Sales Coach: Be skeptical…but then be ruthless.

fedoraYou can grossly oversimplify the B2B sales process into two stages:

Stage 1:  Before the prospect says “yes”.
Stage 2:  After the prospect says “yes”.

The two stages require two very different approaches.

(Note: regardless of stage, you should always be helping.)

In stage 1, you need to be skeptical.  The prospect might look good on paper, but you need to find the truth.  Do you they meet your qualification criteria?  Can the prospect make a decision?

Too many sales reps are hopeful in stage 1.  Instead of honestly assessing a prospect and objectively holding her to qualification criteria, a rep might instead latch on to a glimmer of hope that the prospect will see the light and turn into a deal at the last minute.

Sometimes less-than-qualified prospects magically turn into customers.  Most of the time they don’t…and you’ve wasted a bunch of time chasing a dead end.

In other words:  before you get the “yes”, you should focus on trying to find the “no”.

However, once you get a “yes” from a qualified prospect — you need to change your mindset completely.

In stage 2, you need to be ruthless.  The prospect is qualified and made the decision to buy.  You can’t let these opportunities go to waste — you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get the deal over the line.

Our friend Vince Beese refers to this as “red zone selling”.  (The red zone is the 20-yard area in front of the end zone in football, where teams score touchdowns.)  Football teams inch the ball up the field a few yards at a time in hopes of getting to the red zone…at which point the offense is ruthlessly focused on scoring a touchdown.

What does it mean to be ruthless in the red zone?  It means that you:

  • Make the proposal a win-win — leave some value on the table, be transparent with your negotiations.
  • Relentlessly focus on the deal — find a reason to contact them every day, don’t let the convo peter out.
  • Agree to a process & timeframe — know who needs to sign what, use dates / milestones in the closing process to claw out the last few yards.

So think about this next time you’re on the phone with a prospect — are you in stage 1 or stage 2?  Should you be skeptical or should you be ruthless?