When To Go With Their Gut (A Note to the Sales Manager)

The opportunity isn’t really an opportunity. Looking at it, it looks like something that should have mercilessly disqualified before it ever reached its present state. Now it is on your desk, and your salesperson is sitting before you making the case that this thing is worth pursuing. It looks wrong, and it feels wrong, but your salesperson feels different.

You have a choice to make: go with your gut, or go with their gut.

No Mean Feat

This isn’t an easy decision to make for a number of reasons. First, because as a sales manager you weren’t on any of the sales calls, you may not have seen, heard, or felt what your salesperson experienced that gives them the belief that the opportunity is worth pursuing. Second, you have to learn to trust your people, even when they want to sometimes take a long shot gamble.

It’s true that you may lose the opportunity, but that comes with the territory. But you are worried about the time, the single constraint about which there is nothing you can do.

This post isn’t going to make it much easier, but here are some factors to consider.

Experienced Intuition

An experienced salesperson develops an intuition. Sometimes they recognize a pattern that, because you weren’t on the calls, you weren’t there to recognize.

Even if they can’t verbalize what it is they see or feel, if they have been selling long enough, they do to tend to develop a sense about the likelihood of winning, even when the facts sometimes tell you something different.

If they have the intuition, if they have a high success rate on predicting how opportunities will work out for them, it may be worth letting them pursue the opportunity.

High Competence and Good Judgment Elsewhere

If the opportunity looks like it doesn’t fit, you may want to ask yourself if the salesperson that is making the case to pursue it has a high competence as a salesperson, disqualifying targeted accounts that are really a waste of their time. Does the salesperson make good judgments around the other opportunities that they pursue?

Is the salesperson generally competent as a salesperson?

People that are new to the role of sales generally don’t have the intuition (an intuition that also works to inform the salesperson when an opportunity is a waste of time), and they generally don’t have the competence to understand what they are seeing—they mistake receptivity for qualified.

A Few Factors More

There are few other factors to consider. Even an experienced salesperson can have a bad quarter (or year), fall behind, get a little desperate and start pursuing opportunities out of desperation. Nightmare clients are the clients you pursue because you need to put something on the board, even though the client may be extraordinarily low on the maturity continuum, never valuing what you do. Poor results doesn’t mean you or your salespeople need nightmare clients.

Another factor is the learning experience provided by chasing an unqualified prospect. Some of the most valuable lessons to be learned are learned the hard way—which also makes them the lessons that are retained. Is it possible that the ability to recognize that patterns comes from the experience of actually seeing and feeling those patterns over time? Maybe you need to let them learn the lesson and feel the sting for themselves.

Finally, your salespeople need your trust. You need to the trust them, and they need to know that you trust them. Sometimes, even if you know they are going to fail for having chased the unqualified target—spending too much of their time doing so—you need to let them know that you support them, and that you will support them when they pursue the dream client targets that seem too far out of reach, the big deals that are way above their weight class.

It’s never easy. Sometimes you need to go with your gut and pull the plug on the time wasting unqualified target, and other times you need to go with their gut and let them take a few chances.


When do you allow a salesperson to call on a target account that by your judgment (and that of your qualification process) appears to be one that should be disqualified?

Is there ever a right time to call on a target that doesn’t meet some part of your qualification criteria?

When is it right to gamble on a prospective client that doesn’t look quite right? Have you ever gambled on a prospect and won?

What message do you send your salespeople if you never trust their judgment on matters like this?

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Filed under: Sales

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