B2B sales is a notoriously challenging profession. Effort and hard work can often go unrewarded. The hours are mostly long, the work can be rather arduous, and the environment is often challenging. Large portions of time are often spent alone. Despite a lot of effort and commitment, the results can be uncertain. Prospects may choose to go in a different direction unpredictably, be enticed by a competitor’s offer, or as is often the case, apathy ends up taking control of the situation, and the prospect decides to do nothing at all.
Salespeople often look at the profession of B2B selling through dichotomous lenses. Some salespeople approach the profession through the lens of negative thinking. They feel the deal will not come over the line. They do not believe in their organisation’s product or service. They blame the lack of resources available to them, the poor quality of leads delivered by marketing or high pricing as the reasons for why they missed their target.
Other salespeople choose to have a positive outlook, and they convince sales management that they are on track towards their sales target. They also convince themselves of the same. It is only when the quarter comes to a close, and the number has been missed by a significant percentage that reality surfaces. Whether ‘negative’ or ‘positive’, these are emotional approaches to the profession of selling. Both the negative mindset and the positive mindset are ultimately states of disillusionment.
When I coach salespeople, I work hard on removing negative and positive thinking from their sales thought process. Instead, I propose a very simple and obvious (but often unpracticed) approach: become hard-wired in ‘reality’. Cold and clinical reality. Reality based on the facts as they are – indubitable, unarguable, overtly obvious. Salespeople that operate from a position of hard reality leverage logic and maths as a basis of decision making. This reality makes its way into their vernacular and their behaviours. As they work on and from the reality muscle, their entire sales play becomes grounded in reality, and on the facts. As each salesperson in the team embraces this factual thinking, the entire sales team becomes grounded in reality.
An organisation that operates in reality protects itself from the misfortunes of an ’emotionally-driven’ sales team.
Logic must override emotion in sales.
As I stated in my opening narrative, salespeople often approach their sales play through their default thinking – positive or negative. There are often times when a salesperson’s wants overshadow the reality:
- They WANT that prospect to progress through the sales funnel.
- They WANT that deal to close.
- They WANT to hit that quarterly number to keep the heat off.
- They WANT to end that last quarter on a massive high to make sure the base remuneration heads north in the next FY.
- They WANT, WANT, WANT to hit that sales target, quarter in and quarter out.
- And all of this wanting can lead to their emotions taking charge, over logic.
Professional selling can be an emotional rollercoaster. The highs and lows fluctuate dramatically and with a regular cadence. Salespeople who let emotions cloud their judgement jeopardise their sales performance. A salesperson with poor judgement is not a sales entity that can be relied upon by business leaders. Emotions, with little logic, and even lesser mathematical basis can drive wishful thinking. This is a dangerous game, and it has no place in the sphere of professional selling.
When assessing their current and projected status, salespeople must cultivate an ability to set their emotions to the side. Sales professionals must accept their responsibility to provide a complete and emotionally unencumbered view of reality to their leaders; in many aspects, the firm’s future success depends upon it.
‘Assumptions’ will not close a deal.
Salespeople often make assumptions about why an opportunity will close. They convince themselves that the opportunity is robust so that they can justify forecasting the sales revenue. As salespeople think about the several reasons an opportunity will close, they prevent themselves from critically analysing the deal. Assumptions of why a deal will close are a thought process grounded in wishful thinking. Here again, if logic and facts are to prevail, a salesperson would make a fair list of why an opportunity would close and why it would not. The forecasting will then be based on unbiased facts. No room for emotions. No room for guesswork. No room for flaky forecasting.
Why organisations need ‘reality-driven’ salespeople
Business leaders need their sales leaders to deliver reliable sales forecasts. The entire operational process of an organisation relies on the credibility of the forecasts. The greater the degree of error in sales forecasting, the higher the room for operational and resource error. For sales leaders to deliver reliable and credible forecasts, they must analyse the reality of what the salespeople are reporting. Business leaders can only make sound decisions if the sales leaders deliver reliable forecasts.
Similarly, sales leaders require the reliability of forecasts from each member of the sales team. Salespeople can only deliver reliable sales forecasts to their sales leadership if they practice reality-driven sales funnel management.
A salesperson who operates on wishful thinking fails to deliver predictable revenue. Similarly, sales leaders who accept sales forecasts that are constructed with wishful thinking as a core tenancy fail to deliver predictable revenue. Consequently, an organisation operating on ‘wishful thinking’ is only a few sales cycles away from abject sales failure.
Is your sales team fact-focused or is wishful thinking driving their play?
I have coached more than 1,000 sales professionals in Professional B2B Sales. I can help you as a sales leader or sales manager ensure that your team delivers predictable sales forecasts. At Resonate, we have the know-how to help you build a best of breed sales team.