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False Choices

by David Brock on October 21st, 2020

My good friend, George Bronten, posted a survey on LinkedIn. He posed the question, “Which of the following workflow is more important, Prospecting, Opportunity Management, Account Development, Partners.”

My immediate reaction to this is, “This is a false choice, we have to do all of this!” The reality is that we have to do the complete job–as individuals and organizations. None of these areas stands alone–each impacts the other, each cannot exist without the other.

Unfortunately, leaders treat these as independent. Right now, too many people believe, “If we only solve our prospecting problem, everything would be great!” So much of the focus in social media in new books and in organizations is top of the funnel–prospecting and generating new opportunities.

But that focus—excluding balanced focus on the other areas–can be devastating to sales performance and brand reputation.

Imagine, if we focus on prospecting, finding more opportunities, but we squander the opportunities because of bad opportunity management, we create a self perpetuating problem, we have to find even more prospects, which we then squander, on and on and on.

Opportunity management is key to hitting our numbers. But look at what happens if we improve our opportunity management. Perhaps this is an outlandish example, but what would happen if we doubled our win rate? Of doubled our average transaction? Or reduced our sales cycle. Doing any one of these dramatically reduces the number of opportunities we have to pursue to reach our number (alternatively, it enables to grow far more than the plan).

But there’s another effect, if we are bad at opportunity management, it impacts everything else—we are probably bad at prospecting, we are probably bad at growing our current accounts, we can’t engage our partners because they know we will squander opportunities they bring us.

The mistake too many sales managers and people make is treating these as independent functions, focusing on one area, hoping that if they just solve that “thing,” everything else will fall into place.

We have to do all these things well and in balance. We cannot focus on one thing, without understanding the interrelationships and impact on the others.

As we look at performance, at times, we may have to focus on one area a little more than others–but not to the exclusion of everything else. But the real trick is, which focus area gives us greatest leverage? Which area not only impacts our performance in that area (for example opportunity management), but also improves the results we produce in the other areas?

We face too many false choices in what we do as sales people or managers. Even as we look within our opportunity management, prospecting, account development, and partnering strategies, we tend to think if we do one thing well, we will be successful. We have to do everything well!

For example, doing great discovery in opportunity management, is wasted if we don’t leverage that discovery process in creating value with the customer. The best demonstration in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t directly impact those things important to the customer. And on and on.

Sales would be so much easier if we could focus on “just one things.” But great sales professionals don’t choose sales because it is easy, they choose sales because of the challenge of doing the whole job!

Afterword: To help understand how the different parts of selling interrelate and how to identify the performance leverage points, ask for our white paper on the Sales Execution Framework.

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