Sales Bullpen Sales Newsletter - November 2003

Maximizing your performance and reviewing your sales approach

We are now in the 4th quarter of the calendar year and for many sales people it is the hardest time of the year to sell because of the holiday period that is coming up. There are about 13 selling days left in the month of November and only about 18-20 real days to sell in December. How are you going to spend your time before the month and year are over?

Focus on the real deals
Focusing on which deals are real and which are not should always be one of your sales goals, but it seems that at this time of the year, it really becomes important as the year is coming to an end and you are trying to reach your sales goals for the quarter and for the year.

How do you determine which deals are real and which are not? One easy way to to see which of your opportunities are driven by an impending event. Does your prospect have to make a decision by a certain date? Is your client under pressure to spend their budget by the end of the month or year? Is the prospect moving to a new office or building? These kinds of pressures and impending events are forcing the customer to make a decision and will almost guarantee you that they will make a decision by a certain specified date. Those are the deals you want to focus on and close. Deals without impending events or external pressures will most likely get put off until the following month or into next year. Determine now where to spend your time and more importantly where not to spend your time.

In my book, 'Accelerate Your Sales-Learn the sales secrets of a Stanford MBA', I talk about how to implement the Planned Sales Process to help you identify and eliminate 'faux prospects' from real prospects. The Planned Sales Process uses a 5 step process to not only help you approach clients in the same consistent way, but as a way to qualify and re-qualify your prospects each step of the way. Lets do an overview of the process and the philosophy of why it works. Keep in mind that this process can be modified to meet you own needs, the products you sell and the clients you call on. It's the concepts that are important to understand and think about.

The Butterfly Effect
'A butterfly flapping its wings in Shanghai has the power to transform the weather conditions in San Francisco'

Here is a some background on the 'Butterfly Effect' which was accidentally discovered, in the early 1960's by Edward Lorenz, at the time a research meteorologist working at MIT. Lorenz was working on developing some computer programs to help model weather patterns. Lorenz was running some of these computer programs one day and wanted to save himself some time by entering some data into the middle of the program. Instead of using the usual six decimal places as usual for this program ( 012345) he used only three decimal places (.0123) to save time and effort. The results were not what Lorenz expected. Instead of getting something similar to his previous printout, the computer had taken the information that had been input and calculated a very different outcome with the program. At first, Lorenz thought there was a bug in the program. He re-ran the program but discovered there was no bug. Instead Lorenz had discovered that the numbers he had entered initially, although only slightly different, yielded a totally different result in the process at the end.

The technical term for this outcome is called 'sensitive dependence upon initial conditions'. This has become known as the 'Butterfly Effect'. What is says is that small changes or conditions set at the beginning of a process can have a profound effect on the end of the process.

W. Edward Deming, the leader of the total quality management movement in the United States described this effect in the following way:

Every process has a beginning, a middle and an end. When you focus your efforts on the first 15% of a process and get it right (its initial conditions), you can be assured the remaining 85% will follow effortlessly.

What Deming believed is that if you started a process with the right conditions up front, you will have a very high probability of getting the result you were looking for at the end of the process.

The Planned Sales Process
The philosophy behind the Planned Sales Process is that it is very important to use a sales process that gives you the ability to control and measure your progress during the sales process. If you do this right, you will increase your chances of closing the business with your prospect. The Planned Sales Process has five steps:

First Call-Qualification: This is the initial call with the client that is face-to-face. You may do some initial qualification on the telephone when you set up the appointment, but generally you need to meet with the client to find out if they meet your qualification criteria. You also introduce them to the Planned Sales Process and how you will use it to manage the sales process. If you get buy off from them to follow this process, you are now in a stronger position to close this business. Application Survey: If the prospect meets your qualifications and you determine they are a strong prospect, the next step is a meeting or set of meetings to collect more information about their requirements. This usually involves meeting with others in their company. It also involves gathering hard facts about their current way of doing business, what their currents costs are and how they would like to change their currents processes. What problems are they trying to solve and what solution are they looking for? If you ask the right questions, prospects will usually tell you what they want to buy.

Design Review: This is the step where you review your findings from your application survey. You present your solution, your pricing and you handle any objections. In effect, you are trial closing for the business.

Present the Proposal: If you've done everything right, this is a write up of the findings during your design review meeting. You've confirmed the client's needs, identified a solution and met their cost justification criteria. This information is put into a form that they can use to get final approvals from their management team.

Close the business: This step becomes the logical conclusion of the process you have been following with your prospect from the beginning. All through the process you have been talking about the close date because it relates to when the prospect needs to have their solution installed and implemented. You have documented the close step on your email updates to the client and you have asked the client to help you understand who approves the contract?, how long does it take to get approvals, what criteria will be used to make their decision and so on. Asking for the business becomes the final action item in the process rather than something to be feared or avoided by the sales person.

Focus on the deals that are real and push off the opportunities you do not have a strong chance by the end of the month or year. Using a process like the Planned Sales Process will help you better qualify your prospects and allow you to focus your energies where the pay off will be the biggest.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to me at


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