By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My first sales manager’s advice as he put me on quota was: “Call high. Stay high. Don’t lead with product.” Brilliant, but Jeff never explained HOW. Most vendors provide product training that points sellers toward educating buyers. This approach conflicts with calling high, staying high and not leading with product. Superior sellers figure it out. All others struggle.
How sellers spend their time goes a long way toward determining success or failure. New or mediocre sellers believe more activity will yield higher achievement, but they don’t know the difference between being busy and being productive. Painting with a broad brush, they:
- Initiate opportunities at low levels with buyers that can’t buy.
- Waste time with non-decision makers that are willing to talk with them.
- Are most comfortable talking about features of their offerings (giving product pitches).
- Lead with product, causing premature pricing discussions.
- Struggle to establish value and potential payback.
- Have trouble relating how business results can be improved through the use of their offerings if they gain access to executive levels.
- Have high percentage of opportunities in their pipelines that are unbudgeted.
- Have a high percentage of opportunities that end with in “no decision.” No vendor is awarded the business because buyers decide to develop internal solutions, abandon evaluations of offerings or shelve them for the time being. A Sales Benchmark Index survey found 52% of opportunities end in “no decision.” This is an overall average, so the figure is likely higher for new or mediocre sellers.
These sellers are hard working but settling for activity vs. progress means many will NOT make their numbers.
Oddly enough many of the behaviors listed above are exhibited by prospects doing their own research via the Internet and social networking (feel free to go back and have another look at the list). If you have offerings that cost more than $50K:
- Aren’t the majority of Website visitors the same levels B and C sellers
- By educating them on offerings, how well will they relate to executives
if/when they ask for money for the initiative?
- If an executive asks what payback can be expected, how compelling will the response be?
- If professional sellers have a 52% chance of no decision, how high is the rate for internal “buying” cycles by mid to low-level staff?
Inbound and outbound efforts share a common goal of generating top line revenue. I suggest there be a balance of lower level knowledgeable buyers getting vendors involved and outbound calls targeting executives that can be taken from latent to active need for business results they’d like to improve. I believe the pendulum has swung too far. Companies relying too heavily upon inbound buyers to build pipelines may be in for hard times.