Poker, by definition, is a game of chance, no player has x-ray vision or a relationship with the dealer to influence which cards are dealt. Yet, if poker is a game of chance, why do the same players continually place in the top 100 despite there being tens of thousands of entrants?
Some would argue sales is also a profession based on chance. Can you really influence a prospect to make a decision? What happens if certain factors, like budget or timing, are out of your control? Much like poker, the same sales reps seem to always be at the top of the leaderboard. Both poker players and sales reps fight actively against chance by trying to maximize their rate of success from the limited “hands” they are given.
Generally a sales territory is pre-set and inbound lead volume cannot be controlled, but sales reps can transform a profession laden with chance outcomes to reach consistent results by following the key points we will discuss herein. Or they can just be addicted to outbound. Let’s explore how the top sales reps don’t leave it to chance and utilize these strategies to get more deals done!
Set and follow structured stages
When we talk about sales as a profession, statements like “some people just have it” or “sales is something that can’t be taught” perpetuate stereotypes that success in sales is unachievable for the average person without the “natural” talent for it. A key point of difference between top sales performers and the rest is that they aren’t spontaneous about the way they run their deals, but are known for following a meticulous process to ensure opportunities to make it to the close.
One way of doing this is to set anywhere from five to ten key stages in a deal. You can look at textbook sales stages like “Discovery Call Completed” or “Proposal Meeting Held,” however I recommend looking closely at your specific product/business workflow and customizing stages accordingly. For instance, a software company might use custom stages like “Demo Held” or “Technical/Security Review,” whereas a plumbing company might have “Initial Phone Estimate” or “On-site Inspection.” The goal to close the customer is the same, but the process followed is going to follow a slightly different permutation.
Once you have defined these set stages, review them with management and peers to see if you can add or subtract any to optimize your deal workflow.
The final step is to set strict criteria as to when a prospect should move from one stage to the next. The technical term for this is “exit criteria.”
Taking the example above of the plumbing company, the deal stage should only move from Initial Phone Estimate if the customer agrees they have budget to complete the project or pay a small refundable fee for the company to come onsite to provide a formal quote.
Look for trends in historical performance data and measure your current pipeline
Often we are too focused on the task at hand or dreaming of a brighter future that we forget many answers to seemingly unwinnable deals are locked away hidden in our past performances or those of our peers.
For instance, I analyzed every single deal I had been a part of last year and found that I hadn’t won when we were paired with a particular technical partner. Seeing this data, I now divert all deals to a rep on my team who actually used to work there before joining our company and our win rate increased 2.5x.
Go through your past closed won/closed lost deals and look for the things like:
• Deal size
• Number of stakeholders engaged in the deal
• Priority features/demands of the customer
• Geographical location of the prospect
• Nature of the lead (inbound/outbound)
You may find that both your closed won and closed lost opportunities share patterns which you can then look for in your current deals. For instance, lost opportunities generally tend to be too small or too large in size and have only 1-2 key contacts engaged, so this can help you to focus on making sure you estimate the deal value correctly and get more people involved in the conversation if it correlates to winning more deals.