Every day salespeople go out on the street and swing at ugly deals: deals that are unprofitable, unqualified, not in the buying window, without a budget, or without an identified decision maker.
This past week my son’s little league team was down by one in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two men on base and two outs our next hitter walked to the plate. On his way there, Coach Sandro pulled him aside for a last bit of advice. His coaching was simple. He said, “Don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.” And as Coach Sandro walked back to his position on the third-base line, it struck me how profound his advice was when applied to sales.
If you’ve ever played baseball or softball, or your kids do, you have probably witnessed a batter chase a wild pitch way outside of the strike zone. The results are predictable and embarrassing. It can be funny to watch, but most times the fans, coaches, and players just echo a collective groan and think to themselves, “How in the world could he swing at that pitch?”
Don’t Swing At Ugly Deals
It is no different in sales. Every day salespeople go out on the street and swing at ugly deals: deals that are unprofitable, unqualified, not in the buying window, without a budget, or without an identified decision maker.
From the outside looking in it is obvious that these low probability, ugly deals will never close and will be a drain on energy, emotions, and time. Yet in spite of the obvious signs, these salespeople forge forward placing these deals in their pipelines and projections and spending endless hours working on ugly deals that will never close. The results are predictable. The vast majority of these salespeople strike out.
Meanwhile, frustrated sales managers look on in dismay, pleading with their salespeople to let these ugly deals go. It is an ongoing battle that is a core part of the sales manager’s job as a coach– just as it is the job of the baseball coach to keep players swinging in the strike zone.
In Monday morning sales meetings and one on ones, good sales managers coach their sales pros. In their own way they impart the same advice: “Don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.” And sadly, this advice is ignored more often than not. So what can Sales Professionals do to keep from chasing ugly deals and how can sales managers help them?
How to Stop Chasing Ugly Deals
First, it is critical that you clearly define the strike zone. Far too many companies and sales organizations have failed to develop the profile of an ideal prospect or customer. That is especially true in small entrepreneurial organizations. But here is a blinding flash of the obvious, if you don’t define the strike zone, you will waste a lot of time chasing ugly deals.
This process shouldn’t be difficult. Just analyze your best customers, the deals you are closing, and your marketplace. Then develop a profile of the prospect who is most likely to do business with you and, over the long-term, be a profitable, happy customer.
Next, make a commitment as a team to measure every prospect, deal, and customer against this profile. When they don’t fit, develop the discipline to walk away.
Now I don’t want you to think that this means that every deal is going to fit your profile perfectly. This is not how the real world works. In some cases it makes sense to take some risk and swing outside of the strike zone.
But there is a difference in taking a risk and chasing an ugly deal. That is where the sales manager plays a key role in discussing the opportunities with her salespeople and helping them make these calls. I also suggest getting the entire team involved. I’ve always been amazed at how powerful analyzing pipelines as a group can be.
And salespeople, you have to pay attention. You are often so close and so committed to the deal that you can’t see the obvious. Trust me on this one, if others are telling you that your deal is ugly — it is ugly.
The End Goal
The end goal is to keep your pipeline full of viable, qualified deals that have a high probability of closing. When you do your pay check will get bigger, you will have more fun, and ultimately you will have more time to spend on other things in your life.
This week when you hit the phones, get in your cars, or board airplanes to meet with prospects and customers remember Coach Sandro’s words, “Don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.”
About the author
Jeb Blount is one of the most sought-after and transformative speakers in the world…