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On April 14th 1912 the largest, and seemingly unsinkable, passenger steamship in the world collided with an iceberg and sank in less than three hours.
The death toll was over 1500, making the sinking of the Titanic the most deadly peace-time maritime disaster in history. Two things contributed to this disaster and the extraordinary loss of life.
The same two things could cost you the sale.
1. The 90% Factor
If you enjoyed high school geography you'll remember that the mass of an iceberg, a full 90%, lies below the water line and out of sight. This fact sealed the fate of the Titanic almost 100 years ago. By the time the crew caught sight of the 10% it was too late to turn the ship out of harm's way. The 90% below the water crushed the starboard side and buckled the hull, causing it to fill with water.
When I refer to the 90% in selling I am talking about information beyond the "stated needs" that customers volunteer and the "traditional facts" that sales pros gather. The 90% is information that the customer doesn't immediately think to share until your powerful questions bring it to the surface.
The 90% takes work to expose (in terms of planning, preparation, thinking, listening and analysis) which is why much of it remains undisclosed. Within the 90% lies your source of powerful differentiation. Left uncovered, it is the stuff that will sink otherwise sound sales opportunities.
To get you thinking, here are a few elements of "the 90%" that commonly get missed and catch proficient sales pros off guard:
Are you overlooking the 90%? What might you be missing, and how might you approach this important phase of the sales cycle differently?
2. An Assumption
Assumptions lead to actions. In the case of the Titanic, the assumption that she was unsinkable led to a deadly action - she was equipped with lifeboats to hold only one third of the full passenger capacity. Undoubtedly more people would have survived if this important decision had not been made from an assumption.
For years Kevin's company bid against four competitors on an annual multi-million dollar contract. Every year his bid failed. He assumed he had an equal opportunity to win the business.
I discovered that this client was using Kevin's lower pricing to keep the others competitive but the client had no intention of awarding Kevin the business. From the client's perspective Kevin's company wasn't sophisticated enough to manage the complexity of this contract.
Tony assumed that his best and most loyal client was aware of his company's full capabilities. Tony was devastated when a competitor won a large contract with his best client. Especially as Tony had not been invited to bid. Turns out the customer didn't realize Tony's company had the capabilities to fulfill this specialized contract.
Ray assumed the client's verbal agreement to move forward meant he had the deal in the bag. Until a savvy competitor asked one powerful question that caused the client to rethink his strategy, re-assess his needs and re-assign the contract.
Barbara assumed her offering was right for every client and wasted months of time, energy and resources chasing after a prestigious client who saw no reason to buy from her and every reason to buy from her competitor.
Working with the same client for 17 years Peter assumed he knew the client's needs and buying preferences. His business from this client was flat. When he let go of this assumption, and shifted his approach from one of knowing to one of curiosity, he saw his sales soar.
I could fill a book with similar stories, all of which started with an assumption and ended with unexpected and disappointing results.
When we make assumptions, we ...
What assumptions do you make? What are they costing you in terms of your time, energy and business? Shift from a place of "knowing" to a place of "curiosity" so that you don't send your sales results to the bottom of the ocean.
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JILL HARRINGTON, President, salesShift, has contributed to the success of thousands of B2B sales professionals around the world. She shifts your thinking and actions to enable faster and bigger sales results in extraordinarily competitive markets. For valuable sales tips and articles, visit www.salesshift.ca
Because we're all crazy busy these days, I asked Dan Markowitz, efficiency expert and President of TimeBack Management, to share strategies to help us squeeze more out of each day.
Does this sound like you? You've mapped out your strategy for making the big sale. You're going to track trigger events, you're going to prepare questions in advance, you're going to sharpen and practice your unique value proposition, and you're going to purge your website and marketing materials of vacuous puffery. You're going to start now...
... except that you don't quite get to some of those things today. You got caught up in email, and by the time you finished, you had to get onto some other work. So you try again tomorrow, except that after a bit of email and some web browsing, you're running late for a meeting with a prospect, so it has to wait. Something else happens the day after that. Etc.
What's going on?
You're finding out the hard way what happens when you don't have a clearly defined routine for doing your work. You're like a ship without a rudder, with no control over your direction. You're thrown off-course by the slightest external interruption or internal distraction.
Peter Bregman makes a compelling case for the power of routine in a recent blog post at Harvard Business Publishing. He writes that recently his work day went quickly and quietly down the toilet as he was ambushed by emails, solving other people's problems, and fire-fighting, all of which kept him from getting done what was really important.
He points out that even with his daily to-do lists, "the challenge, as always, is execution. How can you stick to a plan when so many things threaten to derail it? How can you focus on a few important things when so many things require your attention?"
Bregman looks to fitness expert Jack LaLanne for the answer:
Bregman argues that , "Managing our time needs to become a ritual too. Not simply a list or a vague sense of our priorities. That's not consistent or deliberate. It needs to be an ongoing process we follow no matter what to keep us focused on our priorities throughout the day."
Call it ritual, as Bregman does, or call it routine.
It's the same thing. A routine enables you to define the best way to manage your day. For knowledge workers, that's no easy trick: the lack of level flow of incoming work, and the variation in types of work, makes it difficult to create routine. And let's face it: there's nothing routine or predictable about your company's new line of titanium escargot forks. So it's difficult, but not impossible.
But just as emergency room nurses can't predict what kind of patient is going to be wheeled in through the front door, they can still create routines for the predictable aspects of their job like rounding, or management of medical supplies, or administrative scut work.
Similarly, you can create routines to help you manage your day. Bregman suggests three steps:
The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It's simple.
And that's true of any routine. It reduces variability, brings the process under control, and allows for continuous improvement.
Really think about this for a moment.
Routine is NOT just something for weekly or monthly sales department activities. Routine can be -- should be, must be -- applied to the way you work on an individual level as well. Because when you start applying routines to your own work, you'll not only improve your own performance, you'll set a model that will inspire others as well.