May 4, 2012

There Is No Magic Bullet in Sales

Everyone hopes there is a secret sauce or magic bullet for success. It sure would be nice!

I always enjoy kicking off a new client relationship and getting to meet a bunch of new salespeople. For the most part, members of the sales team are happy to have some help and possibly even a sympathetic ear. They can detect pretty quickly that I’m one of them – a sales guy. Once we get through introductions and feeling each other out, and I share some basics of my approach and philosophy, salespeople tend to exhale in relief. They’re thankful that I’m not there to preach or stand at the end of the table to deliver some canned presentation that I’ve done 473 times before.

But it usually doesn’t take long before the average Joe or the typical under-performer starts tossing out questions in search of the magic bullet. They’re looking for the shortcut, the trick play, the easy answer to improve results. The hope is that I have new “tricks” to share, and I can detect their disappointment when I reveal my very simple framework for a new business development sales attack. They realize that I know I what I’m doing, appreciate the clarity and simplicity of my message, yet they still can’t resist the urge to see if I brought the secret sauce for sales.

  • “You’re gonna help with closing techniques, right? What’s your favorite trick?”
  • “I don’t like doing research and prospecting for new contacts. But I need your help to get in front of the decision maker at this large prospect.”
  • “How do you successfully sell to committees comprised of more women than men?”
  • “What’s the best time to deliver a proposal so it has the highest chance of winning the deal?”
  • “When the prospect is scheduling presentations from three competing solution providers, is it better to request to go first or last? What if it is on a Friday?”
Some form of these questions always come, and I am always amused. In response, I smile and suggest we may get to those topics later on down the road (not likely 🙂 ), but if we’re interested in acquiring new business, let’s start with a more important set of questions:
  1. Where is your list of strategic target accounts? How much thought and energy went into creating that list? Why can’t you put your fingers on it immediately?
  2. How much time have you put into working the accounts on that list?
  3. I’d like to hear how you describe your business to prospects. How do you tell your “Sales Story?”
  4. Tell me about your proactive telephone calls to prospects. How’s that going?
  5. Let’s talk about planning and structuring sales calls. What do your calls look like?
  6. What percentage of your time is spent servicing existing business and reacting to issues versus the amount of time you’re dedicating to proactively working on new business development?
  7. Let me see your pipeline. Tell me about the balance and volume of opportunities you are working. What’s been added recently and which deals are so old that they’re growing mold?
  8. Show me your individual business plan. What strategies are you pursuing and which key sales activity metrics are you monitoring?
Friends, there is no magic bullet. Anyone who has been successful in sales over a long period of time knows it. Instead of fantasizing that there’s some secret sauce you just haven’t been lucky enough to discover, why not commit the effort to mastering the simple basics that every salesperson, manager, coach or consultant knows are are what lead to success.