I have tremendous empathy for sales people and what they face as they struggle to make their numbers. It seems the mantra is always “do more.” The solution to anemic pipelines is “do more prospecting” (that seems to be the magic solution to every sales problem).
Alternatively, it’s “do more emails,” do more cold calls,” “do more customer meetings,” or “do more research,” or “do more with your accounts,” or any other things that focus on volume.
We have an obsession with volume, specifically volume of activities. If the volume of activities we currently conduct aren’t producing what we need, then the answer is to double or triple or quadruple down on those activities.
As we struggle to keep up with ever increasing demands for volumes, inevitably we start taking short cuts. After all, we are already busy, so doing more means we have to figure out a way to get more done in a shorter period of time.
Managers and sales enablement people try to help this out, perhaps providing tools and processes that enable us to do more in a certain period of time. But, inevitably, we reach a point where we have to do even more.
So we take shortcuts. We start prospecting outside our ICP, we relax our qualification criteria, we prepare less for meetings, we conduct less discovery–moving into pitching, we rush to close.
Unfortunately, our numbers tumble. We are producing the same or less.
But we know the answer to that problem—do more! More prospecting, more qualifying, more deals, more meetings, more proposals, more closes, more, more, more.
But then we run into another problem. We run out of time for doing more. We haven’t, yet, figured out how to create more hours in the day. We only have 8760 hours in a year. Doing more breaks down when we look at the time it takes to do more.
“More” has been the mantra for years. But it doesn’t seem to be working, so why do we keep with the insanity of continually doing more.
What if we conducted a thought experiment, “How can I achieve my goals by actually doing less?”
We probably would start by looking at the deals we win and lose. We’d try to understand what generate each outcome. What is it about the customers and the problems the customers, the problems they face, their buying process, and so forth? What do we do that causes us to win, or that causes us to lose?
We would try to understand what creates success, consistently executing those things in each deal we qualify and how we engage the customer.
These actions would help us increase our win rates, they could help us increase our average transaction size, they might help us decrease our sales cycle.
We might think, “If I can increase my win rate by 50%, the number of qualified deals I have to have in my pipeline is reduced by 33%.” This then ripples through to our prospecting, since we have to have fewer qualified deals in our pipelines, we don’t have to prospect as much to find those qualified deals.
This then causes us to think about how we increase our win rate. Do we do a better job of disqualification, focusing only on the right opportunities? Do we change how we engage our customer in their buying process, becoming much more effective? What else can we do to increase our win rate for those qualified deals in our pipeline?
We might choose to look at average transaction value. “What if we could increase our average transaction value by 25%? This would mean we have to win fewer deals, which means we could qualify and compete for fewer deals, which means we don’t have to prospect as much.
We then start thinking about how we do this. Do we change our qualification criteria, do we change how we engage the customer in defining their problems, do we change how we articulate value……..?
Alternatively, we might look at our prospecting. Let’s imagine, for example, only 10% of our prospecting calls identify a qualified opportunity. Rather than doubling down on prospecting calls to fill our pipeline, what if we studied that 10% trying to figure out: How do we find more like them, how do we spend less time on the other 90%? What did we do with those 10% that created the outcome we wanted, how do we do that with every prospect call?
Doing more of anything or doing more of everything seems to be the knee jerk reaction of too many managers and too many “experts.” But doing more is mindless. Doing more doesn’t force us to do better. Doing more ultimately breaks down.
We would do ourselves and our customers a huge service if we stopped thinking about doing more, instead started thinking about doing less. Doing less forces us to think about being better, being more focused, being more purposeful, creating value in every interaction, and valuing our time.
In reality, if we figure out how to achieve our goals by doing less, we accomplish so much more.
(But there is more to this–stay tuned for part 2)