The Iron Laws of Sales
There are some laws that cannot be broken no matter how hard you try. Gravity is one of these laws. You may be able to beat it for a short time, but it will relentlessly work to replant your feet on the ground. And it will win every time.
Selling has some iron laws that are equally unbreakable. Trying to break these laws only hurts you, and sometimes badly.
Today’s Prospecting Determines Whether You Make Next Quarter’s Quota
The work that you are doing to add new dream clients and prospects to your pipeline today is the work that will produce the opportunities that you will win at the end of your sales cycle. If your sales cycle is 90 days, then the opportunities you put into the pipeline today will be won or lost in the next quarter.
If your sales cycle is longer, say a year or more, it is even easier to postpone your prospecting effort because the result of having failed to do so isn’t felt until so much later.
Jim Rohn used to say that you plant in springtime and you reap in the fall. It is always springtime in sales. Prospecting is an activity that must be done daily.
This rule gives us another rule.
The More You Need the Deal, The Harder It Is to Close
You don’t win your dream clients just because you need the win. You win dream clients when you have done everything necessary up to the point when you can ask for and obtain the commitment to begin working together.
If you violated the above law about prospecting, then you will surely find yourself faced with the harsh and unforgiving reality of trying to make quota in the last couple weeks of your quarter.
Deals become harder to close when you are forced to try to advance them without having done the underlying work that is necessary to doing so. You may have skated by cramming for events in college, but there is no cramming for success in sales.
You cannot cram relationships. You cannot cram nurturing. You cannot cram prospecting work. You cannot cram having a presence over a period of time long enough to have established trust. You cannot cram a full and complete understanding of your dream client’s needs.
And you cannot cram your solution down your dream client’s face because you failed to prospect.
Needs Analysis and Understanding Precede Effective Presentations
If you want to present a great solution that meets your dream client’s needs, you have to work to develop those needs long before you present. Too many salespeople believe that their slick presentation or their killer technology will win the day once they get to the boardroom, only to be surprised at not being selected by a buying committee whose needs they never knew or understood.
Your dream client will tell you what you need to know in order to sell to them effectively. They will share with you their vision of what a successful solution looks like to them. But in order for them to share their vision with you, you have to postpone presenting long enough to listen.
You have to care more about getting your dream client their outcome than you care about selling your solution.
Listen first, sell later.
No Dissatisfaction, No Movement
Your dream clients don’t change until they are dissatisfied. If there is no dissatisfaction, there is no motivation or rationale for change. Change means disruption and no one wants to pay for that disruption unless they have to.
You can spend all of the time in the world with your dream clients and prospects, you can have the greatest offering and solution the world has ever known, but unless or until they become dissatisfied, or you create that dissatisfaction, they will not budge.
Find dissatisfaction or create it. Without it, you are going nowhere.
If You Don’t Make It Better, Someone Else Will
Your dream clients have problems. Your existing clients have problems, too. Either you identify these problems and make them go away, or someone else will. Professional selling means creating and managing a better outcome.
The clock doesn’t stop once that outcome has been achieved. New problems will create new dissatisfaction throughout some part of your dream client over time. Once that dissatisfaction creeps in, your dream client is susceptible to all kinds of suggestions from your competitors.
Either you dig in and work to make your solution better, to eliminate all dissatisfaction as soon as it becomes visible, or your competitors will.
The above laws have a foundation in some truth. They are logical and they make sense. Here are a couple bonus laws that seem to exist even though there is no logical reason they should. Like them or not, I wouldn’t try to break them.
When You Stop Calling Your Dream Client, They Become Dissatisfied and Select Your Competitor
It never fails: as soon as you stop calling and pursuing your dream client, they become dissatisfied and choose your fiercest competitor and rival. You may have called on them for years, you may have established relationships, and you may have believed that, should they ever decide to move, that you would be given a shot.
Maybe six weeks has gone by since your last call, maybe a full quarter has past. Was that call even a value creation call? You pick up the phone and call only to discover that your competitor is already implementing their solution.
In sales, we too often err on the side of under-communicating with our dream clients, reaching out to them only at the C-Level and only every quarter or so. We pretend that this is professionalism and that to do any more than that means that we are acting too aggressively, something we believe will cost us our self-proclaimed title of Trusted Advisor or Consultative Seller.
If You Leave Your Sales Call Without a Scheduled Advance, It Will Take Months To Reconnect and Restart the Process
Maybe your sales call went better than expected. Maybe they loved you and your offering. Maybe you have never been so warmly received. Whatever. You left the sales call without scheduling a rock solid, concrete commitment that will advance your deal.
Now, you can’t reach your dream client on the phone. They aren’t returning your email. You would stop by, but you don’t want to bother them and seem like a salesperson. The failure to ask for and obtain the commitment is probably the result of not wanting to sound like a salesperson, too. Working in sales and not wanting to sell comes with a whole set of problems that are only solved by changing your sales behaviors, the first of which is the ability to ask for commitments.
If you leave a sales call without a scheduled commitment that advances the deal, prepare to have your deals stall. If you think it is hard to ask for and obtain commitments during a sales call, your not going to like trying to reengage your dream clients any better.
Effective selling has rules that, like gravity, cannot be broken. Working within these rules and allowing them define your sales behaviors will allow you to succeed. Violating these iron laws of sales will destroy your effectiveness and your results.
Can you postpone prospecting without impacting your future results? Is there a more important predictor of your future results than your current prospecting activity?
Does being desperate for a deal because you are far from quota cause you to behave poorly? Does it make you believe that you can discount price to win the deal, even when that isn’t your dream client’s primary determining factor?
Do you ever present your solution before you have a full understanding of your dream client’s needs and how they will decide whether to buy your solution? Do you believe your product or service is enough to carry you to a win without an understanding of their needs?
How do you create or build dissatisfaction in order to motivate your dream client to change? Are you willing to do so?
Do you ever believe that because you can’t solve your dream client or your existing client’s problems that your competitor can’t either?
Do you err on the side of under-communicating with your dream client, believing that you are bothering them? Is this because you are really bothering them, communicating with no plan or ability to create value?
Is your pipeline full of stalled deals because you didn’t obtain a commitment at the close of your last sales call? Is it easier or more difficult to reengage a stalled prospect?