in, where there are real integrity issues. I see stuck deals, lack of stage/close date alignment, and all sorts of other indicators of integrity issues.
Think of things you’ve seen in pipeline reviews. I remember a review several years ago, where the quarterly pipeline and forecast were dependent on two deals. One had been in cycle for over 1000 days, another for over 700 days–in an organization where the average cycle was less than 120 days. The size and importance of these two deals distorted the whole pipeline metrics and integrity. When we drilled down into the deals themselves, we found they should have been declared dead months before. Yet they’d been “carried in and progressed through the pipeline” for years!
Last year I sat through a series of pipeline reviews where over 30% of the deals had slipped close dates more than 3 times in the past 60 days. You know how that works, “If it doesn’t hit this month, I can slip it a month, then another, then another.”
I could go on, but you get the point. Consequently, as sales managers, it’s critical that we do deal reviews to make sure deals are reflected accurately in the pipeline. This means focusing on deal integrity.
Deal integrity involves diving in and understanding deals. Are they real, do we have a realistic view of where they are in the process—-Uh oh, there’s that word—-do we have an accurate view of where the customer is in their buying process, do we have clear next steps to allow us to achieve the projected close date, do we have a realistic strategy to win the deal, and all the other stuff involved in making sure we have a high quality deal and deal strategy.
But it doesn’t stop there. How do we know we have integrity across all our deals? There are only two ways to do this–one manageable, one that’s a total disaster. Unfortunately, too many organization are operating in the latter scenario.
The key differences in these two scenarios is whether we have a well defined sales process that is aligned with customer buying processes, that sales people use rigorously.
Without this, the way sales people work every deal is completely different. On each deal, the sales person is doing a random walk through the customer buying process. As managers, the only way we can “trust” what’s happening is to inspect and be kept up to date on each deal.
Let’s run some simple math on that. Let’s say you are a manager with 10 people reporting to you. Let’s say each of your sales people has 10 critical deals they are working (you know in reality they probably have a lot more). Let’s say, it takes 30 minutes per deal for you to sit down to figure out what’s going on. The math says, you are spending 3000 minutes or 50 hours a week just checking deal integrity, so you have a sense of whether you have any kind of pipeline integrity.
Clearly, this is unworkable! But to have pipeline integrity, we have to have deal integrity!
This is where we see the power of the sales process. If we have a well defined process, aligned with the buying process, that sales people are using, all we have to do is inspect a few deals. If the sales person is leveraging the process well, using it to guide their strategies and execution, we can expect they are doing the same with every other deal. We can expect high deal integrity, and, consequently, high pipeline integrity.
If we start seeing a sales person is having difficulty executing the process in a few deals, then we can expect they have similar difficulty in their other deals (deal integrity issues), and we will also see some pipeline integrity issues.
Summarizing, the sales process drives deal strategy/integrity. All deals collectively drive pipeline integrity/quality. Yes, and these drive forecast integrity. Without all of these, it’s impossible to have high integrity in anything the sales team does, or to drive high performance in the organization.