The classic sales professional dilemma: is that prospect really a customer? Customers and prospects look a lot alike. In some cases, they are indistinguishable. Perhaps, they both requested additional information from the sales professional. They may come from the same industry. Perhaps, they arrived via equally credible referrals. The primary contacts may have identical titles, similar budgets, equal authority and the same need for the product. But they have one nearly imperceptible, yet critical, difference. One of ‘em ain’t buying!!
He’s The Guy
This dilemma is not a hypothetical exercise. A sales professional must quickly identify the guy who will buy. Consequently, the most precious commodity for the professional is time. And, time that is spent pursuing one opportunity is time not spent on another one. Of course, technology allows more efficiency in determining the profit potential of prospects. Nevertheless, the most efficient CRM system, knowledgeable sales assistant, or insightful industry report helps manage time. None of those assets creates more of it, nor brings the guy closer.
Experience helps to use time more judiciously. Productive sales professionals rely on research to discern specific prospects and map them to prior successes and failures. Learning from failure is an exceptionally valuable weapon in the sales professional’s arsenal. Great business developers have war wounds and scar tissue. However, numerable wins afford them the ability to cover blemishes stylishly. Still, how do you know he’s the guy? The successful sales professional gathers all the data and signals that she can, then makes a clear decision favoring the higher probability prospect. Then, she remains flexible to changing her mind quickly as better information surfaces. Who’s the guy? He is the prospect that is positioned to buy more, sooner.
Get Out Now
Because time is money, the great sales pro manages time so that the most likely winning prospects get proportionally more attention. Delegation when possible is great for hedging bets. Recognizing buy signals, or false buy signals quickly, makes a huge difference. Because success depends on taking a prospect to the finish line, activities not contributing toward that result must be aborted, or at least hedged, quickly. Getting out of bad deals opens opportunities to focus on good deals; and pursue the next prospect in line.
Getting out now implies abandoning the prospect judiciously. It means re-prioritizing efforts to the next, best available alternative. And, successful sales pros always have a next, best alternative. Will some deals be lost by jettisoning too quickly? Yes. Will more deals close more quickly by progressing through a full pipeline of other attractive prospects? Yes, again. By deliberately getting out now, and moving to subsequent opportunities, more doors open to more sales success.
“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”, according to an anonymous quote. Gaining experience can be painful. However, professional success does a fantastic job of easing the pain! Quickly, realizing when a prospect is not a customer, creates more opportunities to pay attention to real customers. Ask questions. Listen to what is said, and what is not said. Then, be decisive! By the same token, be decisive to return to stalled opportunities when that choice is profitable. So, how do you grow new business? Jettison prospects that are really not your customer! Close opportunities that are your customer.
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond