I was asked this week to review a sales strategy document for a company who were looking to turbocharge their sales. They were in a slump but had some industry leading products that should have been jumping off the shelves.
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m the number one supporter of strong sales strategies; the problem is when your sales strategy simply reinforces the self-limiting beliefs that got you to where you are in the first place. That’s what happened in this instance.
The strategy document I was given was a simple “One Page Plan” that set out what the company saw as the 6 stages of their sales process.
It set out:
- what occurs at each stage,
- who they should be speaking with
- what percentage of opportunities are expected to fall off after each stage and
- what events have to happen at each stage.
The problem was that the sales process that they described, the attrition rates that they expected and the people that they want to talk to are the exact factors contributing to their poor outcomes.
Here is a brief extract of my response to the company:
I totally agree with the need to have a sales strategy in place as a guide for your team. In reading the ABC Company strategy document, the factors that strike me the most are the self-limiting beliefs that are built into the strategy:
- The timeframes – The strategy document sets out a period of nearly 5 months from initial mail out to securing the order. This effectively says that the customer will dictate the timeframes under which the sale will progress. This self-limiting belief will see a majority of the opportunities go “stale” due to the lack of urgency. The salesperson in their process must create the urgency in the sale; 21 weeks is anything but urgent.
- The loss rate at each stage – This again is a self-limiting belief. If the ABC Company understands their “Differentiated Value”, which elucidates the compelling reason why your ideal customer should do business with you, there should not be anything like the attrition rates shown in the document. A 50% fall off rate at each stage does no more than provide the salesperson with an excuse to fail.
- The strategy does not cover the process that the salespeople will follow at every stage of the sales process. It focuses on price points (logic not emotion) in stage 3 which makes this a price sale. All of the steps are designed from a negative perspective. The message is, “If we get enough opportunities into the pipeline, we might just be able to close a few. Remember the case study we went through earlier in the week. In that case study Phil pointed out that using a powerful sales process such as the “Psychology of Sales” and understanding your differentiated value enabled him to grow his sales with half as many salespeople. He still has a long way to go but he has thrown away his “self-limiting beliefs.”
It needs to be remembered that this strategy document is a “Road Map” for the sales team. It will tell them what is acceptable and how they should act at every stage. At this time, the document gives people too many excuses to fail such as:
- Price Points – If we are too expensive we won’t get the business. This is completely wrong.
- Trials – If we are unable to organise a trial we won’t get a sale.
- If the trial doesn’t work as well as hoped we won’t get a sale.
- Feedback forms – We need to get consensus from the team doing the trial that it was a success before we can get an order. This is very poor selling.
- Not getting commitment to the future rollout BEFORE the trial commences. Why would you run a trial if there was no commitment to proceed based on this (see section 5 – Final Quote – How do we take it from here), this is a recipe for failure.
The strategy is conservative and doesn’t create urgency with either the salesperson or the prospect. It is conservative and somewhat weak which will give conservative or weak results.
So many companies have their existing filters in place when they develop a sales strategy. It’s vital that you bring in a new set of highly experienced eyes when developing an effective and achievable sales strategy. A sales strategy should challenge your beliefs and your embedded thinking. It shouldn’t provide excuses and it must make people do things differently; it must force salespeople to do the hard things not the comfortable things.
What about your sales strategy? Does it simply reinforce your self-limiting sales beliefs or does it truly challenge the current reality? That’s the role it must play.