Why Are You Accepting Sales Failure?  Think of the ancient Greek mythological figure of Sisyphus applied to sales (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus)

I was chatting about the state of enterprise sales with a long time enterprise sales colleague of mine last week. We’re both grizzled enterprise sales veterans with 25+ years experience, complete with the requisite battle scars and endless war stories. I’d like to think that we’re not jaded, cynical old farts but that will be for you to decide after reading this post:-)

Allow me to establish some context for this post. I have always loved absorbing business statistics and metrics as they can act as a barometer for what the hell is really happening out there (aka- sales insight). We’re both data junkies and if there’s one thing that there is no shortage of today, it’s data. Having said that, due to this deluge of data, it’s more important than ever to carefully consider the quality and relevance of the data that you draw your business conclusions from.  I had just read a startling statistic that revealed that only 17% of sales meetings with an executive result in a second meeting. That means over 80% of the time, your sales efforts are failing! Why are we accepting this as sales leaders? Think about the wasted costs and resources, it’s simply mind boggling.

Every article on sales over the past 10 years tells us how is it harder than ever to sell. The Buyer is in control and ignores the sales rep for 60-70% of their evaluation according to some industry pundits. The sellers are still stubbornly trying to sell anachronistically and “dictate” their sales process to the prospects/customers. Buyers have evolved and are much more sophisticated in the way they evaluate their buying options and in making their buying decisions.  Less sales reps are making their quotas year after year. Sales conversion rates are falling precipitously. More sales deals are ending up in “no decision” status than ever before. Deal sizes are dwindling. All these sales metrics are very sobering for us sales professionals… but that doesn’t mean that we simply should accept this and effectively give up!!!!

What if we really examined the way we engage and sell? Is it conceivable that we can sell smarter and more effectively than we are today? When the status quo isn’t not only working it’s getting worse, you fight back and look for better ways to improve your results.   Rather than simply lamenting these sobering sales stats…let’s do something about it.

What can we do as sales leaders? Here’s a simple primer for getting started:

  • Map out your buyer’s journey and crisply define the inflection points that really motivate them to change their status quo
  • Identify all of the key stakeholders that you need to engage, influence and sell to. What matters to them? What are their key pain points and challenges? What should resonate about your solution? What are the personal and collective “wins” that you can uniquely deliver to them?
  • Map and align your sales and marketing processes to their buyer’s journey and address the specific needs of the key stakeholders as part of that process
  • Have the sales management discipline and rigor to adhere to when you should invest in a sales opportunity and when you shouldn’t
  • Develop and implement sound sales coaching frameworks to develop and refine the key sales capabilities that your sales teams needs to do well to be successful
  • Use historical data and predictive analytics technology to help you accurately identify which sales opportunities you should be pursuing….that will most likely result in the highest win conversion rates and highest lifetime customer value.

I submit to you that in virtually every win-loss analysis that I’ve been involved in over the last 5 years, 80-90% of the losses or no decisions were directly attributable to:

  • The prospect clearly had not hit an inflection point (i.e., discovery and discernment failure). So it wasn’t really a sales opportunity but since sales resources were invested, it was counted in Salesforce.com as either a “lost deal”or “no decision” erroneously
  • The Sales team was not in alignment with where the buyer was in their journey…and a savvier competitive sales team was in alignment with the buyer.
  • Did not engage and influence all the key stakeholders necessary to win the decision
  • Didn’t identify and confirm that there was an actual exec sponsor

All of which begs the question, why are we accepting these failure rates and the sales status quo. The common refrain is “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. That’s great if your sales conversion rates are 2-3X higher than they are today. But it’s your sales death spiral unless you don’t accept this and insist on selling smarter.

Your thoughts on this?