As we welcome in February, we enter a season focused on relationships and comradery. For us at Mereo, this means leaning all the more into Seek to Serve, Not to Sell®. But much like with dating in the personal world, most buyers have a frustrating story of no-deal with a salesperson who fails to serve — and thus fails to sell.
Most of these sales stories are not nefarious or outlandish. What is truly daunting about these deals gone wrong is that these selling faux pas are commonplace and innocent. Most sales organizations do not even realize they are committing them.
We want to share the three biggest selling pitfalls to help you identify where sales deals that are seemingly in the bag can fall into no-deal — and then show you how to overcome, Seek to Serve™ and win.
THE DEAL WITH PREVAILING STATUS QUO
More sales deals end in no decision than in a solid “no” from a buyer who moves on to a competitor’s offering. In fact, most selling organizations try to sell a buyer on a solution before the buyer has even realized they have a problem to deal with in the first place. No problem means no solution means no deal. Status quo wins.
Last fall at a gathering of leaders from professional services firms across the world, I listened to an open discussion about the top growth challenges firms faced. The No. 1 culprit attendees pointed to that hampered growth was a lack of deal flow.
Why is deal flow an issue now when it was not as much in years past?
- The typical volume of deals is stalling-out
- Economic climate
- Buyer paralysis, where news, potential risk and other factors lead to buyers to freeze, is on the rise
But no sense of urgency caused the biggest issues for these firms in deal flow. And this was on the firms themselves. They approached selling with a “vitamin” and not a “pain killer.” Their business cases revolved around “getting better” in revenue growth, cost reduction, employee productivity and more — but few of the firms could make an argument about what would happen to the buyer if they chose to do nothing. Would the buyer’s business fail? Would they miss payroll? Would they lose their premiere client? Buyers buy pain killers, not vitamins, especially in a market climate like we are experiencing today.
THE DEAL WITH NO VALUE PROPOSITION
Even after a buyer internalizes that they have a pain to deal with, your organization has to prove it is selling a valuable solution. “What is in it for me?” Buyers ask. “What gains can I get from solving this?” This might seem an obvious selling principle, and yet just 42% of selling organizations actually have a formalized and compelling value proposition (Sales Mastery).
We have the opportunity to meet with a lot of leaders and revenue teams across our client base. Invariably, when we ask them to share their “value proposition,” they respond with a “proposition” — minus the value. They tell us all about their solution, and how the features are unique and will provide a number of benefits to the users.
Over more than two decades of doing this, I can count on one hand the number of times the client offered a true “value proposition.” They neglect to speak about their buyers and users and the struggles they are experiencing before the solution is in place. They miss the value! Buyers do not buy propositions — but they do invest in value propositions.
THE DEAL WITH NO DIFFERENTIATION
If your buyer realizes they have a problem to solve and that a solution has enough value to consider addressing the problem — it is important to follow through with a compelling reason as to why your solution’s value is the best. If you fail to distinguish your solution from other’s, you might very well have teed up a sale deal for a competitor.
While we were working with a growing software as a service (SaaS) firm backed by a private equity partner, the sales and product leaders struggled to understand why their win-rates were about 33% when they used to be north of 50%. They operated in a relatively commoditized space, and their solution had some feature differentiation, though these features were not must-haves.
We asked them for their competitors, and they gave us two with a new company on the horizon, meaning three primary players existed in this competitive marketplace. When we dug deeper into competitive differentiation, we discovered all three were a little different shades of the same color.
We illustrated a simple math problem for these leaders on the whiteboard that I want to share with you now:
We asked: If everyone is relatively the same, and there are three competitors—what is the “fair share” each would likely command in market share?
Their answer? About 33%.
We smiled and asked then: When you had two primary competitors, what was the “fair share” of the market you expected?”
Their answer? About 50%, and they smiled, catching on.
If you are not offering compelling differentiation from the competition, you are most likely going to win a “fair share” of opportunities. If you can create (through development and / or marketing) a differentiated market position and then offer a compelling value proposition to those buyers, you will be winning an “unfair share™.”
DO NOT BECOME ANOTHER SALES DEAL GONE WRONG STORY
Overcome the biggest selling mistakes that frustrate and fail to serve buyers. Explore our Derailing the Deal eBook for all five of the biggest sales pitfalls hurting your sales deals and discover the proven strategies for overcoming them.