Kill the Deal!
The best sales pipeline strategy
In my 17 years of selling in our industry, it’s become clear to me that the very best salespeople kill deals. Often, they kill more deals than they close. This surely seems counter-intuitive, but if you think about it, you’ll realize that avoiding poorly qualified deals in the first place is the ideal course of action.
Knowing when to kill a deal is the trick. All salespeople should have an “ideal prospect” profile and target their marketing efforts toward companies that fit that profile -- and qualify inbound inquiries against them. Be diligent to distinguish between interesting, important and urgent needs, and ensure that you are working on opportunities where the problem is already urgent or can be elevated quickly to urgent status.
Once a deal is in progress, salespeople should continue to weigh it against that profile and consider whether it will be a benefit to the staffing firm. If in doubt about a deal, here are times you should consider walking away.
Volume. Is the volume too much for your organization to handle or too little to be worth the sales energy? You must know what your “sweet spot” is and be ready to walk away from opportunities that are not in that ideal range. Also, if your organization has sales channels that target different size opportunities, you must hand it over.
Compelling event. What is going on in the customer’s organization that will drive them to choose you? If there is no pain or compelling event happening -- or you can’t identify it -- kill it. Why waste time on a client if they have nothing to fix and no reason to buy?
Incumbency. Many sales professionals say that it takes twice the time, money and energy to break into a new account. If your pipeline is full of accounts to grow, maybe you should walk away from a deal where you have neither a relationship nor incumbency.
Location, location, location. Most customers want to buy from those who work in their community. While this trend is starting to shift with virtual recruiting initiatives, people like to buy from people they can see. When pursuing a national deal, if your branch network does not align with the client’s locations, chances are a competitor will outshine you in this category, and you may as well hang it up now.
Margin, discounts and rebates. As early as possible in the pursuit of new business, assess the client’s willingness to pay you at the margins you desire and what other financial terms your target client expects. Waiting until the end of the negotiations makes it that much more painful to learn your pricing strategies are misaligned.
Solution. Business models are changing dramatically in the staffing and recruiting industry. You must be keenly aware of what solutions you are equipped to deliver upon. Do you really have demonstrable technologies and processes, for this deal in question? If not, and you don’t plan on building it, kill the deal.
Coach. Those who’ve taken Miller Heiman Strategic Selling training are well aware of the value of the “coach.” The coach gives you pieces of information that will help you be successful. The coach likes you and genuinely wants to see you win. If you don’t have a coach, you’ll be at a disadvantage to someone who does.
Buying on price. Some companies buy solely on price. There are implications for selling on price and not on value. Sometimes it isn’t worth it; consider walking away and spending your efforts finding a client that will pay for your value.
Reputation. It is important to uncover any skeletons that may be in the closet. If you’ve worked with this client in the past (at this company or another), do they like you? Did your company perform well? Have you been fired by this company in the past? Protect your valuable time and resources and walk away if the relationship has a troubled past.
Those sales teams that achieve the sales edge do so because they have a clear understanding of their opportunities and recognize whether a deal will be a win for their organizations. If the probability for closure or for it to be a successful proposition is low, kill it! Diligent opportunity pipeline management enables a salesperson and/or management to forecast their sales more accurately, better manage their time, and ultimately close more sales.
We all want it -- the full pipeline, that is -- a sales funnel with more opportunities at the top, converting to qualified leads and feeding the closed sales at the bottom. With it we are power sellers. But, if we are not diligent on the front end, our pipeline can be full of deals that won’t progress and ultimately will be tagged as a loss.
Penny Queller is senior vice president, strategic solutions, at Advantage xPO, a provider of consultative workforce management solutions and an operating company of Advantage Resourcing, the 9th largest global staffing firm.