An old boss of mine in the mid 90’s had a great point of view when one of the team lost a deal. His rationale was this – either you shouldn’t have gone after the deal in the first place or you were just outsold! Harsh but true, one of your competitors played the game just that little bit better than you.
Things today have changed very little. When you win a deal it is mostly the “relationship between the sales guy and the customer” that wins the day. The same can be said for reasons why deals are lost, the same candidates are used time after time. As a sales leader you are likely to hear:
1. we are just too expensive (mostly!) or we didn’t discount enough
2. the customer didn’t really know what they wanted and although they wanted our solution they went with another option
3. someone else got involved at the last minute (who we didn’t know about) and changed the mind of the buying team
4. our coach just didn’t have the influence to swing it our way
5. the prospect needed new functionality we don’t offer.
This translates into a number of key challenges related to opportunity management, namely:
- contact strategy
- qualification of the likelyhood to buy something (why buy?)
- solution fit (solution?)
- credibility, risk and proof of value (why you?)
Or in other words this is a failing of the sales management process. Each of these items should be identified through a systematic and disciplined approach to opportunity management. You would identify early the key issues that need to be addressed in the sales plan. You would qualify out early those deals that look unwinnable.
Research has shown that almost twice as much effort [and cost!] is spent losing a deal than is spent winning one. This is the result of sales people putting in extra effort to fit a “square peg into a round hole”, to overcome incumbency, to turn around broken relationships or trying to reach the decision team with value messages. Sometimes this is just not worth the effort and a professional withdrawal would be the best strategy.
Salesforce and Microsoft CRM users can use our DealSheet application which provides the core elements of a simple yet systematic approach to opportunity management. It addresses each of the key areas and the output is a clearly documented position and plan to underpin management review conversations. Instilling a level of discipline (using whatever approach you decide works for you) will help to reduce the instances of being outsold. Sometimes this will happen as it is not possible to win everything but increasing your hit rate will improve the return on sales.
If you are happy that the customer is committed to buying something, qualify and plan hard to ensure the bases are covered for you to win the deal. The more systematic you make it the more you will develop capability across the organisation.