Some may remember one of Reagan’s more famous statement in 1987, while he was addressing folks gathered at a nuclear treaty signing, Trust but Verify, could also be part of every keynote at your everyday B2B sales Kick-off.
I use this expression not to suggest or imply a lack of trust between sellers and their potential buyers, but to ensure that sales people make the most out of their most precious resource – Time. The better you do things the first time, the more time you have to execute other important parts of the sales day, instead of having to repeat things you thought you had completed last week. Some ways to bring this to your selling will insular, specific to things you do, and some will face externally, and ensure that others are also part of your sales success.
One great place to apply this mantra is your pipeline. We often find that we have a lot of opportunities in our pipelines, and it feels good, but if we were verify the quality, or reality of those prospects, we may not have as many as we thought. Verifying is easy if you want to do it. Does it meet your minimum thresholds, i.e. is the prospect a good fit for you, or are they just a placeholders because your manager has a silly rule of having a pipeline three times the size of your quota. Are they really engaged, one easy way to validate is to not only get next steps, but give they homework that will verify that they are. For example, I always like to ask for the opportunity to interview a sample number of their reps after my initial meeting and going any further. If they do, it is a clear indicator that they are willing to invest in the process.
Another area where sellers benefit from a Trust but Verify approach is during the process of prospecting and qualifying. It is easy to sprinkle things with a little sugar, go on appointments we know are not likely qualified but are available. A little scepticism goes a long way, and while it may result in less appointments, they will all be of a better quality. When qualifying a prospect, that crucial phase between hand shake to proposal, how well you choose to verify will dictate whether it will be a solid proposal that will lead to a close, or a not so solid one leaving you to having to resell and negotiate your way to the finish line, or an “oh so close death”. It is easy to have a positive outlook, take everything a prospect says with a sprinkling of hope. It is more practical to verify and deal with the best opportunities, not any old opportunity.
It’s nice to have a full pipeline, but it also creates a false sense of confidence, one that releases strange endorphins in a seller’s mind, endorphins that prevent sales people from prospecting for new prospects. It is true that the fuller a rep believes their pipeline to be full, the greater the likelihood that they will not prospect for new opportunities. Verify the pipeline, and a more honest view will dictate their emotions and resulting activities.