In sales, 2022 is long past. Your accomplishments of last year, which ended just a few weeks ago, might as well be ancient history. We all laugh about selling’s time-worn axiom of “What have you done for me lately?”, but in truth, it’s no laughing matter. Your 2023 quota is now the holy grail and 2022’s performance is as important as the conversations old men have in regaling their high school sports careers. And whether your 2022 was a banner year or one in which you underperformed, the slate is now clean and the prospect of winning a “big deal” breaking out of the 2023 gate entices us all. It’s selling human nature. But as you set sail to hunt for whales, pay attention to that 2023 sign. Proceed with caution.
The prospect of a big win to kick off the year is tempting. Significant revenue, profit and account growth potential. Tempting, for sure. But blindly shifting your gaze to large pursuits brings huge opportunity costs. There’s no way to avoid the fact that other things will be neglected. Things like your clients. Truth be told, they matter. And they dictate that you make sensible decisions about which opportunities to pursue. Reasons like “It’s a really big deal”, or “It’s ours to lose” prey on your January emotions at the expense of your business sense. I’d love to see some research done about the percentage of big “ours to lose” deals that end up lost. Especially at the start of the year, the practicality of effective opportunity decision-making is huge. It’s the very definition of competitive advantage – being smart in taking actions to maximize your chances of success.
I grew up in selling at Xerox and I learned fundamentals in that highly energized sales environment that have served me well my entire career. At the “Big X”, we referred to deals as breakfast, lunch or dinner. You need all three of them for nourishment and of course, you can’t ignore breakfast and lunch by gorging at dinner. But most importantly, your clients need the value you deliver regardless of deal size, which, just like meal size, does not dictate value. Value, of course, is determined by the client or the prospect. What may be a small revenue opportunity for you may deliver tremendous value to the account. And of course, always remember the four most important words in selling. It’s not about you.
Obsession with pursuing big deals can also cause you to take your eye off opportunities where you already have an advantage and a very high probability of winning. Perhaps it’s an opportunity with a current client where you have rock-solid relationships. Or a pursuit with a prospect where your solution aligns perfectly to their pains. Or a deal where you’ve been referred by a happy current customer. In these situations, brimming with optimism, you fill your pipeline with lofty probabilities, assured of success. Yours to lose, perhaps?
In working with sales organizations globally, I see that focus is often neglected with high probability deals. Opportunities with 80-90% win probabilities are considered “done deals”, with time and effort are diverted to bigger opportunities – the whales in the distance. Whether your confidence in a high-percentage deal is based on a superb relationship, a perfect solution, or a recommendation from a pleased client, you’re betting that focusing instead on pursuing that whale won’t affect your chances of winning. Losing “done deals” wouldn’t happen. Or would it?
High-probability deals are treasures. Truth is, they’re not about probabilities at all, but about hard-earned goodwill that can be lost in a flash. While you’re devoting your attention to bigger deals, real people are on the account side of your high probabilities – real customers who are depending on you but still weighing their options. Your CRM probabilities mean nothing to them. If they sense that they don’t have your focus or that you’re taking their business for granted, your true probabilities are much lower than you forecast. If you’re not giving your best, it’ll be evident. If you don’t care, be assured you have competitors who do and they’re more than happy to step up. Count on it.
So, to kick off the year, how can you find a balance between opportunity sizes and high probability deals? Start by following your Go/No-Go process to be certain you’re embarking on the right pursuits. Without a practical Go/No-Go framework, you’re flying blind. And win probability is only one of the critical qualification considerations. Regarding high probability deals, many forward-thinking selling organizations track their three highest percentage opportunities, regardless of size. For each, they craft specific four-step value propositions covering the solution proposed, what it does, how it benefits and how the benefit will be measured. And then they identify the critical actions to maximize the chances of winning, utilizing RACI to insure accountability. And the three highest-probability opportunities are continuously refreshed. Win one and replace it with the next highest percentage deal, continually working a trio of opportunities. Effort, focus and customized opportunity tracking. Real strategy and real care. As opposed to assumptive, risky neglect.
Always follow your Go/No-Go decision process. And to kick off the year, treat your opportunities with the highest probabilities as special, never neglecting them. Achieving those high probabilities took time and effort. Don’t do your organization, yourself or your client a disservice by taking your foot off the gas before you’ve reached the finish line. Focus on value and then earn the right to deliver it. That’s how you turn clients into long-term clients.