Imagine for a moment that you’re an active member of the shark-infested waters we like to call the “dating pool.” Say you’ve met someone online, expressed a vague mutual interest, and perhaps gone on a small handful of dates. There seems to be some chemistry between you two: maybe they wear cool hats, and you both love Chris Farley movies. Yet every time you try to schedule the next date, the prospective partner in question makes excuses, leaves your messages unread, or otherwise postpones making the plans necessary to further your budding romance. Would you consider this person a good candidate for relationship?
If you’re like me, your answer is probably, “Aw heck naw! Relationships take mutual investment in order to be successful. If they can’t find time for you, they’re probably not that into you!”
So the question stands. If you wouldn’t tolerate unilateral involvement in a romantic relationship, why is it so commonly tolerated in the sales process? Salespeople the world over spend countless hours trying to drag deals with disinterested parties down their pipeline, even when the writing seems to be on the wall. Here are my thoughts on what’s going on here:
- Wishful Thinking — It’s easy to let what we want to happen cloud what is realistically probable to happen. Your initial call may have been fantastic, and it may seem like the perfect deal. It’s easy to get lost in thinking how great it would be if you closed the deal, and lose sight of how it will be done. For example, in my sales cycle I typically need a variety of items to be able to provide a quote before we can even begin discussing contracts. These items can include the client’s existing wireframes or designs, RFP documents, access to the code repo, or simply a signed NDA. Working with Distillery is a highly collaborative process which requires a mutual investment from both parties. Any objective bystander can probably tell you that if a prospective client can’t respond in a timely manner with any of the aforementioned items, they probably aren’t a good prospect.
- Pretty Fictions Overtake Sad Facts — Like most sales organizations, my company has a weekly pipeline review. My pipeline review takes the form of a very open and conversational meeting in which my team and I discuss the current state of our opportunities, strategize how to overcome existing obstacles, and effectively forecast revenue in the short and long term. It’s difficult to walk into one of these meetings with an anemic pipeline and withstand questioning about what we can do to improve it. In that situation, it can be easier to slap something up on the board that realistically has very little chance of closing but presents a rosy picture to your superiors. I have seen sales managers content themselves with robust-looking pipeline numbers only to find themselves disappointed come results time, when they are unable to accurately forecast monthly, quarterly, and yearly numbers. To offset that, Distillery has created a sales culture where there’s no judgement, no punitive measures, and no comparison between members of the sales organization — nothing that would incentivize salespeople to try to cover their behinds. What is most important in our meetings is honesty, transparency, and a singular focus on our goals of fueling a successful business and making our clients happy. With these goals at the forefront of every meeting, we spend every minute of our time productively.
- Sales Cultures Encourage Blunt Force — When I first started in sales, I noticed a pervasive ethos I like to call “Boiler Room Culture.”
Alternately, for those of us who prefer Baldwin to Affleck, you could call it “Glengarry Glen Ross culture.”
That is to say, salespeople are often told both implicitly and explicitly that the only way to be successful is by sheer force of will. While I’m not discounting the importance of hard work and persistence in sales, I do believe that this attitude can give salespeople a bad name and create toxic, ineffective sales organizations. While that may not be the case for all companies, with Distillery’s prospective clients, I’m far more interested in finding out how to create a successful working relationship than I am in simply creating a sale. I’ve learned that there’s value in turning clients away if we aren’t well-matched, both for the client and for our business. And I would much rather devote my time to one prospective client who is interested, engaged, and well-suited for our offering than trying to shoehorn ten poorly suited ones into a deal. This approach preserves my time (which is one of my most valuable resources), along with my prospects inbox.
I want to re-emphasize that I am not denigrating the importance of persistence in the sales process. I get that people are busy and things can get lost on their to-do lists for weeks or even months at a time. With some prospective clients, I have kept in touch on a weekly basis over several months — certain that one day they were going to snap and tell me to buzz off — only to have them thank me for my persistence once the deal was closed. I’m simply advocating a more sensible, client-centered approach to sales that takes into account not only what a client says, but what a client does.
Sales is a two-way street, and my job as Distillery’s Partnership Director is to find the best way to add the most value to my clients’ businesses. As in any good relationship, it makes both parties’ lives better. So if they’re acting like they’re just not that into you, it may be best to simply move on.
Interested in talking with Distillery about your project or staffing needs? Let us know. We promise not to overstay our welcome.
About the Author
As Distillery’s Partnership Director, Sam Wheeler is responsible for building strategic client and industry relationships. He’s passionate about matching clients with innovative, custom-fit solutions that help them grow their businesses. In a former career as an elementary school teacher, he learned the value of putting people at the center of everything you do. When he’s not working, he loves spending time at home with his wife and daughter, enjoying frequent hikes, BBQs, and trips to the coffee shop.