Optimism: A Sales Pro's Worst Enemy?

Last Updated Sep 23, 2010 1:12 PM EDT

One of the wonderful things about sales professionals is that they're optimistic. Unfortunately, that optimism can get them into big trouble when they cling to the notion that they're going to make sale "sometime in the future." The result is wasted effort and lower sales revenue.

As an illustration of this sad fact, I recently received the following email from a Sales Machine reader:

We sell a software product by giving presentations and demonstrations to the prospects. However, there seems to be a delay in their decision making process. In smaller organizations, the decision-making process seems chaotic. For larger organizations, the delay seems to be because moving from an existing software vendor to another is a big decision.

Both of these factors are understandable, but my manager insists that we close our opportunities quickly. He believes that we should follow-up initially and then quickly get the response from their end. He prefers sending across emails like:

  1. "As you're aware, nothing has happened since we submitted our final proposal. Would appreciate your reply, so that we can conclude this case (either way)."
  2. "Further to the mail below and our follow up thereafter, it appears (unfortunately for us) that you're not keen on considering our solution further. In case you wish to re-open discussions with us in the future, do let us know. We shall welcome that opportunity."
I don't see any point in closing the cases like these because it affects our chances of getting the order in the future. What do you think?
If it's a choice between sending the emails or not sending them, I'm going to have to go with your manager on this one. The truth is that you're not going to get those deals because they're not real opportunities, so you might as well try a last ditch effort to close them, since essentially you have nothing to lose.

The real problem here is that you're spending time and money (like by writing proposals) for "opportunities" that aren't fully qualified.

In the case of the smaller firms, you need to determine if 1) they've got budget, and 2) they know how to spend it. If #1 is false, bail. If #2 is false, either you've got to figure that out for them, or you bail. The faster you bail, the less effort you waste on an unreal opportunity.

In the case of the larger firms, you're kidding yourself if you think you're going to displace an existing vendor unless there's some compelling reason (like a merger, expansion, change in management, system failure) for that displacement to take place. If there's no "trigger", it's not a real opportunity.

So you need to do more legwork early in the sales cycle to make sure that these are real opportunities. Then you won't end up wasting time with opportunities that exist only in your optimistic imagination, and you won't have to send any of those emails.

Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be optimistic. Only that you should limit your optimism to the larger things in life, like your ability to help your customer and your ability to make your numbers. Don't let it get in the way of a realistic assessment of whether an opportunity is a waste of effort.

Here are some posts that can help you with lead qualification:

READERS: Feel free to email me with your sales problems using the contact form at left.