Sales Tips: Knowing When to Walk
By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
The worst possible outcome for sellers and vendors is to go through entire sales cycles and lose. This is especially true for large opportunities because it means the seller, support staff and management have spent time, effort and resources with nothing to show for their efforts. My belief is that there are signs along the way and it doesn’t make sense to pursue opportunities that are unlikely to result in orders.
Early in my sales career with it became clear management didn't like unpleasant surprises. If high visibility transactions didn’t close, formal loss reviews were conducted. They were the equivalent of autopsies to figure out how and when things went bad. These sessions were career limiting if and when sellers were found to have made mistakes and hadn’t asked for assistance.
My sales manager was great at telling sellers what to do without sharing HOW to do it. I didn’t like making calls with him but learned early that if opportunities in my pipeline were going sideways, I’d be sure to get him involved. If he didn’t like how things were going he would consider getting his manager involved. Loss reviews went much better when they started out with the question: What could WE have done better? versus What could YOU have done better?
There was an over-arching expectation that the company should win every opportunity they competed for and a pervasive belief that winners never quit and quitters never win. In retrospect, this was a ridiculous attitude to take. In the clear light of day, when I got my manager involved I felt a loss was likely. If he escalated it to his boss, he felt the same way. Withdrawing from opportunities was never an option.
In Sun Tzu’s Art Of War, required reading within some sales organizations, there are five different strategies that can be employed. One is to choose not to fight if a situation isn’t winnable. Sellers often express surprise when opportunities in their pipelines are lost. Many have cast blind eyes to signals buyers give throughout sales cycles.
It’s unpleasant to realize losses are likely. When that realization occurs, sellers have a choice:
- Continue spending time and effort on opportunities likely to end in losses OR
- Withdraw and find higher probability opportunities to work on
The road less traveled is likely to take sellers to a better YTD position against quota.
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