Positive Prospects Are Trouble

Prospects have many moves they learn at prospects’ school, but one of the most lethal is the positive move.  The positive move is when the prospect appears to be eager to purchase your solution, especially early in the sales process.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always “blue birds” that fly in to a salesperson.  Blue birds are minimal qualifying, quick-closing deals that close so fast that they may not even make it onto the forecast.  They are extremely rare…but salespeople are always entranced by them.  Prospects seem to be aware of these blue birds and will sometimes use a mechanism that mimics a blue bird.

The prospect becomes overly positive.  I believe they have a clear motive for doing it.  When prospects go positive, salespeople tend to dial down (or turn off) their qualifying skills.  The salesperson stops asking qualifying questions about money, timing, decision process, etc.  They shorten the meeting and quickly add the prospect to the forecast as a quick close.  It is at this point that the “prospect” can quickly disappear in to the ether, never to be heard from again.

When prospects go positive, the salesperson has to go more positive.  They need to ask questions about what it will take to get a purchase order today.  Also, what is the ideal installation/delivery/solution date?  Notice how this approach takes the prospect further positive…if they are not a blue bird, they will start moving in a negative direction.  This movement is the key.  Now the salesperson can start requalifying the opportunity.  And they need to approach it as a fresh start, new opportunity…that may or may not make it to the forecast based on what the salesperson learns as they start requalifying.

Preparation vs. Execution

SellingPower.com’s article – Help for Your Pre-Call Prep – makes a bold statement in the opening sentence:

When you get right down to it, sales are won or lost on preparation.

I would argue that sales are won or lost on execution.  Give me a salesperson who executes flawlessly any day over one who prepares flawlessly.  Again, the context is in terms of where deals are lost.  Be that as it may, the article has an interesting statistic found in one of the later graphs.

At a time when relatively few initial discussions with a client are progressing further into the sales cycle (40 percent of organizations say only 25 – 50 percent of initial discussions progress to a presentation; 30 percent say 51– 75 percent of discussions do so, according to CSO Insights), the issue of pre-call preparation deserves some attention. After all, it’s the quality of your preparation that largely determines whether or not the client agrees to a second meeting.

Ok, I take umbrage with the over-emphasis on pre-call prep.  Salespeople who show up and throw up are the main reason suspects do not move into prospects.  I thought this number was shocking – up to 50% of initial discussions progress to a presentation.  This fact could be that salespeople are better qualifiers in lean economies.  Perhaps they are qualifying suspects more thoroughly to eliminate the tirekickers from their pipeline.

In other words, a lower number moving into the pipeline could be construed as better qualifying.