By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Image courtesy of Hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Time is a precious commodity for everyone. It’s especially critical for sellers to make good use of their time. They’re under pressure to achieve revenue targets each quota year. As sellers become more competent they understand the difference between activity and progress. They start more stringently qualifying “opportunities.” At a high level, one of the primary responsibilities of first level sales managers is ensuring that sellers work on opportunities that have a high probability of closing. Statistics show about half of sales cycles end with prospects making no decision. This outcome means the buyer organization and all vendors that competed wasted valuable time.
While enticing, I question whether the torrent of activity from inbound non-Key Player researchers is helping salespeople achieve their numbers. As mentioned in several previous blog posts, nurturing programs that pass leads to sellers run the risk of confusing activity with progress. A few simple questions can save researchers and sellers from spinning their wheels.
My concern is the volume of inbound research that is being done today:
- Without the knowledge of Key Players within prospect organizations
- Without budget/funding approved for offerings
How to Maximize Your Time
1. If and when sellers contact or are contacted by people knowledgeable about offerings it is important to have them share the list of requirements they feel are needed and determine if a seller’s offering is a fit. A common mistake is failing to establish value early in the process. Absent strong payback, it’s unlikely sales will happen further down the road.
2. A seller may want to ask if budget has been approved. If the offering is fairly complex, understand that if buyers say they have budget, it’s likely there is a Column A vendor driving the evaluation. Gaining access to Key Players will be important in qualifying these opportunities.
3. If budget has not been allocated, honesty may be the best alternative. The seller can thank the prospect for their interest and acknowledge that both parties’ time is important. He or she can then express concern that many product evaluations have come to grinding halts when funding is requested because potential value was never established. It would be a shame to waste time in moving forward with the evaluation until potential payback had been defined.
4. At that point, the seller can ask what business outcomes can be improved through the use of the offering being considered and whether benefits had been quantified. In my mind the seller should consider a quid pro quo (give and get) at this point:
- I’m willing to commit my time and effort in making a recommendation (the give) if:
- You’re willing to work with me in giving access to the people that would need to provide input so that a preliminary cost vs. benefit could be completed (the get).
5. The understanding in moving forward would be that the value would have to be adequate to justify a purchase. If not there would be no point in moving forward and spending additional time and resources. It would be a pink (if not red) flag if a prospect was unwilling to work with the seller on trying to build a business case.
In today’s environment, sellers with extensive product knowledge don’t bring much to the table for researchers that have poured over multiple vendor websites and are intimately familiar with offerings from several vendors. Introducing the concept of business issues and cost justification is a way to differentiate from other vendors.
Oddly enough, it turns out to be a potential win-win because there’s little sense for buyers and sellers to spend time and resources only to end up with a very common end to buying cycles: No decision.