Meridith Elliott Powell, Ian Altman
00:04 Ian Altman
Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I’m Ian Altman, joined by Meridith Elliott Powell. Welcome, Meridith.
00:11 Meridith Elliott Powell
Thanks. I’m looking forward to today.
00:13 Ian Altman
Well, and what we’re going to talk about today is how do you know if you’re wasting your time pursuing the wrong deal? And so, I’m going to turn the floor over to you first, in terms of what you see as the big mistakes that people make in pursuing the wrong deals.
00:33 Meridith Elliott Powell
Yeah, you know, if I had a dime for how much time salespeople spend going after the wrong deal, I would be far retired, and I wouldn’t be doing this. I wouldn’t be doing this podcast or working day in and day out. We are notorious for chasing the wrong deal. And I think one of the reasons we’re notorious for it is because we’re salespeople. We love the hunt; we love the chase. But the only thing worse than chasing the wrong deal is catching the wrong deal. So, I think number one is, you know you’re chasing the wrong deal when you step back, and you look at it, and you really understand that this isn’t in your target market. You’re not talking to somebody who is the decision-maker. You’re not talking to somebody who you really clearly understand could make use of your products or services. You’re not chasing the right person when it comes to the value that you could add, so price could be off the table. So, Ian, when I’m not getting a response from customers, and I’ve got to decide who I’m going to follow up with and who I’m not going to follow up with, the first place I go back to is how well does this person fit my ideal profile?
01:46 Ian Altman
Well, I love that part of identifying fit because it really just comes down to, is this the type of organization we can help the most? Is this person rooting for me, or am I the fly in their ointment, if you will? And I think that oftentimes, and you touched on this, this notion that in salespeople are, I would almost call it, overly optimistic. And the bigger the deal, the more optimistic they get, because they think, well, it’s a big deal, so it must be a good opportunity for us. I’m sure we’re going to win this thing because, after all, it’s a big deal. And one of the things that I often challenge people with is, I will ask them, what does the client need to see to be comfortable doing this business with you versus somebody else? And if you don’t know, then the opportunity probably isn’t well qualified. If you think yourself, oh, they’ll definitely go with us, and you can’t answer that question, you probably also don’t know. And so, what we often have to ask ourselves is that notion of why would they pick us versus somebody else? And if we don’t know, rest assured, they don’t know, either. What do you see as big indicators that maybe you’re wasting your time with the wrong opportunity?
03:03 Meridith Elliott Powell
With my clients, we use a grid. And the grid is that we lay out the top 10 qualifiers that we have to have to continue to chase a deal. And you have to at least meet six to seven of them for our salespeople to stay in the game. So often, what I look at is that maybe there’s a couple of qualifiers there. Like you said, it’s a good deal. It’s a good size, business. Maybe you actually are talking to the decision-maker, but you’ve left something out, like their timeline. Maybe what you sell, they just upgraded this about a year ago, or they have just had a huge capital expenditure so, they’ve kind of had to put a hold on things. So, ignoring sense of urgency or some of the qualifiers that you add in there. Like I said, if you really sit down and understand why deals close, you’ll see that there will be six or seven things that you really have to have with a client in order to make it worth your time. I think one thing that’s really important for us to say is that nobody knows when a deal is going to close. You don’t control when a customer is going to make a decision. So, one of the most important things that salespeople need to do is manage their time — decide who am I going to follow up with and who am I going to let go? Because the moment that you decide you’re going to follow up on a certain set or group of people, you’re saying no to other people. So, you’re, in essence, trying to make an educated guess. So, if you’re not really being honest with yourself and looking at it from qualifiers, you’re not making good guesses, and lack of good guesses is going to send you down the wrong rabbit hole.
04:51 Ian Altman
Yeah, and it really comes down to that notion of guessing. In fact, one of the things that I often comment on is people will say, oh, I had this amazing meeting with somebody. We were scheduled to meet for just 20 minutes, and the meeting instead lasted for an hour. And the two of us, man, we just click we connected right away. And the meeting went so well that we’ve agreed and already scheduled the time to meet again next week. And they come back and say, oh, this is a great opportunity. And it would be a great opportunity if it was set up on match.com, but it’s not a great business opportunity. You know, the notion of we got along great, and we connected is great for chemistry, but not necessarily the business needs. And it gets back to what I teach in the Same Side quadrants, which is fundamentally, at those initial meetings, the prospect has to convince us that they have a problem that’s worth solving, that we’re good at solving. And if they can’t, then we shouldn’t spend time with it. And so, what happens is too often, people in sales want to talk about here are our amazing capabilities or our products, our services, and the reality is that if people don’t have a need, they don’t really care. So instead, we have to do is say, okay, what is it that piqued your interest to meet with me, to begin with? What happens if you don’t solve that? Meaning the impact of not solving that problem. And then what does success look like going forward if we’re to achieve the results you’re looking for? And that delta between the two is what tells you the value of your solution and whether or not there’s a real opportunity? And what I can tell you is that time and time again, I asked professionals, well think about a deal that happened faster than you thought it would, and where the client was less price-sensitive than your typical client, and by show of hands, how many of you can identify the impact in the client’s words what happens if they don’t solve it, and the results that they need to achieve? And almost everyone’s hands go up. And you say, okay, now, I want you to think about a deal that had been hanging on for a year and answer the same question. No one’s hands go up. Because if you don’t know that information, neither does the client. And now, all of a sudden, you’re pursuing an opportunity where you’re more interested in the sale than the client is in solving the problem.
07:06 Meridith Elliott Powell
Yeah, I think something that really goes along really well with that is that you are chasing the wrong plan if you have no sense of the timeline and you have no sense of budget. I mean, if you haven’t qualified those two pieces, that they’re even thinking about pulling the trigger relatively soon. I mean, it doesn’t mean that you don’t follow-up with them, but maybe they go to an annual follow-up or twice a year follow-up — people you just want to stay visible with. But some of the things that you need to find out early is, how hot an issue is this? Where does it fall on their priority list? Because that’s going to give you every indication as to how much you need to stay in the game and how hard you need to be pursuing this. Now life would be easy if every time I called on a client that something I knew was urgent, they saw it as urgent. I have to sometimes move that up the urgency ladder for them. I have to help them understand it’s a hot priority. But if I can’t get them there, if they don’t think that, it’s never going to make it into the budget, and it’s never going to be a qualifier. I just had one today I was talking with. We’ve got something we want to put on the calendar. We want to get going. She was very straight out with me. She said I can’t get this through my member’s budget until January. We need to set it to go as of January of 2022. That’s great. Now I know what my follow-up cadence needs to be. She was honest with me; I can’t push that. So now I know where I need to go. But get urgency and budget out there. Don’t be afraid of it.
08:45 Ian Altman
Well, and I want to clarify a couple of points. Because one thing that you touched on that I want to make sure isn’t lost on people is when you talked about the notion of urgency, you said you help the client move up the urgency. Meaning you help them become aware of why it’s so urgent. People often ask me; how do I create urgency? And I said you can’t. But you can ask the questions and have the conversations, so the client realizes that something is more urgent than maybe they thought it was before. So, for example, if someone says, oh, well, we’ve got this initiative for our salespeople, and you know, I think we’re going to push this into 2022, because, you know, there’s not much we can do with 2021. Then your question becomes, okay, so do you want to make it so that by 2022, they’re already firing on all cylinders, or do you just want to start then? No, we want to make sure that they’re already hitting their stride at that point. Okay. So how long do you think for your team, they need in terms of lead time? Well, probably at least 90 days. All of a sudden, guess what? It’s, well, we have to start by October 1, or they’re not going to be ready by then. So, if you ask the right questions, you can get there. The other side is I want to raise this notion where you talked about budget. I’m a big advocate that budget is often very misleading, in that if you ask somebody, what’s your budget for this, they may have a totally unrealistic number. But, if you can have a discussion about what it cost them to not solve the problem, and what results look like, if you’re successful, then that delta between those two becomes the value. And though they may not have it, “budgeted,” as long as you’re having a conversation with them, where they understand what it’s costing them, and they understand what the outcome looks like, then you can have a rational discussion about the dollar. So, for example, if you find out that someone says, oh, yeah, because our team is discounting all the time, we’re giving up $3 million a quarter in in revenue. You say, well, what percentage of that is profit? Well, all of it. Okay, so how much is that per year? So, it’s $12 million. Okay. So, if to solve that it was going to cost $100,000 is that worth the discussion? Well, now they go, well, yeah, I mean, we weren’t thinking we were going to spend $100,000. But, if it’s going to help us solve the 12 million, yeah, we’ll find the money. To me that’s more meaningful than if they said, how do you fit into the 50,000? So, what’s your thought on that?
11:11 Meridith Elliott Powell
What I love about that is it goes so well, to the point of follow-up. You better have a budget discussion. See, the moment that you open that door, and you’re having that conversation, and you’re making people think about budget, they’re already starting to calculate it into that budget. They’re already saying, well, if I brought Ian on, and we did this. They’re starting to move the deal to close. But if you never had that conversation, they’re thinking, well, I don’t have that budgeted for this year. I’m not going to worry about it. Sounds like a great thing to do, but I’m not sure really sure we have the space. So basically, by having the discussion around budget, helping them find the money, you’re moving the deal closer to a close, and making your follow up more relevant. You know, I know we’re going to have an episode down the road where we talk about money, but it’s something that salespeople tend to avoid that it is so advantageous for you. And if you’re not talking about budget, I don’t really know how you understand who to prioritize over anybody else, because budget helps me understand how close they are to actually closing the deal.
12:25 Ian Altman
Absolutely. Well, let me recap these key points. And as always, I’ll give your opportunity for rebuttal to find the areas that I missed. So, when we’re pursuing these opportunities that may or may not be worthwhile, one of the first things we have to look at is whether or not these people fit the type of profile of your ideal client. Are they a good fit for you? Then we have to look at asking ourselves the question, what do they need to see to be comfortable selecting us over other alternatives? And if we don’t know the answer to that, they don’t. And then the third key point, I would say, is this notion of making sure that they are convincing us. That we’re asking the right questions so the client is convincing us of the issue they have and the impact of not solving it. That way we have the right people involved, and they’ve convinced us they have a problem worth solving. And that delta between the cost of not solving the problem and the outcome that we can deliver for them is the value that then we can say, is it worth spending X dollars to cover that gap? So, what did I leave out, Meridith?
13:26 Meridith Elliott Powell
I think you did a great job with it. The only thing I would say to kind of wrap it all together is that you control the follow-up process. And you need to really think about the fact that your time, you need to maximize it as a salesperson. Use what we talked about today to make the best educated guess that you can make. Sure, will you be wrong now and then? Absolutely. But for the most part, on average, you will make the right decision and the more you choose the right client to follow up on, the more successful you’re going to be at sales.
13:57 Ian Altman
Excellent. Well, we will see you next time on the Same Side Selling Podcast. If you have questions or if there are topics you’d love for us to cover, just send a note to Ian@SameSideSelling.com you can send it to Mer@ValueSpeaker.com.
14:26 Ian Altman
Alright, be well and we’ll see you next time.
14:28 Meridith Elliott Powell