That’s an astonishing figure, isn’t it? You could argue that it’s obvious – if you win 35 opportunities and lose 65 you’re bound to have spent more time on the ‘lost’ side of the equation. It’s just simple maths.
The astonishing part is this: why are you spending proportionally the same amount of time on opportunities you lose as on those you win?
Salespeople, by their very nature, are eternal optimists so believe that they can sell their products or services to anyone who shows a passing interest. Thus, they will chase any and every prospect that comes their way.
Lots of companies set targets but don’t really care how their salespeople achieve them, so long as they do. With this mindset behind them, what salesperson isn’t going to attempt to drive every enquiry through to an order?
The result of these ways of thinking is a lot of wasted time spent on opportunities that will NEVER convert to orders. This is regardless of the quality or price of the offerings or the abilities of the person trying to sell them.
All Opportunities Are Not Created Equal
That company enquiring after your products and services will never tell you that you are just making up the numbers because they need three quotes. They’ll never let on that they are using you to drive down prices from their current (and future) supplier! That’s the reality, whether you like it or not and it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to uncover this information.
Looking at my own past, the lost opportunities have had much more ‘dead time’ within them where people didn’t return my calls or reply to my e-mails so I had to spend time chasing them.
Equally, I spent time waiting to discover the results of them ‘thinking about it’ or ‘evaluating other options’ or some such excuse why they wouldn’t move forward.
A lot of the effort that goes into lost opportunities is the ‘banging your head against a wall’ type of effort.
A Better Approach
Salespeople (and their managers!) need to understand that their job is to qualify people OUT of their sales pipeline at the earliest possible opportunity. In this way, the prospects that progress to the later stages are the ones most likely to place an order.
Obviously, there needs to be some ‘waggle room’ whilst qualifying so that you don’t lose good prospects. You don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater!
In order to understand when to qualify in and when to qualify out, salespeople and their companies need to know what success really looks like.
Have a defined set of criteria that clearly illustrate the path from enquiry to order. These criteria, by and large, should be things that the prospect has to instigate. Otherwise the salesperson is just driving the process by ‘wishful thinking’.
Develop the criteria around how orders have been won and lost in the past. This will highlight things that need to happen but will also raise warning flags when undesirable activities occur. For example, you receive a ‘request for proposal’ out of the blue but the prospect will not answer any of the questions you have. Red flag – it’s likely you are just making up the numbers and should respond with a polite “Thanks, but no thanks.”
If the roadmap to success (also known as a sales process) is designed robustly enough, it will include enough flexibility to ensure that real opportunities remain active and are not qualified out incorrectly.
You can find more of our thoughts on sales processes in this article on LinkedIn: Rethinking the Sales Funnel
If you would like some help defining your own sales process and creating your roadmap to success, contact us here.
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