The beauty of having an effective sales process is that it creates a level of consistency and discipline often lacking in sales organizations. It also provides a coaching framework so your sales managers can help reinforce that consistency and discipline.
What would happen if your sales people applied the same rigor and consistency to every deal?
Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. When there is not a clear sales process in place, or sales people do not stick to it throughout the process, prospects fall through the cracks. Two common ways that we see this occurring is when sales people either give up too early or celebrate too soon. While these may seem like opposite issues, they are actually two sides of the same coin.
Giving Up Too Early
We have observed a phenomenon in some of our coaching calls recently: Sales people who give up too early. Selling is hard. There are lots of ways to screw it up. Even when you do everything right, you still might not win the business. So why do we regularly see sales people take their eye off the ball in the late stages of the sales process?
In some cases sales people take a pessimistic view and just assume that they’ve lost a deal when they really have not. They give up early, simply go through the motions, and fail to stay on top of the opportunity, shifting their focus to other stuff. Sometimes these deals they had written off come through and they are “shocked” to get the business.
By not closely monitoring and reviewing your sales team’s pipeline during weekly meetings, they are no longer held accountable for taking each step of the sales path and can give up too early in the sales process. As you and your sales team become more efficient at following a well laid out sales process, their attention to detail and following through will become a natural habit. Take the time to have these coaching meetings, and ask them to lay out each step they have taken. Quite often you will see that there are several more opportunities for follow up, which may in fact save the deal.
Celebrating Too Soon
Sometimes, the problem is just the opposite. What happens when your sales people are celebrating too early?
In some cases it’s a matter of sales people getting complacent. Everything seems to be on track and they assume everything will just flow according to plan and then are surprised when they get the news that the prospective client has changed plans, eliminated the budget, or chosen a different supplier. The reality is, you cannot take anything for granted. You need to follow the process and stay on top of it all the way through the close – and frankly beyond the close and through client on-boarding and ramp up.
I was reminded of an infamous play from Superbowl XXVII. Take 15 seconds to watch this video. The ironic thing is that everyone else can see what is happening except for Leon Lett, the guy with the ball. This is why coaching is so critical, bringing in some outside perspective and tangible accountability.
The best time to really hold these teams accountable is during your weekly sales team meetings. Ask them to start ranking each prospect on how close they are to closing. We often find in our Must Win Deal workshops that sales people are ranking these prospects at 75-85% closed, when in fact they haven’t done a good portion of the needed qualifying. Take the time to ask some of these questions at your next sales meeting:
Do you know their budget and timeline?
Are you actually talking to the decision maker?
Are they already working with another vendor? If yes, how loyal are they to this vendor?
Do we meet 100% of their needs?
Many of your sales team will have never even thought of these questions, and this is not even scratching the surface of what needs to be answered to ensure your prospects are 100% qualified.
Take some time this week in your sales meeting to ask your sales team about each step they have taken with a few prospects in their timeline. Are they following every step of the sales process, or are they skipping a few? Is there a consistent sales process, or does each sales person have a different process in mind? Are they, in fact, giving up too soon on great opportunities or celebrating too soon on luke warm leads?