When you get desperate for sales, you start to behave badly. You may believe that your desperation is invisible, but your contacts will recognize that something is off: you become too aggressive in your approach, pushing for opportunities that just aren’t there. Instead of creating a preference to buy from you, your desperation causes prospective clients to choose someone else to help them. Don’t let things get to that point!
It’s Easy to Fall Behind
To make the math easy here, imagine you have a monthly target of $100,000 in new deals. You didn’t work very hard in January, telling yourself (and anyone who would listen) that your prospective clients just got back to work and need some time before talking to you about better results. So you won no new business in January.
February wasn’t much better: the few efforts you made to create and win new opportunities produced no results. You needed $200,000 to stay on pace, but ended up with another zero. Now it’s March and you need $300,000 in new business in a single month, having wasted two-thirds of the time you had to achieve that goal. Now you are desperate.
Opportunities Keep You on Pace
The best way to stay on pace, as you pursue your goals and targets, is to continually create new opportunities. When you go all month (or even just a couple weeks) without prospecting, you lose the time you had to create the new opportunities you need. You can never recover that time, which puts that much more pressure on the time you have left.
Prospecting every day is the key to creating enough opportunities for you to meet your goals. By making your cold outreach and following a prospecting sequence that isn’t automated, you’re more likely to reach your prospective clients— the first step to scheduling a meeting that may result in a new opportunity.
If daily prospecting sounds too hard, consider the desperate alternative I sketched out above. Even if you manage a blockbuster March, many of those opportunities will close too late to save you. The first rule for getting out of a hole is to stop digging. A better rule is not to dig the hole in the first place!
Estimating Your Sales Effectiveness
In a typical sales CRM, a good number of deals spend a decade or more in the pipeline. Yes, a professional salesperson must be an optimist, believing that they will eventually gain a meeting and win their dream client, even after being told more times than they can count. But temper that confidence with a dose of reality: no one wins every opportunity they create, as any deal can fall through for a hundred different reasons. If you think that $100,000 worth of deals will always mean $100,000 in revenue, you’re probably overestimating your own effectiveness. That’s a great way to ensure that you fall behind on your goals!
In other words, avoiding desperation means creating enough opportunities to reach your target without needing to win every deal you create. Some sales organizations assume you need 300% of your goal, requiring salespeople to have three times their target number of opportunities in the pipeline at all times. That can be a good approach, but watch out for pipelies: the zombie opportunities that died a long time ago but still haunt your pipeline.
Expecting Black Swans
A Black Swan is an event that is inconceivable but easily explainable after the fact. For instance, say you have been working a deal with your dream client for months. The contacts there are compelled to change, they have the authority to sign your contract, and they have the money. You are late in the sales conversation, having presented your solution and a proposal, and your contacts have given a verbal commitment to buy from you. Smooth sailing ahead, right?
Then your phone rings, and instead of announcing that they’ll sign the contract, your contact tells you that everything has been put on hold. Their company has just been acquired by a large international company, one you know has a global contract with your primary rival. As you try to understand what happened, some part of you will want to believe that you should have seen this coming, no matter how remote the possibility.
As far as I can tell, no one escapes Black Swan events in sales, which means you need to give yourself room to lose deals that you should have won. You know you’ll win at least some of the deals you create, so you don’t have to live or die on any one deal.
Desperation is a real threat in B2B sales, but you have the resources to avoid it. Keep prospecting to create new opportunities, protect yourself from idleness and overconfidence, and diversify your opportunities to protect yourself from unexpected losses.
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