The Sales Success Stories Book – 60 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals was published October 16, 2018. Learn more: http://top1.fm/book
In between the regular interview episodes, we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Jelle read his story, or read the full text below.
By: Jelle den Dunnen
How much impact can two questions really have on your sales success? If I hadn’t experienced the impact myself, I would’ve answered that the impact would hardly be visible at a maximum of 10% or so, but no more than that. Right? Taking a step back, why did I lose 40% of my deals to a single competitor? Looking back, I would say it was down to stubbornness and eagerness. Being in sales, we sometimes or most times suffer from the conviction that we are invincible. While my other story is focused on mindset, I did raise a point on being realistic as well. Sometimes we just have to wake up and realize that we can’t win every deal. Some might say that that can only be one winner in a deal, but think again, there are more. If we’re not talking about the person that walks away with Apollo shipping or sorry, I mean signature. Who are we then talking about? Who else could be winning in the pursuit? When I first was asked the question, I didn’t know the answer, but it makes so much sense. The other person that went in a deal is the one that gets out of the cycle early. Have you quantified how much time you were spending on deals that you were never going to win in the first place? Probably not. You probably want don’t want to hear the answer to the question. I sure didn’t. This brings me to the other reason why I lost that much to a competitor. Eagerness. If we can get it to a cycle, we just want to participate. Why would we turn down? Is it because I’m too busy? “No, of course not. Bring it on. I can handle one more”. Is it because the requirements are out of whack? “Nope. I’ll re-engineer division”, Perhaps is it because were column fodder and the competition is way ahead of us. “I’ll just give it a try and see if I can turn it around”. These are just a few of the excuses we give ourselves to ignore the fact that we can’t turn down a deal without having a go at it. right?. Like I said our eagerness to get into another sale cycle and our stubbornness of not able to walk away. It’s causing us to waste a lot of time on deals that we were never going to win in the first place.
I love data and enjoy analyzing it, maybe a little bit too much sometimes, but as such I was reviewing the deals that I have been working on all year and I looked at the reasons loss as well as which competitor I lost too. That’s when I realized that I was losing about 40% of my deals to a single competitor. That’s a huge ride and after further analysis, losing 40% of my deals to this fierce competitor wasn’t due to the strength of that competition. It was because I was too stubborn to walk away and I was too convinced that my existing sales strategies will work. Essentially, I was too eager to get into those sales cycles. You can only imagine how surprised I was to find out that I lost more opportunities due to the fact that the buyer didn’t purchase anything at all that I lost to an actual competitor. Yes, you heard it right. The most frequent value in the last two field was no change at all. While the reason why I lost them had some variables, it all came down to the prospect either not feeling the need to change or not seeing the value of changing towards our products or service or that of our real competitors. I must admit, I didn’t know how to handle or change that directly, so I discussed it with my peers. I don’t remember how we eventually got there, but suddenly we realized it was not the prospect who was to blame here for wasting our time. We were to blame. We found out that I wasn’t the only one with that experience. The stubbornness and eagerness prevented us from recognizing why these prospects, we’re likely not to buy at all, so the only one that could make a change, that would be me. Therefore, I started reviewing these deals in more detail and eventually I’d recognize certain trends and approaches. Sometimes prospect told me what I wanted to hear, which is a very dangerous thing of which I’m sure we’ve all experienced and its stuff to call that out. However, what I realized was that while I was asking questions in the right direction.
I wasn’t asking the right questions to flush these people out that weren’t going to buy. I knew the challenges and they had told me their requirements as well as someone if a buying process. Although several of them gave me true buying signals, it just wasn’t enough. They awful, we’re looking to improve their existing environment, but they couldn’t quantify the challenges with the status quo. I mean, it’s very easy to fall for the comment. If what you have to offer is better than what we have today and will improve her situation, we will buy it. At first. It sounds marvelous, but define better and define improvement. How can you measure that? If you can’t measure it, you can recognize the difference, meaning the prospect won’t be able to put a numerical goal value on it. The above makes sense. However, that’s where stubbornness tricks is again. It’s not the prospect’s responsibility to put a recognizable value with something.
It’s our responsibility. It’s our job to make the prospect to wear off that value and get them to agree to it. Okay, I made some mistakes with that last one. The spell revealing devalued prospect thinking they got it. And just moving on. Long story short, just make sure you confirm that the prospect really understands the necessary information before doing anything else. So how did I change it? As mentioned before, I wasn’t asking the right questions or better said I wasn’t asking the questions in the right way. There were two questions that I surely hadn’t thought of myself, but I took these two questions and made them an entire topic of their own inner prospect pursuit and they are so simple. They are why, are we here and what happens if you don’t buy? Of course, I had asked these questions many times before, but like with selling certain features, products or impacts, you need to build it up, put weight behind it and make it very important.
I can remember of a certain deal in Belgium were asked these questions, looking at them straight on and remained silent. A few seconds went by and another few seconds. Almost getting out, where to here? But then it happened. The stakeholders turn to each other and started debating amongst themselves trying to enter these questions. I just sit there watching, listening and doing nothing. He was amazing. Like Julius Caesar said, Veni Vidi Vici after about 10 to 50 minutes of debate where they clearly had different positions, they had called out the key pains and articulated their business goals, but also quantified the impact of what would happen if they didn’t make a change. Due to those two questions, they realized that if they didn’t make a change, they would fill to achieve their business goals on time and hence they had to make a change. Essentially. They were finally able to consciously and in a very clear manner, tell me why we were there. It was smooth sailing from there on up and they signed about eight weeks later. This is a perfect example of how these questions impacted my success and I would rather say topics because of many questions relating to these two important ones. However, it has been an amazing experience trying to perfect the conversations we are having around these two topics and I couldn’t be more thankful to my peers who helped me along the way. So what happened to that 40 %? While I still lose to no change, it has drastically decreased. This is due to many different factors, some of which I have no control of, but last year I managed to get to an 82% win rate on qualified deals. That would have been absolutely lower if it wasn’t for these two questions.
Want more from Jelle den Dunnen? He was the star of episode 30: Getting to #1 Globally Through Personal Relationships – Jelle den Dunnen of Bullhorn