The first step to keeping a plane in the air is maintaining lift. To ensure you maintain lift in your sales effort, get ready for the most important selling principle of your life! “Your time is incredibly valuable; therefore, your prospects must earn it.” With sales you MUST control where and how you invest your time. The first fatal disease in sales starts with an insidious infection called happy ears. Happy ears eventually grows into the fatal disease called pipeline bloat, making your sales plane too heavy to maintain lift. Just like a plane in a tail spin, it’s scary, threatening and takes some guts to get it back on track or you WILL crash!
So what are the key indicators that tell us we are in tail spin? Low win rate, long sale cycles, fear of hearing no, fear of letting go, inability to articulate the prospects pain (pain defined: problem with a serious consequence), no clearly agreed steps towards close, just to name a few.
What does your behavior, or worse, your team’s behavior look like when you have pipeline bloat caused by happy ears and your plane is pointing downward? Typically, you start living by the hope that an opportunity is going to close, because YOU really want it to, not the prospect. If you are squirming right now, don’t worry there’s hope and by the way, you are not alone. My favorite sales trainer, the late David Sandler said… “it’s not what the prospect says, it’s what they do.” So let’s start there and get this fixed before there is a crash!
A wise person once told me that selling is all about getting to the truth. So here we are at the end of the year and we need to know the truth about our pipeline. Those deals you are chasing… determine which ones are real, NOW! The ones that don’t have momentum and are stuck, (those which you have great hope for because YOU want it to close), to them, write this note…
“Dear Prospect: I have enjoyed working with you on the Blah Blah project. However, given that we have not been able to move forward, I am concluding our work on the blah blah file. Best of luck and please call me if I can help in any other way.”
I warned you it takes guts! Now we will be able to apply David Sandler’s principle… watch what the prospect does and quit listening to what they say. Don’t worry, really good things will happen:
- You hear nothing back. Guess what, it was never yours from the start and now you can quit wasting your time!
- You hear something like… “Good, we are buying from your competitor anyhow.” Now you know you may have happy ears and self-evaluation may be in order.
- About a third of your opportunities will say something like… please don’t do that, I’m sorry that I blah blahed, let’s talk.Now you know you have a real opportunity!
So the truth is out and we know where to spend our time! Now, ask the prospect some good questions like:
- I’m confused, I didn’t think that this was a priority. May we talk about what is driving this and why it would be important to move forward?
- Is it important to get this closed by year end and why? Is there any bad thing that will occur if we don’t?
- What needs to happen on your end and who needs to be involved to move things forward?
- What shall we do next? When would you like that to happen?
Most importantly, now that you know who NOT to spend your time with, you now have time to find some real prospects!