You don't have to sell everyone and you don't have to serve everyone. The idea that companies should chase every piece of business out there and that if they don't they're leaving money on the table is antiquated. The negative impact of chasing the wrong prospects and serving the wrong customers is HUGE. To change your approach you may have to remove the myths that you may believe. Here are three:
Myth: The Law of Large Numbers
"More means more" is the core of this myth. More prospects means more sales... The only time that I see this myth become truth is not when you are a sales person, but when your role is truly just order taking. Order taking means that the purchasing energy is driven by customer demand, not sales people demonstrating value and securing new customers and contracts. All prospects are not created equal and the most successful sales people who truly sell are successful in part because they prune their list, reducing the number of prospects regularly.
Myth: The Funnel (Hotel California)
"You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave..." These lyrics from The Eagles song Hotel California are just as true for CRM and sales tracking systems. There is a belief that once a prospect has been added to the list of qualified targets that companies should continue to communicate, sell, participate in RFPs and generally pursue those companies. I was in a session recently during which a company's leadership bragged about chasing a deal for a decade. What a waste. Think of it: Ten years of newsletters, trade shows, prospecting campaigns, RFP participation and so on. How much margin would there need to be above regular business margin to pay for the huge investment made?
Myth: Money is Money (even when the client's a jerk)
Some clients are just not worth having. I see companies clinging to the old idea that "the customer is always right," allowing low-profit and bad-cultural-fit clients to eat away at their businesses. A great quick read is Robert I. Sutton's book, "The No Asshole Rule." It was written about employees but is every bit as true for customers. The negative blast zone in a company that a bad employee or a bad client creates is far more damaging than the revenues they produce.
Here are quick reality checks for you to test how your company is doing in regards to these myths:
1. How many prospects in your pipeline have been there longer than 15 months without an order? Fifteen months may be the wrong window, but there is a period after which the prospect is just an expense, not a real opportunity.
2. How many of your clients violate "The No Asshole Rule?" Determine how they became customers and then figure out how to avoid those prospects in the future.
3. Do you have a threshold for your sales people as to how many prospects they can have active in their pipeline at any one time? Sales people can be blocking real activity by "claiming" prospects when they haven't made progress after a defined period. They can't land the opportunity and your company is not landing another client either because your sales person is tied up in a dead pipeline.
Myths are fiction passing as facts. Clean out the myths and you can refocus your sales efforts.