304 Risks in sales – Your Competitive Position

Risks in sales – Your Competitive Position 


Risk: Your competitive position. 

Your company’s competitive position could change dramatically, something that can put every one of your sales opportunities at risk. 


Your company could have been a market leader. Then, due to mergers, acquisitions, and innovations from new, upstart competitors, your company could suddenly be beaten in the market on a regular basis. Your stable, proven solutions could be outsold by another supplier’s bright, shiny new toy that is getting favorable publicity in the marketplace. 


It happens all the time. 


Have you heard of Visicalc? Well, seemingly back in prehistoric days, Visicalc was introduced as the first electronic spreadsheet program. It was wildly popular for a few years. Then, Lotus 1-2-3 was released and rapidly became the market’s dominant spreadsheet program, a position it retained for many years. But then Microsoft released the Excel spreadsheet application and combined with its Office portfolio, overtook Lotus. Now, Excel is the dominant application for electronic spreadsheets… both Visicalc and Lotus 1-2-3 are defunct. 


No matter where your company and your solution rank in the marketplace, changes in the marketplace, in technology, and in customer preferences present threats that are beyond your control. 


As the competitive position of your company and your solutions change, these significant threats challenge the health of your sales opportunities… and that threatens your sales career.  


I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue our discussion on the risks of a sales career in the next briefing. 


303 Risks in Sales – Economic Factors

Risks in sales – Economic Factors 


Risk: Economic factors. 


Unless your solution is required to meet government mandates or industry compliance, the purchase of your solution is an optional expenditure, so the state of the economy presents significant hazards.


A downturn in the economy could cause a company to slow down or halt spending on all initiatives. A company missing their quarterly or annual results, could leave their stock price reeling and their executives could batten down the hatches in an effort to appease financial analysts. 


A company announcing cutbacks by laying off staff or closing facilities could be a pre-cursor to a freeze on spending for things that are not important to “keep the lights on”.


On the flip side, even when the economy is soaring, some companies that are performing very well and enjoying smooth sailing might not want to rock the boat, so they could choose to avoid the risks associated with any new initiatives. 


A few years ago, I was working with a customer to close a “two comma deal”, in other words, a seven-figure opportunity. A couple of days before our planned contract signing, the financial world blew up as breaking stories about a potentially-catastrophic banking crisis hit the news media. 


During these times it is even more important to sell the value of your solution and why the customer should act now. 


I stayed in close communication with the customer, even camping out in their lobby to ensure that any issue would be handled quickly. 


We won that two-comma deal by engaging even more closely with the customer… by reinforcing the value, emphasizing the risk and the cost of delay, and clearing any financial roadblocks that remained. 


A great celebration ensued. Here’s to beating that risk. 


I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue our discussion on the risks of a sales career in the next briefing. 


302 Risks in Sales – Your Customers

Risks in sales – Your Customers 


Risk: Your customers. 

Unless you are inheriting customers with active opportunities who are ready to buy, the customer opportunities you choose to pursue present significant risks. Your customer’s ability to purchase from you and their willingness to engage is a risk—until they sign a contract or place an order, there is no guarantee that they will be committed to working with you. Your customer can choose to stop a sales cycle at any time for any reason. 


Here are three ways you can reduce risk with your customers. 


Ruthless qualification – Find out what your customer’s requirements are early on and whether your customer will agree to your evaluation plan. Gain access to customer executives who will eventually make the final decision. Develop a sponsor who can coach you. If none of this is possible, make the difficult decision to walk away. Then go find better opportunities that you can win.


Help your customers buy – Rather than just blindly following the customer’s purchasing process, strive, early on, to integrate your organization’s selling process to help your customers buy. This is a proactive approach where your sales team initiates the process, works collaboratively with your customer to determine requirements, identifies key issues that can be resolved, and formulates a proposal focused on the business value that can be generated. 


Demonstrate your unique value. Using a value-based selling approach, you will engage with your customer to jointly build a vision around the value the customer will receive; along the way, you will articulate exactly how your solution is uniquely positioned to help your customer achieve substantial benefits. 


There’s still no absolute guarantee they will buy but applying these best practices will reduce your risk in pursuing all customer opportunities. 


I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue our discussion on the risks of a sales career in the next briefing. 


301 Risks in sales – Your Quota

Risks in sales – Your Quota 


Risk: Your quota. 

Your quota is your signed commitment to deliver a specified amount of sales revenue over a specified period of time. You have no vote in setting this quota, nor do you have much flexibility in negotiating the amount. It is assigned to you by your sales management, and you alone are 100% accountable to achieve your quota. In most cases, very little analysis goes into computing quota numbers—they can be arbitrary at best, wild guesses at worst. It’s rare that a sales rep gets their assigned accounts or territory where any intelligent thought is done in advance before finalizing the sales rep’s quota. A sales VP is given an amount of revenue that their team must generate… then the quotas flow downstream – to sales directors, then sales managers, then finally to individual salespeople (or sometimes a team of salespeople). Little review of accounts are done, or potential opportunities that could close, or the timeframe when deals could close or the win rate needed to accomplish quota. It’s usually just a simple calculation: Sales manager’s revenue needed divided by number of salespeople and BAM, you have the salesperson’s individual quota. 


In effect, you are betting against the house (your company) that you will achieve or exceed the quota you were assigned. You are placing a large wager that you will hit your number, and it can be a big gamble; and never forget that you bear the entire risk. Meanwhile, given your territory and accounts, you do not know the odds for achieving a slam dunk: are they very possible or nearly impossible? That’s really anyone’s guess. It’s the risk you take in the world of a salesperson. 


I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue our discussion on the risks of a sales career in the next briefing. 


300 Is a Career in Sales Really that Wonderful – Part 2

Is a career in sales really that wonderful – Part 2


We continue the discussion from the prior briefing where Jeffrey took a barren account territory, focused on one account, built strong relationships, resulting in winning an eight-figure deal and finishing the year at 400% of quota. 


In the next sales year, Lucille, a new sales director, assumed responsibility for the region. She hired several “buddies” who had worked for her in the past. Lucille then reassigned Jeffrey’s mega-revenue-generating account to a new salesperson. This ruthless director needed to show that she could build a strong team, so she needed her new sales hires to be successful and show progress in winning deals quickly. 


The plan Jeffrey had to focus the following year on advancing the additional opportunities with his big account was destroyed. Jeffrey felt like he was robbed. He likened the evil Lucille to the devil for her unscrupulous and unethical treatment. 


Because Jeffrey spent most of the prior year advancing the major deal that he won, his pipeline was left barren. Without the follow-on sales revenue he was anticipating from his large account, his forecast showed a big fat zero for two consecutive quarters. Jeffrey was then fired for under-achieving performance. 


None of the company’s executives stood up for Jeffrey, allowing Lucille to execute her evil plan. 


Events that were largely out of his control cost him his job. Just as a career in sales can be fantastic and wonderful, it can also become a complete disaster. As Jeffrey found out the hard way, events that are often out of your control can occur along the way and force you to openly question your longevity in a sales vocation. 


Like Jeffrey, you could be riding high one year only to be cast into the danger zone the next. 


I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue our discussion on the risks of a sales career in the next briefing.