Intelligence is Key - How a Coach can Increase your Closing Ratio

Sales is not as straightforward as many think. Understanding the different roles that decision makers play in a complex sales ecosystem is key to the development of an effective sales strategy. Getting the salesperson in front of the right people, at the right place at the right time, is a challenge. Not having accurate intelligence about what is happening in the buyer’s business, can lead to poor understanding of the client’s situation and fatal errors of judgement. This lack of intelligence is what often leads to lost sales.

Of course in theory, it sounds simple enough. It’s about understanding the buyer’s business and how they make buying decisions. However, many buyers are not forthcoming with information and some may also feel that withholding important information is part of their buying strategy. As sales strategists, our aim is to collect information about our sales opportunity that will give us a better chance of winning. It's worthwhile considering that much of the information we get from the buyer, comes from a subjective perspective and may not be reflective of others involved in the buying process. Devoting part of your sales strategy to finding someone who can help uncover and validate your intelligence, has proven to increase your probability of success.

Finding someone who can play this role for you – someone who not only validates your information but can also exert appropriate influence when necessary – has been found to significantly increase closing rates. This method is called “Developing a Coach.”

What is a Coach?

Within the B2B sales context, a coach is someone we identify and cultivate a relationship with, who can help us in the pursuit of our opportunity. You may be fortunate enough to have a Coach, if not, you may need to find one. So what should one look for in a Coach? Well there is a criteria for a Coach, that it has been proven, that if he/she possesses the following three criteria, will significantly increase your chances of success. The criteria states that a coach must:

1. Believe in you and trust your product and your capabilities.

2. Have influence as well as access to your decision makers (for this sale).

3. Wants your solution and no other.

Choosing the right coach can be a pivotal strategic advantage, as they will act as a guide for your sale. He/She will help you interpret information about:

  • The validity of the sales opportunity
  • All the influencers involved in the decision making process
  • Any other elements that may affect your sales strategy

Your success with your sales proposal should be their main concern, and to do so, the main question that should drive them is “How can we make this happen?”

How do we know a Coach is important?

Having spoken to clients who made this a key strategic imperative when pursuing opportunities and research from MHI Global, I’ve found that having a coach has the following impact on closing ratios:

  • Where no coach exists, closing ratios are less than 20%
  • Where 1 effective coach is developed, closing ratios move to circa 50%
  • Where 2 effective coaches exist, closing ratios move to more than 70%

Needless to say, having a coach has a positive and direct impact on closing sales.

Let's illustrate by way of example: In mid-2015, I was introduced to a company in the telco space by an external consultant. The consultant met all three points of the coach criteria and was soon developed into a coach. After a few initial meetings with three decision makers in the buying business, there was an agreement to proceed to a discovery phase. All was seemingly good. Fast forward a few weeks and calls and emails were going unanswered; I could not understand why. A little confused and not knowing what, if anything, had changed, I spoke with the Coach and we agreed that at his next meeting with the CEO, he would ask some pertinent questions. These questions were:

How have your sales results been over the last quarter? To which his response was less than positive. How were you progressing with locating a vendor for sales coaching? To which his answer was “That’s a good point,” after which he immediately opened his laptop and emailed the three decision makers asking for a progress report. The email kick started the process again and led to a meeting with the decision makers three days later. Needless to say, we got the show back on the road. As it turned out, the reasons for the initial radio silence were circumstantial, but having the coach on my side helped me to understand these and then act accordingly.

Where can I find coaches?

Now that you’ve identified the ‘what’ and ‘why’ you need a coach, let’s talk about the ‘where’. There are three possible locations of a coach:

  • In the buyer’s business – this person could possibly be one of the decision makers or elsewhere
  • The seller’s business – this person may have recently moved from the buyer’s business
  • Outside both – this could be an external consultant, as per my earlier example.

This could beg the question – could there be a conflict of interest for the coach? It’s a fair question and being able to develop a coach will largely depend on how your buyers buy. For this reason and others, you may not be able to locate a coach for every opportunity, and as suggested earlier, you can still close without a coach - sales happen all the time without a Coach. However, having one (or more) significantly increases your chances of success, so you should look to identify and develop at least one coach whenever possible as part of optimising your sales strategy.

Along the way in your sales journey, you may meet individuals who want to provide you with information (for any number of reasons) to help you win. These people are important and useful; they should be utilised for what they are, well-wishers with important intelligence that can help you close a deal. However, be aware that if they do not fit the coach criteria, you should not lull yourself into a false sense of security that this well-wisher can do the same job as a Coach.

Armed with this knowledge, you should actively build identifying a Coach into your sales strategies, because if you don’t you can bet that someday, somewhere, you’ll come across an opportunity where one of your decision makers is coaching your competitors and not you.

In my next blog I will be discussing adoption of a methodology can propel business growth and drive significant ROI.

Are you looking for a coach or interested in finding out more?

Feel free to connect with me here or comment below if you have any questions.

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