When listening to CEO's and business owners talk about some of the sales challenges they face I have found myself using the phrase "my sales alarm is ringing" to indicate that something they said wasn't sitting well with me. I guess this is my equivalent to Spiderman's "Spidey sense" - a strong feeling that something is very wrong here.
As a veteran salesperson ($10B personal sales total), sales leader and consultant I thought it might be worthwhile to share what triggers my "sales alarm".
- Any surprise, good or bad, is a signal that your sales team did not understand something important about your customer’s decision process.
- The CEO declares to your board or internally that an upcoming large sale is, "in the bag" yet the decision goes to a rival (this really happens - I personally know of 2 cases in the past 2 yrs in Fortune 500 companies)
- You forecast a sales decision to be made by the end of the year and the customer still has not made a decision two quarters later.
- You declare a particular sales pursuit a corporate priority and you lose it.
- Any time you are 'surprised' that you lost.
- If you have EVER said, "there is no competition" either because you think you are the only company under consideration or are arrogant enough to believe the customer has no other choices.
- You think your customer owes you the business.
- When top managers constantly ask “who is the (one) decision maker?”
- When sales leaders assure the boss that they will win because they “know a guy” or feel they have an exceptionally close relationship with someone in the company.
- When your sales team comes back from an important sales trip and says, "our presentation was well received".
- When you've secured a business dinner, golf outing, or demo with a prospect and can't articulate the specific measurable goals you have for that valuable customer encounter.
- When your leadership gives higher priority/emphasis to the number of "opportunities" they have in their "funnel" rather than WIN-RATE, or if your strategy is to “place a lot of bets” so that you can win “your fair share” of new business.
- When you don’t know your sales win-rate.
- When your sales team spends more time talking about activities or the 'close' relationships they have with the prospective customer than what they know about how a decision will be made.… as if the shear evidence of this activity (golf outings, dinners, hunting trips, etc...) is a positive indicator of who will win or lose an upcoming sales opportunity.
- When your salesperson can't succinctly answer this simple question, "What is the number one priority the customer will use to make its selection?" one week prior to submitting a proposal.
- When asked who are you selling to and your reply is something vague or as ill defined as, "lawyers" or "small businesses" or "anyone who needs printing" or "potential home buyers/sellers" or "anyone who needs insurance" or “large corporations”.
- When your assigned salesperson can't name the top three individuals by name who carry the most influence on the outcome of an upcoming sales decision.
- When you (CEO) can explain in excruciating detail how you make a product or deliver a service but when asked to define your sales process you either get chirping crickets or hear, “Well that is Bob’s expertise, he is our number one sales guy.”
- Anytime you feel good about coming in a ‘close’ second or are consistently coming in second to rivals in your sales pursuits.
- Anytime an existing customer moves his contracted business to a rival.
- If you've ever said the customer "was stupid" or "didn't understand our offering" or "we must tell our story better" when explaining why you lost.
- If ANY of your sales presentations has an organization chart in it.
- When you think consistent sales success is based on something vague like “having the right team in place”, “being energetic/confident/enthusiastic”, ”treating your customer with respect”, or “delivering great customer service”.
- When you consistently miss quarterly sales goals.
- When no one is held accountable in any way for a significant loss.
- You don’t have a “lessons learned” process, or you have one but you don’t incorporate the lessons you identify into specific process changes, or you only use your process after a loss (as a witch hunt).
If any of these applies to your business, run, don't walk, to the nearest alarm and pull it. You have a sales emergency that needs to be addressed right away. If you don’t know why these should trigger an alarm, give us a call and we will explain why we think so and recommend what to do about it.