Delayed or lost deals are a stark reality of the current global corona virus pandemic. Gartner CSO research suggests that nearly 70% of B2B customers feel overloaded with organisational complexity and are facing roadblocks, including unclear decision making and conflicting priorities.
Although some organisations are in better positions than others to weather the turbulent market conditions, I think all sales leaders will agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult for even the best frontline salespeople to navigate the customer effectively.
Experienced sales professionals know that there are only ever two reasons why a sale is lost. Either you were outsold or shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Going after business you cannot win is something to avoid at all times, but especially when markets are so uncertain.
Fortune will favour those that can stay close to their customers, anticipate intent to purchase and are quick to mobilise themselves in the right direction as a result. But how can you effectively qualify deals as worthy of pursuing?
This requires a re-assessment of the way you currently conduct opportunity management.
Winning a sale is achieved through an accumulation of customer commitments and it is crucial to focus a salesperson’s attention during sales calls on this meaningful pursuit. This means looking closely at what the customer physically does to progress things, rather than going on just what they say.
More than ever before, both the sales team and the customer need to undertake activities to move the sale forward. This is essential to be able to truly gauge how committed a customer is and whether they are willing and able to progress with the sale.
This requires salespeople to demonstrate authority and be equipped with well-directed action planning skills. Instil this now and great habits will emerge that will feel much easier to sustain when normal business resumes.
Some salespeople seem to have a much easier time than others; competition scurries away, the budget is still big enough; it is easy to get access to the decision-makers and they continue to secure business. For others, life is tough.
If you ask salespeople to tell you their plan for a sale, there is usually three types of response:
A commitment is always a physical action, black or white. It is a clear statement of what you want the customer to do, enabling the salesperson to be a lot more single minded. If ‘calling high’, like this is so effective then why do so many salespeople fail to do it?
Most often the salesperson cannot think of a good reason to call the customer or may be worried about upsetting their contact, especially now when the tone needs to be particularly sensitive, relevant and helpful.
Customers expect you to level with them, now more than ever. You are simply asking for practical next steps; the skill of which is in the way a salesperson asks. ‘You are happy to put the work into the deal and make the sizable investment necessary into formalising the bid, if you have some assurance from the customer, in the form of physical actions from them, that there is value, and low risk, in you doing this.’
If the salesperson has done a good job in creating needs and giving evidence and the customer is serious about moving forward, they will commit to the practical actions asked of them to progress the sale. If they do not, or cannot, you have flushed out issues or showstoppers which may mean the deal is unwinnable and you should walk away.
Getting a stronger handle on the likelihood of winning a deal is a key enabler for sales leaders to successfully steer the ship through these stormy conditions. Planning sales using customer commitments enables this by providing a common language across the sales organisation both from a process management and internal resource allocation point of view.
Salespeople become empowered with authority, direction and the ability to say no.
Sales leaders achieve more informed forecasts, based on a forensic understanding of each deal, leading to predictable, reliable and accurate pipelines.
As the creators of SCOTSMAN®, we believe that the rigorous qualiﬁcation process SCOTSMAN® provides identiﬁes the areas of concern in the sale and helps inform salespeople about the commitments needed to resolve them. For example, ‘I will lose unless I can get the budget increased, or unless I can change the timescales’. It is important to deal with each, or decide to walk away, before valuable time is wasted.
Being frank and asking for commitments from the customer will not only strengthen future relationships, it will ensure your resources are well spent and you can accurately forecast your way out of the unfortunate situation many businesses currently find themselves in.
Our suite of virtual and online training programmes helps sellers to overcome issues and increase their balance of power.
We wish you all good health.
Mike and the Advance Team