I wrote, “Tilting The Numbers In Our Favor, The Tyranny Of More.” In that, I suggested we might actually be more effective if we started thinking about how we accomplish our goals by doing less.
The basic premise is that to do less and still achieve our goals, we have to do much better. We have to increase our win rates, increase our average deal size, compress our sales cycles, improve our prospecting, improve how we engage our customers, create great value in every interaction.
I’d like to extend that discussion.
While I think focusing on “getting better,” has a stronger impact then focusing on doing “more,” both may be good starting points in driving results.
The trick to each is choosing where to start.
For example, we could choose to do more prospecting or even better prospecting. That would certainly fill our pipelines.
It could even help us make our numbers. But that doesn’t mean we are performing as we should–or, more correctly, as we could.
But we could still be underperforming the potential.
I believe our jobs aren’t just to meet our numbers. Our jobs is to maximize our success in the market–to maximize our share, our growth, our market penetration. In my formative years in selling, our company had a mindset that “It’s our God-given right to 100% share of customer and 100% share of market.” As sales people we learned it was our job to figure out how to do this in each of our territories.
Whether we choose “better” or “more,” it’s important to know where to start.
We might think, “Dugghhh Dave! We have to start at the beginning…..” That would seem to make huge sense. For example if we do either/both more prospecting or better prospecting, we would reduce our pipeline anemia.
But the problem is, if we are bad a selling, if we are bad at engaging our customers, helping them navigate their buying process, creating value at every step of the way, we squander many opportunities.
These are opportunities we could/should have won, but didn’t. It’s lost opportunity and represents an opportunity cost to us and our businesses. Let’s imagine, our average deal is $1M, we win 25% of our deals, but somehow we manage to win 5 and make our numbers at $5M. But what this really means is there were 15 other deals worth $15M that we could have won–or at least some larger portion.
This is a huge opportunity cost to our companies. (The opportunity loss is actually probably greater when you take into account future growth or referral value, etc.)
So even though doing more prospecting or better prospecting may solve our pipeline problems, it doesn’t enable us to maximize our business performance.
In 1989, Stephen Covey in Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, posed is second habit: “Start with the end in mind.”
What if we started looking at things differently? What if we don’t use “How do we fill our pipelines as the starting point,” instead started with our company’s end goals, perhaps, maximizing our growth and share in the market?
As we start solving for that problem it leads us to different thinking and starting points. For example, how do we win more of what we compete for? This would help us increase our share of market and growth. In answering that question, we would focus on our qualified deals, understanding why we win/lose, understand how we might more effectively engage our customers, understand how we create and communicate differentiated value, and so forth.
Then we might look at prospecting, knowing that we have much greater leverage–we produce much more from each prospect we qualify.
Other disciplines have learned this, somehow sales has missed this.
Great project managers always begin do their project planning starting with the outcome: What do we need to accomplish, by what date? They work backwards, identifying the critical activities and milestones needed to achieve that goal. As things slip, as they inevitably do, they keep their end goal constant, but re-jigger the project plan by working it backwards.
Product development does the same thing, they look at what they need to create and when they intend to launch it. They then develop their plan by working backwards.
And the foundation of the Toyota Production System (which is the precursor to modern manufacturing and all agile/lean principles) always starts with the end at the end, with the customer, then works backwards.
We need to do the whole job as sales professionals. We should be driven not only to meet our goals, but to maximize our share and penetration of the markets, driving greater growth.
We do these both by first doing better, then by doing more of that better stuff. We amplify it, maximizing our share and growth, by starting at the end, working backwards.