July 18, 2016

Are You or Your Sales Team Just Chasing Opportunities Instead of Targeting Strategic Accounts?

I love a warm lead as much as the next guy. And we can all certainly understand why most salespeople start at the bottom of their sales funnels and work their way up. That is the default mode of most sellers, right? They start their sales day by obsessing over the hottest deals in the pipeline and then progress to using whatever time and energy may be left over to chase opportunities that they’ve already identified.

I promise, if you observe most typical (reactive) sellers, this is the modus operandi:

  1. Do everything conceivable to drag/push hot deals over the finish line, then…
  2. Work warmer active opportunities attempting to advance them to the hot stage, then…
  3. Look around for a lead or a new opportunity to chase

As I write this, I can almost audibly hear many of you asking, “What’s wrong with that? It sounds perfectly logical to me.”

My retort is simple:  Ideally, nothing is wrong with that approach – assuming, that is, you’re exceeding your sales and margin goals and your pipeline is healthy and full of both cooler and warmer active opportunities fed by your company’s highly effective marketing machine. And further assuming that you’re not showing up late to all of these opportunities  (well after your more proactive competitors are there), getting you relegated to “vendor” status and commoditized. And, of course, assuming even further that you are not missing out on business with your company’s ideal profile prospects because you or your sales team are living completely in reactive mode – staking your sales results solely on your ability to chase and close opportunities/projects/bids you find or that find you.

Unfortunately, however, we don’t live in an ideal world, and for many individual sellers and sales teams operating completely in reactive/opportunity-chasing mode, this is their reality:

  • New business sales results are not what they should be
  • Salespeople live as prisoners of hope (credit to Tom Reilly for that phrase) devoting way too much time and focus to the precious few hot deals in their funnel at the expense of creating new opportunities and a balanced pipeline
  • They are arriving late to opportunities…finding prospective customers who are already shopping and often talking with their competitors who are acting as consultants and value-creators helping to shape the buying criteria and process
  • So they’re not only forced to compete on price (because they’re late), but they end up becoming victims – victims of a reactive approach that traps them into only working deals they’ve found but didn’t create

The past few weeks while leading new business development-focused workshops and consulting with senior executives, I have observed several sales organizations struggle with the concept of each salesperson having a dedicated, strategic, finite, focused list of target prospects to proactively attack. Many of these salespeople have been living in reactive mode, settling to “hunt” merely for opportunities that they can chase, but unwilling to pursue strategic accounts prior to identifying an opportunity.

Friends, the best, most strategic, most valuable and most successful sales hunters proactively target strategic accounts and relationships.

These top producers work their way in to see key contacts at ideal profile prospects. That’s where that scary word prospecting comes from, and why the the subtitle to New Sales. Simplifiedis “the essential handbook for prospecting and new business development.”

Because these true hunters are strategically targeting accounts instead of simply chasing known opportunities, everything changes. These proactive sales hunters have more fun, do great discovery work, earn a seat at the table, are viewed as experts and value-creators, make friends and build consensus within prospect organizations by delivering value – early, help shape buying criteria, and position themselves to win. And they not only sell more and bigger deals at higher margins, they live free, energized lives because they’re much more responsible for their own destiny and sales results! Instead of living as victims of whatever leads are fed to them or just chasing the same opportunities everyone else is, they’re out creating new opportunities through their own excellent prospecting and discovery efforts.

What might happen if you or your sales team made the effort the craft a strategic list of ideal profile prospects and then truly dedicated significant portions of the calendar to proactively pursue those accounts? I think we both know the answer.