It goes without saying that Sales Leaders are facing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. As a result, they are understandably anxious about navigating through the labyrinth of added complexity.
Pipelines are suddenly full of holes, forecasts are changing frequently, decisions are being made one to two levels higher than we anticipated, and clients may be wary of committing resources. The uncertainty will pass as economies begin to re-open. In the meantime, the focus should be solely on executing the fundamentals of advancing opportunities. Discussions with Senior Sales Leaders suggest approximately 30% of deals in the pipeline are stuck. The team continues to tactically invest… but they are not getting traction. Where do we begin? How do we coach our teams to move forward? Where do we start?
Every deal is unique. They require creative approaches in this environment, and often, our people get lost in the deal. They don’t know when to step back and determine where they should invest their energy. Even our most experienced salespeople are confused and looking for the lever to pull that will help things fall into place. They have not encountered this environment before and are frustrated. Your team is looking to you for direction and guidance. The situation can be overwhelming.
By refocusing on executing the key fundamentals of winning, we look to the six sales vulnerabilities. These, if properly explored, will shine a light on the appropriate areas for proper direction and coaching.
The six sales vulnerabilities are:
1. Competitive Strategy
2. Decision Process
3. Relationship Superiority
4. Political Alignment
5. Value Proposition
6. Pursuit Momentum
Each of these areas reveal potential weaknesses in a deal. While this is extremely helpful, the question remains, “Where do you begin coaching?” This is especially true for a stalled deal. The answer is simple… start coaching the Value Proposition. Begin with the business story you want your team to share with the client. Then, through collaboration, it migrates to a compelling sales Value Proposition. In other words, the journey to the Value Proposition begins with the story.
As you begin working through the story with your sales team, you might find their stories are one-dimensional and, in many instances, just a list of capabilities with a price quote. Many of the proposals are templates that summarize discussions, but use generic and vague words such as, “improved productivity,” “increased efficiency,” or “cost savings.” These can easily be mirrored by competitors who are doing the same thing, resulting in little differentiation, and pushing clients to select the winner based on price.
We can immediately improve the chances of success by viewing the story through the lens of an investment. Ask your people to start thinking of the proposal value as an “investment” you are asking the client to make. Have them take on the perspective of the client. The critical questions the client needs answers for are, “What do I get for my investment? What is my estimated financial return? What approximate timeframe are you proposing to receive the financial return?” Once your team begins to view the story as an idea for a potential business investment, they can begin to understand the weakness and potential lack of momentum or interest. Your team will continually struggle to create momentum without this business investment story.
The coaching flow begins once you have established the story. The path to unlocking momentum and making significant progress becomes evident.
Now that you have the story, you can help your people focus on the language of business outcomes. Do they intend to talk specifically about increasing client revenues or process improvements? Once you have helped them think through the outcomes, move to deciding what the estimated financial or metric results might be for these areas in the given timeframe. This allows your team to flank their competition by elevating the message and outsell them.
Next ask, “Who should we be talking to?” Who, within the client, would be most interested in listening to the story? In most instances, you will find these people have higher levels of authority than those currently being talked to. They would also be in position to reap the benefits politically. We can then begin to focus on these individuals to craft a plan to approach them. Discussions about Personal Agendas and Political Influence will help drive the tactical planning.
Now your coaching flow moves to creating the necessary Pursuit Momentum for the deal. How can we link our story to key initiatives and help our client realize outcomes?
Start the journey to a Value Proposition by coaching the business investment story. Use a coaching flow to take your team through the remaining five sales vulnerabilities, which will result in increased momentum and a higher probability of winning.
Pick your top five deals and schedule a one-hour session with each team to work through the business investment story for each. Create a coaching flow, which will lead you through all six sales vulnerabilities. The result will be a more strategic story and a plan for tactical execution.