Long time readers know I tend to be obsessed with Win Rates. My obsession would seem to be obvious and, more importantly, shared.
For some strange reason, the majority of sellers and managers don’t share this obsession. They want to win, of course, but too many don’t pay attention to win rates. We see this in report after report showing win rates in the high teens–generally 15-20%. And when I talk to people about it, they shrug their shoulders, some how they think win rates are a constant in nature. And they see their competitors having similar win rates so that’s just the way things are.
Perhaps I’m lazy. But I just don’t want to waste my time on anything that I don’t have a very high likelihood of winning. If I start chasing marginal deals or those driven by wishful thinking, I’m not spending my time on “my deals,” those that should be wired for me to win.
- Hack 1: Let your laziness guide you. Don’t waste time on deals that are not likely to be yours!
When I look at sales performance, there are a lot of things one can do to improve sales performance. We can spend a lot of time focusing on specific selling skills, for example questioning, probing, objection handling, presenting skills, closing skills. Some of the more advanced thinkers will focus on value creation or Business Focused Selling (which is another of my hot buttons. Some look at chasing higher value deals. When we look at pipelines, there are a few key factors in our pipelines: Quality/integrity, volume, velocity. Our ideal pipelines are determined by our quotas, win rates, deal size and sales cycles.
So there are a lot of levers to pull, which one to we focus on?
We’ve always seen win rate improvement is the fastest time to results. While all the other levers are important, if improving win rates is actually very easy.
What’s the trick?
One of the most important tricks/hacks is Vicious Disqualification. Stated differently, purge your pipelines of crap and wishful thinking. Viciously disqualify deals, narrowing your focus on just the right deals. Customers in your ICP, and within that, customers/prospects that have a high sense of urgency to change. While you may be focused on your ICP, if they don’t have a high sense of urgency, and you can’t help them create that, they are not ready now. Maybe in a year, things will change, so nurture them, but focus on those that have a high commitment to change, disqualify everything else. They aren’t ready!
Doing this changes pipeline dynamics and where you spend your time profoundly. Vicious disqualification is the fastest and easiest way to improve your win rate (are you sensing an underlying theme of my personal laziness.)
Sadly, most sellers do exactly the wrong thing. If their pipelines are insufficient to achieve their goals, they cast wider and wider nets. They reduce their criteria for qualifying an opportunity because they are loading their pipelines to the “magic number” of 3X, 4X, 5X. And this gets into a death spiral of actually lowering win rates.
By contrast, within our company, we have maintained win rates of 82-89%. Do the math on what that means for pipeline coverage. We win the majority of deals, so we don’t waste our time on a lot of other deals.
- Hack 2: Vicious Disqualification is one of the biggest levers to driving win rates. In the current economy, you have to be even more vicious in your disqualification.
I alluded to this next hack before: It’s your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). We should never spend a nano second of time prospecting or working deals that aren’t in the dead center of our ICP. Yet, in this world of volume and velocity in prospecting and finding deals, we waste huge amounts of time looking for deals in places where they will never exist. We send outreaches to lists of people, companies, industries that will never have any interest or care about what it is you sell. For example, just this morning, I got a prospecting note on my need for “machine parts.” There is no imaginable circumstance where I or anyone in my company would be interested in buying machine parts!
Our email, voicemail, and social inboxes are filled with outreach that have no chance in hell of provoking interest—even if they are very well written.
Ironically, the solution most organizations focus on is “more.” Along with more it’s cast a wider net. While even though these sequences of outreach are highly automated, we waste enormous amounts of time just blindly doing more. What’s the secret to high open rates, to higher engagement levels, to higher first meetings? It’s viciously narrowing your focus and never venturing outside your ICP.
Some might, rightfully, add, “Well you have to be relevant!” Well, the only place we have anything relevant to communicate is within our ICP. Regardless how well we might construct an outreach, if it’s outside our ICP, it is by definition irrelevant.
Most of our markets are probably relatively rich with opportunity, but we waste so much time looking in other places that we don’t have the time to look where we are most relevant and people might be more interested in engaging.
- Hack 3: Never never never venture outside your ICP. No prospecting, no demand gen, no outreach should be outside your ICP. Anything you have to say, regardless of how well you say it is irrelevant to anyone or organization outside your ICP.
Improving your win rate is the fastest easiest way to achieve your goals. It’s so obvious and so easy to see this, that I am just stunned to see how few sellers and managers get this or do anything about it.
Afterword: Andy Paul has just launched a new podcast series called The Win Rate Podcast. I was privileged to be in the inaugural discussion with Brandon Fluharty. Hope you listen to that and the others that follow.