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The ONE THING: A Science-based Missing-Link to Closing More Sales

June 26th, 2021

Every week, business owners and sales managers ask me how they can improve the effectiveness of their sales organizations.   One of their most popular questions is “why can’t our people close more sales?”   Many have also asked “if we could just change ONE THING, what would it be?”

Many of these executives have invested heavily trying to improve sales performance and have tried (and mostly failed) using a variety of approaches.

These business leaders experience results that consistently fall far short of sales projections.  They are trying to find out why so many new forecasted sales postpone or cancel.  They want to know why such a large percentage of “high probability” sales in their CRM are dying on the vine, and what they can do differently to improve the results.  Many of them believe the problem is a lack of closing skills.   Others think it is more about prospecting.

While most would agree that prospecting and closing effectiveness are important qualities in a salesperson, science has recently produced some extremely revealing data that identifies what may be the single largest cause of unclosed sales.   The Missing Link and supporting data are outlined below, along with a brief summary of how you can fix the problem.

The data set is large.   Objective Management Group is a company that has evaluated over 2 million salespeople.  The graph below represents a Sales Team with regard to their skills, potential, processes, and mindset regarding Reaching Decision-Makers.

Graph for blog 

You may notice that the graph includes data from both sales force evaluations and individual salesperson pipelines.  Pipeline information was derived by asking each salesperson to identify 4 late-stage, proposal-ready or closable opportunities, with 19 questions asked about each opportunity.    The data was integrated and analyzed to produce some important findings.

This team’s results closely mirror overall averages of salespeople evaluated in the study.   Like most, the vast majority of the group believes in the importance of reaching decision makers and in using their skills to reach them.  More importantly, the team averages 54% of the attributes for Reaching Decision-makers, but only 13% (green pie slice) are strong at reaching them.

For the most part, these salespeople believe it’s important to reach the DM and have a milestone in their sales process to reach them.  And despite the fact that they possess some of the selling skills to do so, they still fail to reach the decision makers.

If we focus upon the first two attributes in the chart, both concerned with Calling on Actual Decision Makers, we notice contradicting data.   The pipeline data shows that nearly 90% of the salespeople met with the actual DMs on these late-stage opportunities.  Not too bad.

Unfortunately, the evaluation data shows that only 10% of salespeople are reaching actual decision makers overall.  Yikes.

In other words, when salespeople reach true decision makers, opportunities typically cruise through the pipeline resulting in a win.  However, most salespeople do not reach actual DMs.  Consequently, most opportunities (the vast majority) remain unqualified.  The salesperson never even has a change to differentiate, so the sale ultimately peters out resulting in a loss.

Further inspection of the data reveals that half of salespeople are calling on purchasing people, instead of DMs at the start of the sales process.  Why?  Because nearly half aren’t comfortable talking with the true decision maker, and a third need to be liked and resist pushing back on buyers who won’t introduce them to or “give them permission” to meet with DMs.

I don’t mean to assert that this is the only problem that sales organizations are facing.  It certainly is not.  However, the data clearly shows that if most salespeople could fix only one thing today, the consistent ability to reach decision makers would make an enormous difference.

If you’re still reading, you’ve discovered the Missing Link to a gigantic, untapped castle of riches.  It is unlikely, but I hope your sales team is one of a very small group of outliers who are successfully and consistently reaching decision-makers early in the sales process.  If not, and if you’d like your team to begin, here are just a few pointers…:

1. The simplest thing you can do is to make your salespeople AWARE of the enormous impact of visiting with true decision makers.  Ask them to read this article and encourage them to focus upon reaching DMs.  Even if you do nothing else, simple awareness should have some positive effect.

2. If you want to know where you team stands with regard to the skills, strengths, and potential to reach DMs, you can always assess them using the tools described above.

3. If you’re ready to get serious and blow your sales through the roof, the world is your (potential) oyster.  Before you start, just know this…:

a. Most people, including your salespeople, will resist change.   They are currently behaving the way they are behaving because that is how they CHOOSE to behave.

b. Because of this resistance, an Unconditional Commitment of leadership is required to make it happen.

c. An effective consultative sales process, including advanced listening and questioning skills, an ability to differentiate, and knowing how to be perceived as a trusted advisor is required.

d. Timing and emotional intelligence are critical.   An effective salesperson must understand how to earn the right to make certain requests.

Just think….  If your salespeople could only reach only 20% more decision makers, consider the huge impact doing so would have on revenues, profit, and the strength of your business.

Now that science has provided you with the keys to the castle, what are you going to do?

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.