My good friend, Andy Paul, and I were talking about the state of selling today. We were commiserating about the absence of discussion about “How Do We Win?”
So much of the discussion about sales these days focuses on the top of the pipeline, that is, how do we find more opportunities. The reason people are worried about finding more opportunities is that we are struggling to make our numbers. The fashionable answer to making our numbers is doing more–finding more opportunities.
Alternatively, if we are making our numbers, and we are driven to grow, the fashionable answer is, find more opportunities.
It seems “the answer” to all sales attainment questions is simply doing more, in this case it’s finding more opportunities. The SaaS world gave us the metrics that seem to have been adopted by everyone in sales. “Want to grow 20%, you have to prospect and find 20% more opportunities. To double our business, “easy peasy,” just double the number of opportunities we find.” The math works, therefore the solution should be obvious.
As a result, our social medial conversations focus on doing more of all the things we do at the top of the pipeline, more prospecting (whatever your favorite version of prospecting is), more phone calls (if you believe in the phone), more email (if you believe in that), more “social selling” (if that’s what you believe).
More prospecting is the answer to every problem we have in achieving our numbers or to growing our business.
What is absent from the discussion is, “How do we win?” Or, more specifically, “How do we win more of those opportunities that we have found?” Too often, we take the win rate as a “given,” and as long was we take the win rate as a given, the only answer to sales performance is what I’ve discussed so far.
But the moment we start asking, “How do we win more of the deals that we have found,” we start opening whole new possibilities for growing.
Answering this questions forces us to think about entirely different issues. We are forced to confront:
- What causes us to win the opportunities we find? How do we increase that, as a percentage of the total number of opportunities we pursue?
- What causes us to lose, when we do lose? How do we decrease this?
- What causes customers to abandon their buying process, resulting in no decision made? How do we reduce that number?
- What is our average transaction value? How do we increase that?
- How do we produce more from every deal we find and pursue?
Answering these questions helps us answer the original questions, how do we make our number, how do we grow our business? Yet the conversation in the sales community is remarkably light on these discussions, all the focus is on putting more in the top of the funnel to increase what’s coming out of the bottom.
At the risk of being redundant, many would say, to double our business, we have to double our prospecting, finding twice as many opportunities as we have, in the past. But once we start asking different questions or start looking for different answers we realize we can achieve the same goal by doubling our win rates or doubling our average transaction size.
As we think more deeply, we begin to think, “perhaps there is an order in which we might ask these questions, one that really optimizes our performance and drives much higher levels of growth?”
I believe there is an optimal order in posing/answering these questions to maximize our success and growth.
- We realize, the single most important thing we can do to drive performance is to stop squandering those opportunities we find. That is, how do we win more.
- Next we realize, we need to get the most out of each opportunity we possibly can, stated differently, can we find ways to increase our average deal value?
- Then we realize that once we’ve optimized this, what’s the next lever on driving sales performance? Some of you are thinking, “This is where the prospecting comes in….” Not so fast. Actually, the next thing you look at is “How do we win more, at higher average value, in less time (at least in terms of hours our sales people need).?” Here we are looking at how we reduce our customers’ buying cycles–or how do we reduce the amount of time we are required to invest during the customer buying cycle?
- Now we come to the point of “How do we do more?” But in doing this, we realize that w can do this because we have freed up time the time we need to do more. For example, in our own company, for our large deals we saw they involved, on average, a certain number of meetings or calls through the buying cycle. We re-engineered our process, leveraging design thinking. We started to design high impact customer meetings–making sure that, not only were we prepared and creating value in each meeting, but our customers were prepared and creating as much value as the possibly could. As a result, we reduced the average number of meetings to close by over 50%. Stated differently, this freed up about half our selling time, so that we now could spend time finding more opportunities and driving even further growth (The astute sales manager type will realize this simple change enabled us to virtually double our revenue at a constant cost of selling.)
Don’t get me wrong, prospecting is important, we have to continue to find opportunities to maintain our pipelines. But our job as sales people and managers is to maximize our performance and productivity. To do this, we have to first ask ourselves, “How do we produce the most from those opportunities we currently have.” To answer this, you have to be able to answer, “How do we win?”