Here is an Analogy:
You have to travel from Toronto to Montreal along the 401 on a sales call to an important potential customer. However, there are new toll booths. At Oshawa they ask for a dollar, at Kingston $8, at Cornwall $15 and at Montreal they ask for $25! So if you can get from here to Montreal it will cost you $49 in tolls.
The weather is uncertain and you know that sometimes the road will be blocked. You check the weather and they say there is only a 10% chance you can get through, but you start off anyway, believing that your superior driving skills and four-wheel drive will get you through.
At Oshawa the sky is sunny and the sky is blue so you flip a dollar into the bucket and drive through, there are no signs of a storm ahead. As you approach Kingston you check again, and are reassured that the weather is fine so far.
You pay the $8 toll with some irritation but drive on. At Cornwall nothing seems to have changed so you drive through having used your credit card to pay the $15 toll, you grind your teeth a bit but you are already too invested to turn back.
Half way to Montreal there is a white out and the road is completely blocked with a jack-knifed gas hauler with a pup that is all over the road. All the roads leading into Montreal are snow-covered and icy with low visibility. You turn around after an 8 hour wait in your car and you head back to Toronto, shaking your head. You then try again during the next 10 days and eventually get through to Montreal on the 11th attempt.
Each day when you leave the forecast is the same, but gradually you equip yourself with a GPS traffic system that shows you the state of the road all the way to Montreal and a weather display that shows a heads-up of all the systems. On the second day you turn around before Cornwall and the next day you turn around before Kingston, knowing the road is blocked after Cornwall you cannot get through. On the next 5 days you turn around at Oshawa, as soon as the signs are all in place that today the journey is not going to work out. On the last two days you work from your home office and get a bunch of other work done including making some sales that have been pending for a while. You feel good and you feel wiser. On the day you get through to Montreal, you check carefully before leaving home and find out that the road is open and the weather is fine all the way to your destination where finally, you make your sale.
The moral of the story:
Find out that the road ahead is blocked as soon as possible, so you can make other plans and be more productive and successful.
Also: the cost of making a sale typically escalates the closer you are to completing the sale. It is much more expensive, perhaps 6 to 1, to make a face-to-face call, than make a phone call. It costs more to prepare for a presentation and bring in your big guns and expertise than tomake a face to face call – perhaps 6 to 1 or 18 to 1 versus an initial contact call? It pays to make sure that your key qualifying questions are answered before ramping up your investment in the sales process. In my business the ratio is about 49 to 1 in time spent and cost to complete a sale versus making the initial contact sales call.
How can you equip yourself with a GPS and weather radar to avoid wasting your time? The key is in asking the right questions at the earliest possibility. Questions like: “Do you have a budget allocated to a purchase like this?” “Who has to give the OK for a purchase of this magnitude?”, and “What problems are we going to solve with this product and how does that affect you?"
Which Sales Stages Names Make Most Sense to You?
Using the same analogy as above, if you are tracking your sales team’s results, is it more clear to you to say:
15 of my sales guys have gone through Oshawa, 7 have gone through Kingston, 4 have gone through Cornwall and 1 has arrived in Montreal,
or is it preferable for you to say:
15 are between Oshawa and Kingston, 7 between Kingston and Cornwall and 4 between Cornwall and Montreal with 1 arrived in Montreal?
Personally, I like the clarity of recording the more concrete and certain achievement point of the first statement because there seems to be less room for “grey areas” and undeserved optimism.
What do you prefer? If in a sales process you decide to make the road-ahead checks mandatory, like “When you arrive in Oshawa, check the road ahead and the detailed weather before proceeding through the toll booth” then you can tie certain qualifying actions to the stage completed: “I know if they went through Oshawa that they checked the road and weather”.