I was watching the Uruguay – Ghana game with a friend on the weekend, (wrong team won). As they finished the overtime, and went to the penalty shootout, we started comparing the game of soccer to a sale, when he made the comment that I found interesting, he said: “It’s a good thing that sales does not end in sudden death”. After a minute of thinking it over, I suggested that he was wrong, (after all he picked England coming into tournament) that every sale is a sudden death game.
Like the World Cup, it is not a permanent death; we all know Brazil and Argentina will definitely be back in four years; just as you will be able to revisit the opportunity in the future. I also want to be clear that it is not about defeating the buyer or customer, but more about two specific facts. First, assuming the buyer selects an alternative and that other product or service is not a complete bomb, it is very likely that they will be out of the market for a couple years or more. Second, either you or the rep from the competitor goes home empty handed. There could be a whole bunch of reasons for this, not all logical or based in fact; just look at the impact the questionable refereeing has had, any number of teams can argue that if not for the referee…, I am sure USA readers are convinced the goal against England was indeed in the net, all subjective and “might-have-been”.
The more we talked about it the more it became clear that for the time a given opportunity is in play, it is very sudden death event. There are a number of things you can do to change or salvage things as long as the opportunity is in pay, but once a final decision is made, and the papers signed, it is sudden death. My comrade of course insisted that there are differences, first on the list for him was “the relationship”. What relationship, they just picked your competitor, “you go home empty handed”. Can you see Diego Maradona explaining human aspect of their fate, “we may have lost, but we did the country proud”; or the French coach explaining things to the parliamentary hearing? It’s about the plan, the skill, the execution, but mostly it is about the win, in sales as in football. Which would you rather participate in, a meeting to review why you won the sale or a meeting to review why you lost the sale? (BTW, after July 12, count the number of former team coaches from the final 16).
Part of the issue goes to attitude and passion. You can see the passion in the players on the pitch, and in sales you can usually spot those sales people who have the passion to deliver, for both the customer and their companies. It shows in their preparation, practice and readiness. You can see who is there to win, and who is there to collect a base salary.
This attitude very much drives behaviour, if you do not play like it is win or die, you will settle for less, and do less, hoping for a bounce, or hoping your “relationship” will tilt things your way. The flaw with that is your buyer is also accountable to someone, someone other than you, and their ultimate decision will be driven by what they need to live up to that accountability. It is our job to make them see that we, our product and company are the ones that can deliver, before during and after making the sale. Anything short of that leads them to buy from someone else, which is why sales is a sudden death game.
What’s in Your Pipeline?