The Fast Sale: Don’t You Know Who Stephen Kiprotich Is?
In selling, just as in sports, speed is just one of the factors that determine success. Indeed, Gold Medal winners provide some inspiration in coping with longer more complex sales.
Olympic Inspiration For Sellers
I bet you have heard of Usain Bolt, the fastest person ever and star of the 2012 London Olympics.
Bolt won the 100 metres gold medal with a time of 9.63 seconds and unashamedly proclaimed himself to be ‘the greatest athlete to live’.
Yet, you probably haven’t heard of Stephen Kiprotich!
Kiprotich is the newly crowned Olympic marathon champion. He completed the 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards) in 2 hours 8 minutes and 1 second.
If you are looking for inspiration as a salesperson then look to Kiprotich not Bolt!
The Marathon Sale
Selling has transformed from a sprint into a marathon. Speed is important, but in the context of the complex sale it means nothing unless it is accompanied by qualities such as:
Speed alone won’t do it. Indeed, nothing can stall a sale like a sellers attempts to speed the buyer across the line. If the salesperson thinks he, or she is Usain Bolt, then the buyer is Stepen Kiprotich.
Speedy decisions are something that professional buyers are warned against. It is the job of internal buying processes, procedures and paperwork to slow down the speed at which managers can buy.
Sellers are often fooled into thinking that the finishing line is just a 100 meters dash away. But, little do they realize that they are only joining a much longer race for what is effectively the last lap – that is when the buying decision is all but made except for price.
You Can’t Sprint To The Sale
It is impossible to sprint through a complex buying cycle. Sellers need to advance steadily, otherwise they risk losing the buyer and potentially the sale. It may also require getting the buyer to slow down too.
Take for example a potential client who is in a rush to get a proposal after just two or three meetings. It can be tempting for the salesperson to jump at the opportunity, but doing so may jeopardize the sale.
A proposal written without sufficient interaction is a real shot in the dark and something that is likely to do more harm than good. After all, how can you expect to fully understand the needs of stakeholders, define a solution (that will deliver high impact and high value) and set a budget based on a few conversations lasting just 60 or so minutes?
While taking the time to gather key information may mean moving the opportunity out by a month or quarter, it is likely to dramatically increase the likelihood of success. One reason is because buyers see how you sell as a clue to how you will service.
The Secret To Accelerating The Sale
The only way to accelerate the sale is to accelerate the business and buying decisions that underpin it. However, buyers cannot race to the purchase order even if they want to. They must follow internal procedures and build a clear justification for the purchase – otherwise they risk disqualification.
Winners in sales know how to pace themselves and focus on stamina and preserverence, as much as speed. To accelerate a sales process they join the race earlier – getting involved before the buyer goes to the market for a supplier.
That requires the skills of the marathon runner, not the sprinter. As this sales manager explains:
“Our sales cycles are long, there is no question about that, but it depends on when you start the clock. If you start it at the initial point of contact with our telemarketing then they are 12-16 months. If you start counting back from the first meeting with a salesperson then they are 8-10 months.
It seems obvious but the key to shorter sales cycles is to try to get involved with the potential customer at the earliest point in their buying process. Marketing is now running a ‘keep in touch’ program that allows our salespeople to work with those that are at the right stage for what are active sales cycles. It’s not just a sales effort, it’s joined-up thinking with sales and marketing working hand-in-hand.”
Sales Manager, Electronics Manufacturer
Stephen Kiprotich – Your New Sales Hero
Bolt is the highest paid athlete ever in track and field, but Kiprotich is an unlikely and unexpected champion. A prison warder in his native Uganda, Kiprotich came from obscurity having little track record of success in the marathon and failed attempts at other sports (Source: Business Week). Kiprotich celebrated his victory by staying in a posh London hotel and promised to use his winnings to build a new home for his parents.