By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
It is easy to see why people in sales, at all levels, are infatuated by speed, or as the hipsters say, velocity. You have a specific target, with a defined time line, or more accurately, an end point, which drives many to approach sales like they were the winners of a local grocery store contest. You know where they crown a winner, who runs through the store, filling their cart with as much as they can in 60 seconds, and when they time is up, they keep what they gathered. The faster you are, the better you’ll do. Not so in sales. Sales people and their leaders have fallen into the habit of over relying on velocity as a means to sales success.
Sure, if you are selling a commodity, or a single purpose or use product, you can gain benefit from speeding up the sale, or shortening the cycle, but as discussed in the past, even there, you do hit a point of diminishing returns; the only benefit of speed in that scenario, is you fail faster and get to move on. Once you find the optimal length of a cycle, you need to leverage other things to increase sales.
The obvious may be to look at technology, or skills training to help, but there is one low tech approach that works for many, regardless of sales church they claim allegiance to, namely, slow down!
Many of the people who are on a constant quest to shorten their cycle, when asked about other aspects of sales, would tell you that they are firmly in the Quality Over Quantity camp. But by putting an emphasis on duration, in essence they are putting quantity above quality, in this case, the quality of deals they win, and more importantly the quality of deals they lose.
Building a base of knowledge and understanding with a given prospect, their objectives, hurdles, etc., takes time, with some more than others. Unfortunately, if you are on a quest for “fast”, the easiest place to gain time and speed is during discovery, and in many pipelines, this is painfully obvious.
I recently sat in on an opportunity review, for what I would describe as a bit of a complex sale, but not rocket propulsion stuff. The rep in question was a solid B player, knows the product, market, and there were years he actually made quota. There were also critical questions he could not answer about multiple opportunities.
Mostly because he felt the pressure to move the deal through, and felt he could do it based on minimal information, rather than complete information; and complete will always take longer than minimal. As a result, he like many of his teammates, end up cycling more opportunities through the cycle, with the goal of landing more deals. In essence, quantity over quality. Many of the “rushed over” deals, could in fact have been better, not just in immediate revenue and quota retirement, but upsells, referrals, and most importantly, margins and price integrity.
While it would be easy to blame reps, they are being led by their managers to do this. Driving their teams to drive more lower quality deals for the sake of time. This may work in the short run, but leads to challenges down the road, most specifically at the time of renewal. Deals that are rushed through, propelled by price concessions, are much less likely to renew without further concession, leading to a higher than necessary quota next year, when the cycle begins again.
I understand what’s driving this, it is important to remember it is not a race, December 31 shows up the same time for everyone. So rather than managing the clock, sellers should manage the individual opportunities. How long those take to close should be understood, but not the driving factor. Success for consistently A sellers is not based on closing as many deals as we can – and – fast; but on closing enough of the right deals.
If you want to put your fingers on the scale, don’t use time, use prospecting instead. Once you know how long a deal usually take to unfold organically, not “artificially accelerated”, more often to a “no” than a “yes”, and you know what your own individual close ratio is, you can proactively know how many deals you will need in a given year, and how many opportunities you’ll need to drive those deals. As long as you bring sufficient opportunities to the top of the pipe, you’ll make quota, even if you have an 18 month cycle.
So rather than putting all that energy towards shaving hours or days off your cycle, why not invest the time in prospecting. Getting the right number of the right prospects, is a better use of your time, than trying to hasten a bunch of questionable opportunities through the cycle fast.
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