Focus, Distraction, and Your Sales

Sales Prospection

“When you lose sight of your objective, you discover hidden weaknesses in your systems… This can be a positive thing, but it can also be very dangerous.”

~ Chandell Labbozzetta

The REAL Problem with Distraction

There’s no denying that there are plenty of distractions around these days. In someways lockdowns and social distancing magnify distractions rather than eliminating them which makes it more likely that distraction will morph into mistakes.

The following story might be funny… if it wasn’t very nearly disastrous:

Angela had several sales conversations going on concurrently, each of which had multiple stakeholders and was in a different stage in her pipeline. Her company had also set up a strong lead generation system which was delivering her sales team more than 20 hot leads per week because her target market was feeling extremely vulnerable to IT security holes and wanted everything fixed yesterday. Her diary was full and she was running at full speed to take advantage of the opportunities being offered as were all the other members of the team.

On Monday she took a call from the project lead on a new client who had just signed their contract the previous week and had their on-boarding scheduled for Wednesday. The moment she picked up the phone she knew from his tone that she had a major problem brewing…

And she was correct!

“Angela, it’s Gavin here. We signed that contract in good faith last week. Today, I discovered that you have sent another, much cheaper, proposal to us. Can you explain the differences?”

Angela got the full story from Gavin, asked him to give her a couple of hours to look into things, and to send her through the two proposals, then she set up a call for later that day. It turned out that another sales rep had been talking to the same company and had also sent through a proposal for a much smaller project scope.

The sales team had been so busy that they hadn’t gone through things carefully during their daily standup and both Angela and her colleague had failed to follow the ‘Company Cross-Check’ Process that was designed to prevent this kind of incident.

During her call with Gavin, she was able to explain the differences in the two proposals’ scope satisfactorily and remind him that they had talked about the lower value project during the process of arriving at the contract they signed so that everything was resolved satisfactorily. Fortunately, they had a good relationship and plenty of trust already… But it wasn’t the way Angela wanted to start the delivery process.

Are Your Sales Systems Good Enough?

The real power of systems is that they provide support when humans are busy and distracted. The problem is that you have to follow them if you expect them to work.

Angela’s problem began when the team got busy and distracted and they set their sales management systems aside. Two of the important elements that they let slip were their daily stand-ups and their prospect cross-checks: even though Angela and her colleague were speaking to different people in the company, they could have discovered their mistake sooner and avoided any misunderstanding.

I’ve seen this kind of confusion happen even when there is only one person doing the sales. A business owner I worked with a few years ago realised that he needed to work on his systems when he provided two different quotes to a single company for the third time in a month – he was confused by the different representatives and, in the press of business, simply didn’t make the connection.

As well as setting up a simple tracking system for his sales (critical, since he wanted to hire someone for that part of the process), we refined his sales process in ways that increased each segment:

  • Lead flow increased by 5%
  • Conversion shifted from 35% to 74%
  • Average Sale value increased by 45%

… Resulting in a dramatic increase in revenue and profits.

It all came from keeping the objective front and centre – and ensuring that systems to support their process were in place.

Why Focus Affects Sales

When you’re talking about high-value projects, developing trust plays an important role in the sales process. Your product or service can be head and shoulders above those of your competitors, but if your sales process creates doubt about your level of organisation and integrity you can lose the sale.

That’s the cost of losing focus and not getting your sales process right in the eyes of your prospective customers.

But what about the cost when your sales people lose sight of the objective?

The hallmark of a well-run sales team is their laser-focus on the primary and secondary objectives of the business as well as their own personal and team goals. When you lose sight of that, there’s a strong probability that you will start to see the results at every stage of the sales process. It won’t necessarily show immediately, but 1-2% slippages compound over time and can make a big difference to your revenue and profitability.

Sales teams are particularly susceptible to this loss of focus because they are always results driven… And sometimes those results are affected by other parts of the business. This is why it is so important to have systems and processes in place to protect them from distraction and enhance their focus.

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