Getting Off the Dead Horse: Selling Equivalent…

Do you really mean that a salesperson should walk-away from a sale and actually turn down business?

Yes, in certain situations, that’s exactly what the salesperson should do. If the customer is unwilling or unable to make a reasonable commitment to move the sales process forward, then salesperson must be willing to say “This isn’t working” and consider the possibility of walking away from this sale opportunity, as a last resort. If you are not willing to turn down business when things go sour, you’re going to be doing the equivalent of riding a dead horse.

Legend has it that the Dakota Indian wisdom says that when you find yourself riding a dead horse, you should dismount — but some salespeople often adopt less sensible strategies. Some of these strategies (along with their translated equivalents) are to:

  • Buy a bigger whip (flogging the sale until it surrenders)
  • Run a training session to increase the salesperson’s  riding ability (selling skills)
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed (several No-Win customers must be better than one)
  • Declare that “no horse is too dead to beat” (or that “no sale is so far gone that positive thinking can’t rescue it”)
  • Provide additional budget to increase the horse’s performance ( by throwing good resources after bad at an unresponsive customer)

The whimsy aside, you get the basic point. Your goal as a selling professional should be not just any and all sales, but good sales. By definition, good sales are Win-Win sales.

The starting goal for any sales engagement should always be to seek a Win-Win sale. This is usually possible, but there are those unusual cases when a walk-away from the sale becomes the only practical outcome. It’s only when the customer is either unwilling or unable to make minimum acceptable commitments toward moving the sale to close, then that necessitates the walk-away outcome.

In the chorus of Kenny Roger’s famous song, “The Gambler,” the old gambler urges the young man to, “know when to walk away, know when to run.”  Packing up and walking away from a deal that is going nowhere is one of the hardest things to do in sales. Even some of the best salespeople continue to work on accounts that, from any observer’s point of view, were a complete waste of time, only to regret the energy, time, emotion, and resources they poured into it once the deal was lost.

Deals lost and time wasted on prospects who were not the decision makers, were already under long-term contracts, were just shopping for price to keep their current vendor honest, or who were not in the buying window. Each working day salespeople across the globe are surprised to find out, after investing blood, sweat, and tears, and of course promises to the boss, that the account they have been working on won’t close. And to make things worse, many of these salespeople were completely blind to all of the clues that were blinking like neon signs saying; “this prospect will not close, move on!”

On the other hand there are the Sales Professionals who have a keen sense of the viability of a deal. Using solid questioning strategies, a simple mental checklist, and intuition they quickly extract themselves from the sales process once they believe working with their prospect or customer is unprofitable or a waste of time.

This rare ability serves them well because it allows them to focus their most valuable resource – time – on accounts that have a high probability of closing. Even though sometimes they may be wrong and pull away from a prospect too quickly, it is better that they move on than take a chance and waste massive amounts of time on a prospect that could potentially never close.

So how do these Sales Professionals know when to walk away and sometimes run? What methodology do they use?

According to Jeb Blount, the Sales Guy; the top salespeople train themselves how and when to walk away from low probability deals. The first step is becoming familiar with the concept of probability. This is what the old gambler is trying to teach the young man on the train. Imagine if you walked into a casino and over every table there was neon sign that gave you the probability that you would win if you played that particular game. Some of the tables flashed 20%, some 50%, and still others 80%. Where would you place your bets?

If you were smart you would walk away from the 20% tables and play the 80% tables. This is how the best sales professionals look at their pipeline. Instead of viewing all of their prospects as equal, they look for neon signs that indicate the probability a deal will close. And they only spend their scarce resources only on high-probability deals. They gauge the probability of each prospect using a variety of indicators to act as that neon sign. They uncover these indicators through advanced and patient questioning of the buyer, influencers, and themselves.

Using the answers to these questions and other indicators, top performing Sales Pros gauge the probability that a particular deal will close. And what sets these high-performers apart is their steadfast discipline to walk away from anything that falls below their probability comfort level.

Blount continues; one of the common attributes of these top producers is when asked why they have such high closing rates they almost all say, “because I only call on prospects who are going to buy.” In other words, they only spend their time with high-probability prospects. You see, these top performers clearly understand the value of time. Time is the great equalizer.

Every salesperson is given the exact same 24 hours each day – no more and no less. The difference between the top performers and everyone else is how they use that time. Top performers know that the real secret to improving their closing percentage is the self-discipline to ask hard questions of, and about, each prospect. In doing so they work less, earn more and close more deals.