The sales process, albeit its own animal, shares certain similarities with the monster that is March Madness. From prospecting, qualifying, taking the big shot, closing, assessing the opportunity to win, and much more, selling and sport's greatest tournament are linked in more ways than meets the human eye.
This might be the biggest stretch ever in the history of my blog. How can I possibly tie the NCAA Basketball Tournament (also known as March Madness) to selling? Honestly, I’m not sure…so I will be making this up as I go. Let me begin by setting the stage for selling and how I see it is similar to the event of March Madness.
- Prospecting > Games that are played by all Division I teams throughout the year.
- Qualifying > Selection Sunday – based on performance of the teams, 68 teams qualify to make the tournament.
- Assessing the Opportunity to Win > Selecting your teams from the ‘brackets’ that you think have the best chance to win OR the teams you want to win OR the teams you think will be the upset and give you a chance to win the office pool.
- Presenting > The Madness begins on Tuesday and Wednesday night in the "First Four" games. On Thursday, the real fun begins, with a full slate of 16 games where the participating teams play their hearts out, and let the ball bounce where it may.
- Closing > In some cases, the game is over before it begins (or so it seems that way). In other games there are more questions that need to be answered (Overtime) before a victor is declared. In some cases, an unexpected outcome – an upset – a 16 seed beating a 1 seed (looking at you - UMBC - and you, Virginia!)
- Get a decision > The loser goes home while the winner savors the victory before facing the next big challenge.
And as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now… the rest of the story.”
Think about some of the outcomes of the presentations you’ve made where you were the top seed, or where you were the one in the game with all the right things in place to help you win the business. You have the talent, bench strength, great coaching, and preparation in place. You have presented to the prospect what you said you would present but then… in the final seconds… someone throws up a “buzzer beater” and there goes your sale.
- The prospect let the incumbent come in and they matched my price.
- I couldn’t get underwriting to change a covenant.
- They took it to the decision maker and that person didn’t want to change
- They said it was too expensive
- They are thinking it over
- Etc. etc. etc.
And just like in the ball game, it’s easy to point to the last play in the game that seals the upset – RJ Hunter’s 3 pointer with less than 2 seconds left to win the game for Georgia State comes to mind:
But, when the losing coaches review the game tape with their team, they point out to their players that there were several opportunities that, if the team had performed better ordifferently, the outcome would not have come down to the last shot.
The same is true in selling. It hardly ever comes down to the last shot when determining if you will win or lose the game:
- Matching price – You should have uncovered earlier who was going to win a price tie.
- Changing covenants – You should know beforehand the exact specs you need to get the deal done and, if you cannot meet those specs, you don’t present.
- Decision making – You should know the decision making process before presenting.
- They said it was too expensive – Why didn’t you know the budget before you presented?
- Think-it-overs – You must eliminate this as an option when discussing the decision making process.
- Other – Uncover in advance what can go wrong and deal with those things prior to attempting to present and close.
As the sales manager/sales executive, it is your responsibility to:
- Put the best possible team on the court.
- Make sure you have provided your team the resources they need to win.
- Prepare them with a solid strategy to win.
- Practice what you expect them to perform.
- Debrief after they perform so you can help them change behaviors and improve skill
Once you do your job, and you do your best to make sure they are doing their job, then get them on the court and see where the ball bounces.
Sales Management Environment – Building the structure to improve your chances for winning.
Sales Talent Acquisition Routine – Hire Better Sales People - get the right people to come to your team to play and WIN against the opponents in your market.
Goal Setting and Business Plan Development – Build a foundation so that your team has the required internal motivation to win in all market conditions.