If you have attended one of Gener8’s CO-IMPACT™ workshops, you’ll understand what the title to this article means. For those of you who haven’t, here’s an explanation.
The term ‘white van’ comes from the film Ocean’s 11. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his men execute a heist, taking money from a casino owner’s supposedly impenetrable vault. Benedict, the casino owner, is made to believe the money is in a white van and sends all his men to chase it to an airport. Once captured, however, they discover there is no money in the vehicle.
A ‘white van’ is an opportunity you are not going to win; there’s no money in it. You are wasting your time, energy and company resources.
So how can you stop chasing white vans? The 3 Whys and CO-IMPACT™ are designed to help.
The 3 Whys
One common mistake made by sales people is they have ‘deals’ in their pipeline that aren’t even real opportunities. The 3 Whys provide the initial qualification gate to assess whether an opportunity should enter your pipeline. They are:
· What is the pain or the potential gain the customer has that means they need to or want to change from their current state and that makes you relevant to them?
· What is the compelling event, the depth of the pain or the size of the gain that means they need to do it now and allows you to forecast the opportunity with confidence?
· What is it about your proposition that will compel them to purchase from you versus your competition, which may include doing something internally or staying with the incumbent
Can you answer the 3 Whys IN THE CUSTOMER’S VOICE for the opportunities you are forecasting this quarter? (‘In the customer’s voice’ means the customer has told you this information, its not what you assume it to be). If no, then you may not have an opportunity. You either have some work to do or you should qualify out and focus your time elsewhere.
The 3 Whys give you initial wisdom about the quality of your pipeline, hence they can be referred to as The 3 Whys Men (did you see what I did there?!)
Once in your pipeline, CO-IMPACT™ is used to qualify and manage opportunities, setting up the deal to optimise your potential to win. The acronym has three parts:
CO: In the English language CO means ‘with’ or ‘together’. Just take a second now to think about all the good deals you have done. It probably felt like you were working ‘with’ the customer; collaborating with someone in the account for your mutual benefit. You can only do this effective if you have a true Champion and know who you need to engage with in the Org Chart.
IM: This is the epicenter of the opportunity. People buy for emotional and then rational reasons, beginning with identifying pain that translates into a set of addressable needs. Tangible Money Metrics are used to create the business case required to justify the investment to the necessary people in the buying process.
PACT: A pact is an agreement between two parties. Understanding the Process, who has the Authority, the Competitive Criteria by which the decision is going to be made and the Timescales, will allow you to understand if and when you will receive a signed order.
CO-IMPACT™ has a 50-question qualification sheet, which is more applicable to larger deals. It is used throughout the lifetime of the opportunity and in deal reviews to identify what the sales person does and doesn’t know and therefore what needs to be focused on next before over-committing additional time and resources.
Using the qualification sheet, one of my customers, who has an 85% opportunity to win ratio, said “it scared the s**t out of the team with some deals”. The rigour of the process made them take their optimist yellow hats off and put their pessimistic “why won’t it happen and where are the bases we need to cover” black hats on.
Finally, when implementing this type of qualification methodology, pipelines will shrink in size, typically by at least a third. White vans, being chased by sales people high on hopium, are consigned to the scrap heap and the process of driving the right deals can begin.
Has the above scenario ever happened to you with a deal?
Chances are it has and with Q4 pressures mounting, you’ll be hoping it doesn’t happen again. But that’s the issue…hope. Hope is not a strategy. So why are so many sales pipelines stuffed full of Hopium? And who is dealing this forecast wrecking drug?
Well, the Hopium drug mule in most cases is the sales person. There is a valid reason for this called the Optimistic Bias, which leads us to believe we are more likely to experience good rather than bad outcomes. For example, we underrate our chances of being ill with cancer and overestimate our likelihood of being wealthy.
Now, optimism isn’t a bad thing. According to research, optimists outlive and outsell pessimists. However, what is important is how we manage the Optimist Bias to minimise the effects of Hopium.
In my 1-2-1 coaching work with sales leaders and sales people I use an Emotional Intelligence self-assessment. One of the 16 scales measured is something called Balanced Outlook; how well an individual manages to balance optimism with realism. This is a bi-polar scale, meaning one can have too little, too much or just about the right amount of the area being measured.
The theory says the ideal profile for a bi-polar scale is as shown below, scoring low on the red scales (Pessimistic and Overly Optimistic) and high on the green scale (Realistically Optimistic).
However, with top performing sellers (consistently over achieving against target) my experience is their profile tends to be reversed, meaning they scored high on the red and low on the green. Doing some basic analysis on a small sample size of 30 top performers, the average profile looks like this:
Through discussions in coaching sessions, top performers explain they are deliberately ‘bi-polar’. They use their Optimistic Bias to keep going in the face of adversity, especially in the crucial activity of pipeline building. Once they have found an opportunity they use their pessimism to look at reasons why the customer won’t buy and what could go wrong with a deal.
If this bi-polar way of thinking isn’t your natural disposition, here are some recommendations on how you can manage your own Optimistic Bias:
Yellow Hat, Black Hat: Borrowing and morphing from Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, spend time looking at your deals through two lenses. First, put on the optimistic Yellow Hat. Go through all the reasons why the deal will happen. Then, metaphorically, take off the Yellow Hat and put on the pessimistic Black Hat. Find all the things that could go wrong and be really thorough with your thinking. When you have your list, create strategies and actions to combat the risks and make sure you execute them.
Use A Qualification Tool: Gener8’s proprietary qualification tool is CO-IMPACT and there are lots of other effective ones out there. A good qualification tool should ask you searching questions focused on the mechanics of what is needed to win business. CO-IMPACT has 50 questions (which is more relevant for larger, more complex opportunities; a lighter version is used for smaller ones) and uses a simple Yes, No or Don’t Know answering system.
Where a lot of red (for No) and/or amber (for Don’t Know) is showing, the sales person should focus on these areas during their interactions with the customer. If there is too much red, they may even need to consider qualifying out.
Typically when running a CO-IMPACT workshop, applied to live deals, the pipeline reduces by a third. This is to say, the Hopium deals (also known as White Vans to those who have attended) are chopped out.
Here is a CO-IMPACT review example for deal reviews I conducted with one of my customer’s sales teams (one deal per person) for Q4 deals last year. These were completed before the end of the quarter to help understand where each sales engagement needed attention to maximise the potential to sign business.
The red boxes show overall areas of weakness and helped to pinpoint where additional training, development and coaching were needed. They ended up hitting their number.
However, regardless of what tool you use, its imperative to be brutally honest with yourself. LSD (Lazy Self Deception), where you allow yourself to believe a situation is true, creates a disastrously potent cocktail when mixed with Hopium.
Unemotional Thinking: To keep you honest, get someone else involved who isn’t as emotionally invested in the deal (your own emotion and personal thinking will most likely cloud your judgment). Chances are, for the big ones, your sales leader will be all over it anyway, just make sure they are not also too emotionally involved.
Your peers can also act as a good unemotional sounding board for your thinking. For this to work effectively, you will need to leave your ego at the door and be open to the feedback and dissection of your deal.
Manage Your Customer’s Optimistic Bias: Sometimes the Hopium dealer is your customer. They too can get overly optimistic because it’s their reputation on the line and so their desire for success skews their thinking. Challenge what they are saying and ask for justification for why they believe it’s going to happen. In essence, be their Black Hat.
Deal Loss Analysis On The Controllables: Although an ‘after the event’ activity, deal loss analysis is very powerful for understanding what needs to be improved. Providing you employ a growth mindset and don’t blame eternal factors i.e. review the things you could have controlled, it will highlight why you typically lose deals and allow you to double check yourself in this area moving forwards.
Hopium is the number one killer of pipelines. Weed it out through consciously managing your Optimistic Bias and you’ll have a much more realistic view of your forecast and ultimately a better chance of hitting your number.
And finally, for a bit of fun, writing about this topic gives me a great excuse to point you towards this from 21 Jump Street https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLDBiQ3L4oQ (please don’t click if you are easily offended)!
During a recent training event with a client, I recommended that, if a sales person wants to take their job seriously and really treat it like a profession, they should do some reading. And three books they should read regarding the interaction with a client are SPIN Selling (Rackham), The Challenger Sales (Dixon and Adamson) and Insight Selling (Schultz and Doerr).
Why should they read them? Because they are each research based texts (well, SPIN definitely is, Challenger's research has been questioned and I don't know enough about the Insight Selling research) on how best to interact with a customer during a sales meeting and they have contrasting views. Or do they?
One of the main claims of the Challenger Sale is that solution selling (asking lots of questions to define and tailor a solution), and to a certain extent, relationship selling, are dead (Harvard Business Review, August 2012). The authors of Insight Selling refute this claim, saying their research shows relationships are still important, a critical component to winning business and that solution selling is still relevant (they call this stage Connecting). However, they go on to say Connecting is now only the starting point and the minimum requirement for winning business, with Convincing and Collaborating the other two stages.
Both the Challenger Sales and Insight Selling, from an objective perspective of someone who is not trying to promote either methodology, have resonance and relevance, particularly with respects to demand creation. They do also have some similarities; in particularly on how it’s imperative to take the customer on an emotional journey during a sales meeting. Doing this effectively is achieved through telling stories and asking questions. In my opinion, taking the customer on an emotional journey is also what SPIN Selling does, however it promotes this is achieved through initially asking questions and then giving benefit statements.
If you read all the texts and then take a step back, one common theme around the emotional journey (although its not portrayed like this) is that a good interaction with the customer involves an exchange of opinions; both seeking the customers opinions, through questions, and giving yours, as the seller, through robust story telling and ‘insight'.
Having spent some time in the field with sales people observing their behaviour, and having worked on a number of demand creation projects with customers, there is a case to say that the right approach (questioning lead or story telling lead) can be influenced by a few factors:
1. The personality and capability of the seller; some people are great at persuading through telling stories that really hook people in; others are great persuaders by asking well targeted, astute questions that get customers thinking in a way they haven’t had to before.
2. Where the customer is in their buying cycle; Has the seller earned the right to ask questions? If so, and if the customer understands why they are being asked, they will answer a whole load of questions if they help shape their thinking around a challenge or an opportunity.
3. The selling organisation’s proposition and ability to create insight; with the clients I have been working with on this method, we call this the Insight Bomb presentation and it undoubtedly works if the correct insight is available. However, as a colleague of mine, Richard Nockolds, MD at Fugleman, suggested to me, “genuine insights can be rare”, although “nuanced differentiators, repackaged research and entertaining stories can all pose as insight.”
4. Whether the seller is involved in demand creation or demand fulfillment; the story led approach is undoubtedly effective for demand creation, where the seller creates a message that becomes the trigger event for a buying cycle. However, once engaged, questions of the customer are still an imperative.
So, regardless of the methodology employed, ensuring the customer is emotionally engaged and experiencing an emotional shift in the conversation is essential to sales success. However, a one-size fits all approach may not suit all of your sellers…and that potential challenge could be your emotional journey!