The Sales Reps Dilemma – Absolute Focus, or Jump on New Opportunities?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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Categorize this right under Time Management – but I would say that just about every sales rep struggles with this dilemma. Whether it’s to diversify services, verticals, geographic territories, and accounts within a territory – sales reps are always anxious of “what could be”. Sales reps ask themselves this very question – “Should I keep pounding away at what I’m doing, or try something new?”

If you asked my best friends, they’ll tell you that I’ve been accused of being just like this picture – a cat with a string. If I see the next best thing, I’m all over it. The question is – which is the best solution? I say… both, you just need to do a proper assessment of the situation.

1. Have I really (and I mean REALLY) given this a fair shake?

First, ask yourself subjectively if you’ve given this “project” (new territory, vertical, business strategy, selling style) the time it deserves. I know we’ve all heard “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but that expression wasn’t created to amuse you. It’s actually a fact of life (Malcolm Gladwell will agree in his book Outliers claiming 10,000 hours until perfection). Have you lobbed 10 calls into this territory and received nothing in return – thus this is your litmus test? Have you lost 3 deals in a row – so this vertical is not something your company should pursuit?

If you asked an entrepreneur about adversity, you’ll get a complete different perspective on “giving this a fair shake”. We’ve nurtured accounts for over 2 years before the fruit fell from the tree. If sales were easy, everyone would be lining up to be the next Senior Sales Executive. Ironically, 99% of employees don’t want a sales job for a reason – because they’d need to work harder and longer than anyone else.

2. Countering that – do you understand “Diminishing Return-on-Investment”?

Most sales reps understand this intuitively as they feel a project, vertical, patch is just not working. The best way to approach this is with empirical evidence. You need to understand the following:

1. How long does it take to make $ from this?
2. What is the AVG $ I can make from this?
3. How often can I create real opportunity from this?

A sales rep now has the 3 important metrics – Volume, Probability & Velocity. You have empirical evidence to map out the ROI from this project. Now figure out your Opportunity Cost – essentially is my time best doing this project or something else. Let the evidence tell you if you’re digging a dark hole destine for nowhere.

3. Same actions, different results???

This one always perplexes me – sales reps want to increase their probability of success, yet they slip into their old selling style hoping for a different result??? This is a recipe for insanity! If this is happening, sales reps need to look into a mirror and not think about (vertical, geographic, project focus), but look at their own sales process as a laggard to success.

4. Remember how long it takes to drive ROI from a new plan

Before moving onto a new project/patch – remember how long it has taken to cultivate the current opportunities. Sales cycles under 30 days are a rarity, so assume averages around 90-180 days at a minimum. Now by switching, this is the Opportunity Cost. Is this worth the refocus?

When I think of this in context to doing my MBA, (which was $50,000), my real opportunity cost was the lost revenue for 2 years. All of these elements need to be accounted for in an assessment.

5. Develop a plan to understand Market Capitalization before shifting gears

Nothing drives me bananas like a sales rep who’s answer is “I don’t know” to “What’s the market potential in your territory?” How could they not know??? This is like saying “I have no idea what’s in my bank account right now”. Developing a plan to understanding Marketing Capitalization in a specific territory is critical in the planning process.

A sales rep MUST, MUST understand the following

1. Who are our suspects we’ve never connected
2. Who are our prospects we’re nurturing (no definitive next steps yet – but they know us)
3. Who are the opportunities we’re tracking for proposals
4. Who are our clients – and what is their propensity for upsell/cross-sell

This is the outline of all the $$$ that can EVER be made in their territory. Is this worth the effort?

Without this information, how can a sales rep understand the potential within their territory? Develop a territory heat-map to understand potential, giving greater insight into the ROI of focus versus diversifying.

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