Over my past 10 years of facilitating sales workshops around the world, I’ve noticed a pattern. One in which some, if not most, sales professionals make statements such as, “I have been through something just like this before” or, “this is simply a refresher for me, I do this all the time”, etc. Which on one hand is great. Meaning that what we are discussing is actually actionable and it is very similar to what we are already doing in a sales campaign today. However, I also see the same professionals continually making the same mistakes or displaying the same bad habits over and over again. Of course, they all have excuses as to why. Now, self-confidence is a very important trait for a highly successful sales professional, but overconfidence is not. How do we overcome the trap of thinking we are doing all the right things, but fail to take action to improve our chances of winning?
Should we change (enhance) our sales habit?
Top athletes are certainly self-confident, just like top sales professionals, but you often see them be the first ones to practice. You see them constantly looking for an edge. Changing their swing, getting specialized coaching, even looking at little things such as the bed they sleep in. As sales professionals, shouldn’t we be constantly trying to improve our own skills? Learning from our mistakes in past opportunities, so that we can avoid those costly mistakes in the future.
Sometimes non-sales professionals look at sales like a manufacturing process. You add the same ingredients in the same order, and you get the same results. We ALL know that is not the case. Getting an organization to make a purchase – an organization made up of individuals with their own agendas and priorities – has many moving parts and is never black or white. However, there are things within our control, namely our own actions. As we engage in an opportunity we should understand why the prospect is considering a change from a business perspective. What are they trying to solve? How are they trying to solve it? How will they justify the cost (both from a financial view and a personal view)? Who else needs to be involved and what are the steps to evaluate, decide, and successfully implement (within their own timeframes)?
What changes may have the most impact?
At this point, you’re thinking, “ok, I get the need to continually improve, but in what areas and how?” We all have areas of needed improvement and once you overcome your blind spots and see that it’s not always “them” but sometimes “us,” you’re halfway there on the path to improvement. As to what to improve, that is different for each of us, but I have noticed some patterns.
Here are the top five areas for improvement I see when working with sales organizations:
- Do we understand what is causing an urgency to change?
- Have we clearly established differentiation?
- Have we uncovered enough measurable Value with the client to justify the change?
- Have we spoken to and aligned with all the Power individuals in the opportunity?
- Do we have a Mutual Plan timeline of the activities needed to convince the buyers and successfully roll-out by their required dates?
One of the best ways I have seen sales teams improve is simply discussing and challenging each other for ideas. For some reason it is always easier to identify a strategy for someone else’s opportunity versus your own. When you do your QBRs or forecast reviews, come prepared with questions, not statements, questions about your gaps and what might be the best way to address them. Your fellow sales professionals always have some good strategies.
In summary, don’t let your overconfidence blind you from the gaps in your opportunities — question yourself and the buyers to flesh them out. Then work with your team (pre-sales, management, executives, coaches/champions) to come up with a course of action to address them. You might not only find that it will improve your close rate, but it will also improve the time it takes to close. Unresolved questions in the buyer’s mind slow down the opportunity and, if not resolved, can ultimately kill it.