Science tells us that the “smell” of fear is real.
Secreted by pheromones that are triggered by the fight or flight mechanisms of our brain, this smell is often cited in a romantic way when describing a tense situation – and, as noted above, proven by scientists.
What does that have to do with sales? If fear, can, indeed, be detected by the human nose, we can also assume that the scent of uncertainty can be picked up by buyers, who seem to have an uncanny ability to know when they have our sales professionals backed into a corner.
With the pandemic changing so much about the universe in which we seek to sell, the reopening and associated rush to close deals has ushered in bad sales habits – the kinds of lapses that are as easily detectable as the fear behind it. And with more than 80 percent of businesses missing their Q2 numbers as a result of COVID-19, this cash starvation is causing some companies to apply the kind of “sell-at-all-cost” pressure that has roiled the typical sales cycle.
In our weekly meetings with sales leaders, we are hearing and lamenting tales of the same, fear-frenzied approach -- qualification of the deal becomes shortened; then at the meeting, we immediately try to get some minimum acceptable number on the table. Value is not mentioned, targeted approaches become generic, and price becomes the sole determinant for a deal.
In this “next normal”, what are some of the bad habits that are proliferating among sales teams today?
And how do you, as a sales executive, spot these, stamp them out, and restore healthy habits – while heeding the need to increase the flow of lifeblood into your business?
Bad Habit No. 1: Making an Offer That Can’t Be Refused
As mentioned above, we are seeing an increase of examples where sales professionals are trying to accelerate the sale. Even Don Corleone would be impressed with the types of irrefusable bargains that are being set on the table. As a result, sales pros are simply giving dollars away. In an unscientific study of sales leaders, The Brooks Group found that nearly 90 percent of salespeople were going in at the lowest price, because they assumed this would accelerate the sale. To the contrary, all the low-ball offers served to do was eliminate both negotiations – and profit margins.
Bad Habit No. 2: The Road (Should Be) Less Traveled
Sales reps are so hungry to get back on the road – to be “mask to mask” with clients (to coin a contemporary phrase). Conversely, many customers simply aren’t ready to resume in-person relations. So when a sales rep finds someone who is willing to meet in person, they don’t bother to qualify the account – they simply hop in the car, at times driving hours for an initial brief encounter. No longer do road trips encompass a series of appointments – instead, we are seeing a rise of what I call “hub and spoke” activity – they head out, see somebody, and drive right back home.
Bad Habit No. 3: The Numbers (Only) Game
There’s a growing perception that, as sales activity resumes, that price will be the sole determinant for buyers when they make a purchasing decision. We’ve gone back to the dark ages, when we simply try to undercut our competitors without any of the basic blocking and tackling necessary to ensure the deal is valuable for the buyer. This perception of competing without qualifying -- without an understanding of the distinction between your offering and that of your competitor – usually leads to bad trade-offs.
Bad Habit No. 4: Demonstrated Incompetence
With so many sales professionals evaluated on the number of demos made in a particular interval, we are seeing a drastic increase in rushed demos, with no qualification or value proposition. Because it’s tempting to think that demo is the best way to sell the product, we simply push it, whether the content is on message or not. Which means we go in blindfolded – not knowing what is important to our prospect. When a generic, off-message demo is pushed, you can almost sense the prospect falling asleep before the important points are really covered. And it is exceedingly hard to get a second at-bat when a demo fails.
So how can you sniff out the fear, and stop the bad habits before they stink up your sales organization?
One idea hearkens back to a quote from our founder, Bill Brooks, who noted that you have to move slow to move fast. There’s never been a more critical time for this valuable lesson than our current sales environment. If we can simply slow down and qualify deals up front, we can give ourselves a better chance to win at a higher value point – while separating ourselves from the herd of other companies who, in their bid to run fast, will run directly into walls.
How are you working with your sales professionals to wipe out bad habits? The Brooks Group has more than 40 years of experience in helping sales professionals understand how to uncover what clients and prospects truly value. We have a full slate of offerings to help you upskill your team and get them on track, including a host of virtual, instructor-led training (VILT) offerings.