Is your company batting more than .300?

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By Barbara Bix -Sports teams watch video replays to learn from experience and see how they can improve upon their game. In so doing, they examine what worked—for them and the competition—at various points in the game. They also study their performance under various playing conditions.

More than win or lose--it's how you play the game

The goal is not so much as to see what cost the game, but to note specific behaviors that contributed to the win or loss—at crucial points in the competition. Only that way, can they reduce future vulnerabilities and replicate success.

Will deeper scrutiny increase sales?

Similarly, businesses that have Six Sigma programs fine-tune their manufacturing operations to weed out errors and reduce expense. Even health care organizations have begun to study what works and what doesn’t to isolate opportunities to save lives and delay the progression of disease. That said, relatively few companies have dedicated the same scrutiny to determining what it would take to accelerate revenues. Those that do tend to focus on sales performance—and reasons for wins and losses.

Shorter sales cycles are like base hits

In our experience, the real opportunity is shaving time off the sales cycle—rather than just improving the close ratio. It’s not uncommon for companies that sell professional services and other complex solutions to experience six to nine month sales cycles—with each extra month delaying recognition of tens of thousands of dollars of revenue. And the opportunity for delays is abundant.

Eliminate sales obstacles to speed the sale

If you look at the typical buying process: there are at least four major stages: awareness, interest, evaluation, selection. Each of these stages contains multiple hurdles as evaluators gather the information they require to minimize risk and assure themselves that sellers will deliver the promised benefits. Each of these hurdles can add weeks or months to the sales cycle. For example, with everyone’s busy schedules just checking references can postpone a sale by several weeks.

Web 2.0 reduces control over the sales process

Identifying potential delays is a major challenge. In the old days, the salesperson controlled most of the sales process and could often provide valuable insights into what worked and what didn’t—if he or she had the time to debrief managers at the home office. In today’s Web 2.0 Internet world, however, influencing the outcome—and even finding out what happened is more difficult than ever before.

Social media means sales comes late to the party

In many cases, the deal may be mostly done, before the buyer ever contacts the company. First, stakeholders may research options on the web, learn more about various products on the vendors’ websites, form their impressions of the company by postings in the blogosphere, and even contact current customers directly for references--after finding their names in press releases or company case studies. In some cases, companies can gather information about prospective buyers—and their intentions—by monitoring website activity. In other cases, buyers build their impressions based on interactions with their party sources—and sellers have no visibility into what transpired or the impact.

Deep insights drive sales

So, what’s a seller to do? Unlike at sports events, you can’t watch an instant replay. Sometimes the only option is to interview prospective buyers directly. Those that do can then find out who was involved in the buying process, how they gathered information, what impressions they formed of the company and its competition, and what caused them to move forward—at every stage of the buying process.

Actions speak louder than words

Although dialogue doesn’t offer the same fidelity as a video camera, an experienced interviewer can often find out what happened at every stage of the process. Because humans have limited awareness of their own motivations, this focus on behaviors and actions, is far more useful than buyers’ insights as to what factors affected the final outcome.

Base hits add up to runs scored

Once sellers have the play-by-play information in hand, much like the sports teams we discussed earlier, they can reduce vulnerabilities and replicate successes. And by improving their strategies, tactics, and execution at every stage in the process, they’ll almost certainly shave time off the sales process—and they may even close more deals.

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