When a salesperson starts to get involved in a sales opportunity, it may take a while to understand where in the buying process the prospective customer is. Have they been scanning the marketplace for a while, are you being brought in at the end to provide competitive prices, or is this just a trawl of what’s new and improved in the marketplace?
The reasons for being in the market, even if the salesperson has initiated the interest, can be many and varied, but businesses rarely decide to spend the money purely for the sake of getting something new, or different, especially for larger purchases that can take many months to conclude. Without a compelling business case that will be signed off by senior management, there is little likelihood the sale will go ahead.
So the question the sales coach may ask is ‘Are there compelling events driving the need to buy now?” If the salesperson hasn’t discovered the major events or changes within the organisation that made them start to look, this opportunity may be a non starter, for now at least. The sort of questions the salesman needs answers to are: Has there been a change in the regulatory environment? Are they facing increased competition? Have they changed their strategic focus? Are their traditional markets eroding? In the the marketplace of high-value complex sales there is rarely a simple and straightforward reason, but often a highly political mixture of organisational inertia and compelling events dragging change forward.
A company may be looking at new plant, but rarely only because the existing equipment is old. Increased maintenance costs; reducing levels of productivity; quality control issues could all be in the mix, but are these compelling enough to make them want to do it now, rather than simply look around and do a fully costed feasibility study, courtesy of the market. Once compelling events have been surfaced the questions are:- Will they Act? Will they Act Now? Will they Act with Us?
Questions the sales coach may ask: “Are the business issues large enough to motivate them?” or “Does this project have any urgency?” This type of question can only really be answered by the salesperson if they’ve had good contact with senior levels in the organisation and the senior management know there is a decision to be made. If the contacts are all departmental, they may all be desperate for change, but there may not be enough organisational momentum to see it through.
All of these issues can only be addressed if the salesperson has sufficient knowledge of the drivers in the organisation and the challenges they face to know how likely the deal is to go ahead. The job of the sales coach is to guide them to explore as deeply and quickly as possible to decide if the opportunity has legs, or should be put on the back burner.