The Sooner You Lose the Sale, the Better

Last week I was speaking with another training company about perhaps joint venturing on webinars together. They would give a webinar to my list of subscribers, and I would then give one to theirs. After the initial conversation, next steps were made and we were to exchange various deliverables and take the conversation to the next level.

After giving it some thought, however, I decided that we weren’t a good match for each other, and, before we went through all the trouble of sending and reviewing material, I emailed them and declined. The email I got back was brilliant. They thanked me for my time and then simply said:

“We always like to lose early.”

Now that’s a response from a company (or sales rep) who understands the value of qualifying. Unfortunately, most sales reps operate the exact opposite way. Here’s how most sales reps do it:

Most sales reps act with a desperation to put anyone into their pipeline that will take their information. They are then happy to call these very shaky prospects back and waste their time by sending information or revising documents or whatever else they are asked to do. And after this long and frustrating process, the majority of these prospects end up not being a sale. In fact:

The industry wide closing average is 1 or 2 out of ten prospects!

Think about that for just a moment. Think about all the time, energy, phone calls, voice messages, emails, chasing and disappointment you have to go through pursuing 8 or 9 prospects through a sales cycle only to have them finally tell you no.

That’s why the response, “We always like to lose early” is so brilliant. By losing the sale early in the process – as a direct result of an intensive, first qualifying call, by the way – we both saved ourselves a lot of work, a lot of time in following up and the disappointment of a lost deal at the end of it all.

What this all comes down to is the concept of “disqualifying” your leads rather than qualifying them just enough to get them into your pipeline. What this allows you to do is spend less time pitching unqualified leads that steal your valuable time. And I’m sure you know who I’m talking about…

In order to identify non-buyers early on, get into the habit of asking these types of qualifying questions during the initial call:

“I know we’re at the very early stages of this, but give me an idea of your time frame for making a decision on something like this.”

“If you like what you see in our demo, what would be the next steps for you?”

“What would hold you back from making a decision to move forward on something like this in the next two weeks?”

“Besides yourself, who would be making the final decision on this?”

Then layer:

“And what insight do you have on where they are leaning right now?”

And finally,

“From what I’ve been describing so far, what are your initial thoughts on this?”

If any of these questions reveal that your prospect might not be a good fit or won’t buy at this time for any reason, then hold off! The less time you spend pitching bad leads who aren’t going to buy, the more time you can spend finding the real buyers.

This is a big point, so here it is again:

The Top 20% producers spend more time disqualifying out the non-buyers and so less time stuffing unqualified leads into their pipeline hoping they will close. In other words, they would rather lose early because it frees them up to find and spend more time with buyers later on. And this is what makes them top producers.

I challenge you to start losing more sales earlier in the sales process so you can spend more time winning bigger deals more often.

How Peyton Manning Helps You Slow the Game of Sales Down

I was reading an article in Sports Illustrated by Boomer Esiason (the ex-NFL Cincinnati Bengals quarterback) and he was breaking down what makes Peyton Manning such a great quarterback. He discussed specifically how, on November 17th of this season when Payton was playing the undefeated Chiefs, Peyton was challenged with surviving a defense that was leading the league in sacks. Boomer says:

“Pundits were saying how that K.C. pass rush was going to get to him, that this would really be a disaster for Peyton. But from the first snap, he knew right where he was going with the ball, he knew exactly what coverages he was seeing, and he took so much pressure off his line that the defense had no chance to get to him.”

K.C. didn’t get to Manning even once that night, and when the game was over, K.C. had its first loss of the season.

Boomer goes on to make a crucial point: When you truly understand the game of football, it’s turns out to be a simple game. To quarterbacks and players who haven’t taken the time to really learn it, to study it and adapt to it, it’s a fast paced game and one you often just react it. But when you’re committed like Peyton is, you can literally slow the game down and control it. Once you do that, you realize it’s really a simple game.

And in sales, it’s exactly the same.

Many sales teams and reps I work with find that the selling process – the prospecting/qualifying call, the demo call, the closing call, etc., all seem to happen very fast. They are often overwhelmed during each of these calls and miss asking important questions or lose control of the situation. They then become frustrated and struggle to catch up.

Boomer goes on to report that as a veteran himself, he also knew how to slow the game down and perform at the highest level. He says:

“I also had a crystal-clear understanding of what was happening on the field. I could process the game so quickly – call a play, get to the line, audible immediately, read the defense, work through my progressions, find the open man. I was like an old pitcher who could no longer throw 95, but who knew from ages of experience what he had to do to get the job done.”

And it’s the same in sales.

All top producers understand this analogy to sales. When you listen to a top producer’s recording, what is immediately apparent is their complete understanding of what is happening during the call. They, too, can process the situation quickly – and ask the right question, get to the appropriate comeback, read the prospect, work through their responses and find the opening they need to direct the call or handle potential objections.

As Boomer says next, “…but in every game his (Peyton’s) mental capacity is clearly so much higher than everybody else’s that it appears he has the answers to the test before he takes it.”

Peyton’s preparation, commitment, and study of the game allow him slow the game down and control and dominate it. His work habits are legendary. Boomer used to joke with Frank Reich – Peyton’s quarterback coach for several years with the Colts – that coaching Peyton had to be the easiest job in the world because of how much work he puts in. Frank disagreed:

“To the contrary, Boomer, this is the hardest job in the league. Peyton’s the most demanding player. From the moment I walk in, I have to have certain film clips ready; I have to be ready to talk over and over about what’s happening on the field, trying to foresee things that might happen. He has a relentless desire to be great.”

To be great in sales, you also have to put in the time, invest in the resources, and commit to learning the skills and tools you need to succeed. But once you do, the game of sales slows way down. It becomes easy for you to identify qualified and interested prospects and you immediately know exactly how to take them through the sale and win the deal.

It’s one of the most satisfying and exhilarating feelings in the world, and I hope it’s one that you have a relentless desire to experience, too.