You’re having a one-on-one coaching session with a member of your sales team, reviewing the sales pipeline. You quickly notice three prospects that are still hanging around, like a bad cold. Now, you and the salesperson have had more than one conversation about these opportunities. You’ve agreed on these points:
- They don’t fit your ideal client profile.
- The prospect’s pain was a nice-to-fix one, not a need-to-fix.
- Oh, and on top of that, the prospect is a price shopper, the classic buyer that wants champagne on a beer budget.
So why is the salesperson hanging onto this unqualified prospect?
There are several reasons. One that often gets overlooked in coaching conversation is too much optimism!
Salespeople are optimistic by nature, which serves them very well in their profession. But too much optimism backfires when the salesperson’s optimism clouds the vision of what’s really going on. It creates exception-to-the-rule thinking and selling behaviors.
“I just know this prospect is different. I remember I had an opportunity, just like this one, TEN YEARS ago! And it ended up closing.”
Optimism accompanied by low reality testing keeps unqualified prospects in the sales pipeline.
I often see optimism and “this one is an exception” thinking when sales reps participate in the RFP game. They’ve had no input into the creation of the RFP, but they are optimistic it will be different this time. Never mind that they’ve responded to the same RFP process for five years in a row, only to have the incumbent win the business. (The process should be renamed RFPP- Request For Practice Proposals.)
Too much optimism creates “this opportunity is the exception” thinking.
Sales managers, don’t try to convince the salesperson to make a change. You’ve been down that coaching path. Instead, administer a strong dose of reality testing and self-awareness. Ask the salesperson to quantify how much time she is wasting on “exception prospects.” It’s a math exercise. Have the salesperson add up the total number of hours invested in pursuing “exception prospects” for the last 12 months and include:
- Running the appointments
- Drive time, if there was any, to the appointment
- Follow-up calls and correspondence
- Second and third meetings
- Development of recommendations
Once the salesperson does the math, you’ll see a shift in behavior because numbers don’t lie. Four hours of wasted time each week equals 16 hours each month, the equivalent of two full days a month wasted pursuing “exception prospects.”
Help your sales team do better this year by eliminating “this opportunity is an exception” thinking. Apply the EQ skills of reality testing and self-awareness to change selling behaviors!