Why Bad News In Sales Can Be A Good Thing
Granted, it may sound a little odd, particularly from a sales person like me, in which case the following words may change the way you think about qualifying your opportunities. You see, I’m a realist. We can always do our best and often things will run smoothly; but nobody wins every deal exactly when they’re expecting to win it.
Bad news is great – But only when you get it early.
Time is absolutely everything, our most valuable commodity yet there seems to be somewhat of an obvious trend among sales people which tends to cause a lot of stress and unnecessary extra pressure at the end of the month. You see, far too many of us still seem to think that a couple of qualification questions at the beginning of the Sales Process ensures an opportunity stays well qualified throughout the length of time required to get it over the finish-line. Things change far to often, timescales slip and priorities can change. Qualification is an ongoing process.
FACT: We all put off things we don’t like doing or don’t feel comfortable with.
For a lot of sales people it’s a confidence issue surrounding discussing key elements of a deal early enough or at all before asking for the order, which leads to inaccurate forecasting fuelled by avoiding asking the ‘tough’ questions. You may then look at delays or deals not to coming to fruition that month as pure ‘bad luck’ or ‘bad news’ when it happens;but is it really or could it have been uncovered sooner?
By now you’re probably familiar with me talking about sales qualification but this stuff is mission critical. You need to qualify Timing at the earliest reasonable point, whilst you have your customer engaged.
It’s simple really. It’s the only way you can ensure your own expectations are realistic.
If you don’t, and the prospect doesn’t categorically tell you when they will place an order you’re going to forecast, your expectations are likely to be, well, something you’ve made up yourself. So they are most probably going to be wrong!
This means at the end of the month when you finally manage to speak again with a view to closing and you’re told it will be next week before they place the order, you’re left with a gaping hole in your target and no time to create more opportunities you could realistically expect to close in time.
What that means for us at PSTC is that it makes us extremely focused on devoting time to well the qualified opportunities that we know will close during the current month. The rest of our time is spent proactively hunting new business opportunities that we can close in (x) timeframe in order to ensure we deliver our numbers consistently.
It’s a disciplined and effective way to work opportunities.
We’ve talked before about how your objective should be the only important thing and for most of us in sales roles, this will often be our revenue target. So if you want to make serious money you need to work smart. Break it down into smaller achievable objectives to help you hit your targets.
So how do you know when and where to focus your time?
Make sure you work good quality questions around timing and timescales into your repertoire. Asking ‘When will you place an order?’ and being told ‘should be this month’ is simply not good enough for you forecast that deal.
Remember to drill down three times where you can like the example below because we all know it’s too easy to just accept it when we get told what we want to hear on a regular basis.
1) When will you place an order?
2) Just so I understand what kind of process does that go through to get signed off?
3) Is there any risk of this slipping into next month?
Then just simply be smart with your time and focus your efforts on deals that will close this month. Prioritise. More importantly pick up the phone and start creating new opportunities before it’s too late!