Written by Anna Foat

In moments of not hitting targets, or simply wanting more, so many sales leaders and executives get caught up grinding their sales staff. “Call more customers!” “Why are you in the office, you should be with customers!” “Where are the Glenn Garry leads?!” Just kidding on the last one, but we’ve all dreamt of a box of new opportunities to call at some point in our careers.

In all seriousness, the emotion and the visceral reaction to trying to fix a broken quarter or month is very real. Activity, damn it! But is this really the answer?

The reality is that our prospects, no matter our business and no matter their profile always control the timing on when they buy. They hold the literal purse strings. Bluntly, there is no way to artificially accelerate conversion.

Trying to force your timeline onto your customer, at best, creates undue friction to a customer that will buy on a timeline they decide on anyway. Or, at worst, adds clients who are buying based on a fire sale and who aren’t committed and will likely to churn at a high rate. Resorting to these tactics is the sort of thing that give all good salespeople a bad name. It’s the reason so many people cringe at the thought of sales in the first place. Yet, so many of us have been guilty of it.

Why?

Every business has hard timelines to profitability. Startup’s have a runway based on investment taken. Dollars and cents don’t lie. From the sales reps’ perspective, they want to make a commission. Period. If they have had a bad week or month, their quarter is in peril, and they know it.

Whether you are carrying a bag of money or sitting in an office looking at profit and loss statement, these are extremely emotional and rational levers that are being pulled. The visceral reaction for more activity is to solve the problem. It seems to make the most sense on the surface.

So, what do you do when you (or your team) aren’t killing it? Or you need to be on a timeline that is immovable in your world, and you are having trouble seeing how you’ll get from point A to point B?

Step One

Do you have the right prospects?

Doing a sales review on a purely business basis with an outsider can be extremely eye opening. The person who has been interfacing with the client is emotionally invested in the prospect, in the opportunity and perhaps in the not-yet-received-but-feeling-it’s-close commission check.

Step Two

Take a break from prospects who aren’t ready, or aren’t in your target group and move on.

If they’re qualified but not ready to buy, put them on a nurture campaign and find the prospects that are actively in the market. If you are a salesperson with massive pipelines, you are not getting divorced from this prospect; you are taking a break to see other people and make some short-term money.

Step Three

Ask ruthlessly, does this prospect know that I want them to buy and why they are buying it now?

This seems basic, but often the prospect only a vague idea of what you’re selling and no idea why they need it. Can you succinctly identify the pain that your product or service addresses and solves and would the prospect see things the same way? Here are three common selling scenarios:

  1. Most sellers usually get their product at a minimum; they can articulate the features and benefits and wax philosophic.
  2. Many sellers understand the intersection of the product and the buyer. This is better, but not enough to predict outcomes.
  3. The fewest (but the most successful) sellers have insight into what (product), when (approval and budget cycle) and why (outcome). This is the golden trifecta.

The reason number three is so elusive and hard is that for many products the reality is the vast majority of prospective customers are simply not ready to buy. They may eventually, but not today. They have no place in your current opportunity pipeline, and they don’t want to hear much from you right now anyway.So, the focus on outcomes is key.

So, the focus on outcomes is key.

  • It will sanitize a funnel full of garbage.
  • It’s a wake-up call to the overly optimistic among us.
  • It provides some rationale for the velocity at which you are making an impact.

Anna Foat lives virtually at www.bigdogsalesconsulting.com, and she is a dog with a bone when it comes to sales. Connect with Anna; she would love to chew the fat with you.

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