Stop Chasing Shiny Objects!
This is good advice for fish but also applies to salespeople.
Prospecting for new business is hard! We have more ways to “connect” with prospects than ever before, but instead of getting easier, it is more difficult now than ever to reach prospects. Prospects are more evasive and harder to reach than ever.
Are we surprised when salespeople get so excited when they finally reach a prospect? After all the hard work and effort to find someone that is willing to talk about your product or service, the last thing you want to do is qualify them to find out if they are a good prospect for your product or service, right? Instead, we believe that once they get to know us, and how great our product or service is, we can convert them to customers. Unfortunately, this optimistic approach has extremely negative consequences.
The truth is most salespeople waste too much time on prospects that have no intention of buying or are not qualified to buy. One of the mantras I use when coaching salespeople is, “If the prospect is going to tell us no – let’s get there as fast as we can!” Engaging with unqualified prospects is expensive and a waste of time. Time spent with unqualified prospects is time not spent with those who will buy from you. This results in lower closing ratios and lower sales. Unfortunately, it takes most salespeople a long time to realize how much time they wasted and how much money they have lost chasing shiny objects instead of working with qualified prospects.
Qualifying prospects is not difficult, and it does not take long, but it does require discipline and commitment. Here is a simple roadmap I was taught to help recognize a qualified prospect for my product or service. The qualification process is based on addressing the following questions:
1. Does the prospect have a compelling need for your offering? – Is there a defined problem to solve (pain) or desired benefit (gain) that the prospect is interested in? Engaging in a discovery process is one of the most important things you can do in the initial phases of your sales process. Before you can deliver your solution, you need to know what problem you are solving for the customer. Every sales rep should have a list of questions they use to gain insight on the prospects challenge or goal.
2. Are you dealing with the decision maker? Does the prospect have the authority to make the purchase? Depending on the size or complexity of your solution, there may be other stakeholders involved in making the purchasing decision. If there are multiple stakeholders involved in the decision, how are you going to get them involved in the process?
3. Is there an impending event that will prompt a decision? Did something happen in the business that is driving the need for your solution? If not, what would compel the prospect to act on your proposal?
4. Does the prospect have funds allocated to purchase my product or solution? It’s not uncommon to meet prospects that are gathering information in preparation for a future event. They may be seeking information, evaluating options, or gathering information on the cost of various solutions so that they can add that to a future budget. They are not in a position to act on your proposal and may not be for several months.
5. Is the prospect willing to do business with my company? We often assume that if a prospect is taking time to meet with us and get a proposal from us that they must be willing to do business with us. However, I have seen on more than one occasion that the prospect is only engaged in the process to satisfy a company policy that requires them to get multiple bids. They have no intention of changing vendors and will share my information with the incumbent if it is a competitive situation.
Like many salespeople that I have worked with, I am guilty of hanging on too long to prospects who were in no position to make a purchasing decision. I convinced myself that once they got to know me and the solution I represented, these obstacles would disappear. Salespeople will often rationalize that by sending out the proposal, the prospect will have the information they need when they are ready to move forward. Unfortunately, that never happens.
Chasing these shiny objects does not only hurt the salesperson, but the company as well.
Companies continue to put labor and resources into chasing these losing propositions. This results in a lower closing ratio which undermines the confidence the business owner has in the sales organization. This translates into cautious behavior and an unwillingness to act which impacts the entire organization.
Sales Leaders must drive sales reps towards a pipeline that is full of qualified prospects who are likely to buy their product or service. A large pipeline full of unqualified opportunities may look good, but it will not get the results they are looking for. In collaborating with my clients, I recommend that a proposal cannot be worked on or sent to a prospect until the questions outlined above have been answered. These questions serve as the criteria as to whether or not we will provide a proposal for our solution. Adhering to this policy dramatically reduces the number of “closed lost” opportunities and the reasons deals are lost.
Are your salespeople spending too much time chasing shiny objects? If you are not sure, I suggest that you sit down with each of your reps and ask them the questions above on each of their deals. You will find out very quickly how qualified your pipeline is and how much time your sales reps spend working on opportunities that have no chance to close.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments. If you would like to talk about how to get your salespeople to exceed expectations, click on the link below.