As we know, selling’s a highly competitive business, not for the faint of heart. But we’ve been trained to follow the process and work smart. Plan, prospect, research and qualify. Identify and address prospect pains. And every day, battle other sales warriors doing the same things and seeking the same goals. No, it’s not for everybody.
As we mature, we make better decisions about opportunities. We learn that reasons like “It’s a big deal”, “It’s right in our power swing” or “It’s ours to lose” prey on our emotions rather than our business logic. I’d love to see a study about the percentage of “Ours to lose” deals that end up lost. We’ll save that for another article. So, time teaches us the power and practicality of “Go/No-Go” decision-making to increase our chances of winning the deals we pursue and to minimize our trips down blind alleys. It’s the very definition of competitive advantage – being smart in taking actions to maximize success in that battlefield of competition.
But what about the deals where you already have an advantage, where you’ve identified a very high probability of winning – in the 80 or 90% range? Perhaps it’s an opportunity with a current account where you have great relationships and sky-high confidence about growing. Or a pursuit with a prospect organization where your product addresses their pains perfectly. Or a deal where your organization has been recommended wholeheartedly by a delighted current client. The positives are so compelling that you optimistically populate CRM with lofty probabilities, assured of successful outcomes. Yours to lose, perhaps?
I remember my college days and studying for exams. Maybe it was Statistics, Quantitative Methods or another numbers-oriented course that I found challenging or downright scary. I love the Henry Link quote – “Fear is nature’s way of warning us to get busy”. In those tough courses, fear made me very busy in studying for exams. And the resulting grades were always good. But there were courses like Marketing Management or Native American History that didn’t scare me at all. So, precious little time was spent “cracking the books” for those tests. On occasion, nights before exams involved partying and the quality of the grades sometimes matched the quality of the preparation.
In selling, I’ve found similarities to my college experience. After all, what are sales pursuits other than exams – tests where your goal is to win? Now, in working with salespeople worldwide, I see that strategies for high-percentage deals often mirror my college preparation for “easy” exams. Often, 80-90% win probabilities are considered done deals. Focus, time and effort get diverted to other opportunities seen as more competitive and in greater need of attention. Whether your confidence in a high-percentage deal is based on a great account relationship, a killer solution, or a glowing client recommendation, you’re making a bet that your calculated deployment of assets elsewhere won’t affect your chances of winning. Losing, of course, would be a major upset. Or would it?
High-probability deals are treasures. Truthfully, they’re not about percentages but about hard-earned goodwill that’s unfortunately easily lost. For while you’re diverting attention and resources to other initiatives, real people are on the other side of your probabilities – real clients and prospects still weighing their options. Your probabilities mean nothing to them. And if they sense they don’t have your attention or that you’re taking their yet-unawarded business for granted, your real probabilities are far less than 80-90%. If you’re not giving them your best, it’ll be evident. And be assured – you have competitors who are more than happy to do so.
So, how do you strike a workable balance between the high-percentage deals and those more competitive? First, you follow your Go/No-Go process to be sure your pursuits are the right ones. Without that, you’re flying blind. And win probability is only one of the key Go/No-Go considerations. Regarding the most winnable deals, Sandler Enterprise Selling clients track with laser focus their three highest probability opportunities, regardless of revenue size. And for each, they craft customized four-step value propositions – the product/service proposed, what it does, how it benefits and how the benefit will be measured. Finally, they identify the key actions that maximize the chances of success, utilizing RACI responsibility charting to ensure accountability. And the three opportunities are continuously refreshed. Win one and replace it with the next highest probability deal. Rinse, repeat.
Identify your profile opportunities and always follow your process in pursuing them. But treat those with the highest probabilities as special, never neglecting them. To achieve those high probabilities took hard work. Don’t do your organization or your client a disservice by taking your foot off the gas before you’ve reached the finish line. It’s a dangerous strategy with long-term repercussions.