Increase Win Rates and Profitability

An Evidence-Based Strategy

By David Yesford(傅大卫)

The old adage claims that “customers love to buy, but hate to be sold to.” Turn that around to the seller’s perspective and salespeople would say that they love to win—but hate to lose.

In the current environment, winning is becoming increasingly difficult. Research by CSO Insights and Aberdeen shows that just 47% of forecasted business closes. A full third of forecasted business is lost, and 21% of opportunities stall indefinitely.1

Salespeople’s drive to win is key to their success—but their drive combined with a challenging environment can cause them to pursue any deal at any cost, which means they invest time and resources on improbable and unprofitable deals.

Sales leaders want to help their salespeople win the right business, selling solutions that address customers’ high-priority issues while being profitable for the selling organization.

So how can salespeople and their managers increase win rates and reduce stalled deals? The short answer: evidence-based judgment calls about which opportunities to pursue.

Over the past five years, win rates have fallen from 50% to 47%. No-decision rates have grown from under 20% to over 25%.

High-Probability and High-Profitability Opportunities

Any opportunity worth pursuing is anchored to a customer business priority. If the customer or salesperson cannot articulate the business problem or strategies that the solution must address, the customer probably won’t have much urgency to buy. However, assuming an opportunity is mission critical for a top business issue or priority, the salesperson must understand how the
customer defines value.

In other words, salespeople must be able to define the opportunity—the “deal”—by articulating:

  • What the customer organization is trying to accomplish
  • The customer’s main solution criteria

. . . and then answering these questions:

  1. Will the customer buy something?
  2. Does this opportunity have value for me and my company?
  3. Will the customer buy from me?

A “Yes” answer to each of these is good news—it’s time to pursue! One or more “No’s” should give pause. And, the earlier salespeople can answer these questions in the sales process, the more likely they are to invest their valuable time and resources only on high-probability and high-profitability opportunities.

So how do salespeople find answers to these questions? Read on!

If you are not able to articulate a problem statement, or what the organization is trying to accomplish, there likely isn’t much need for a solution.

1. Probability Analysis: Will the Customer Buy Something?

Probability largely rests on the strategic importance of the initiative to the customer’s business. Never equate an RFP with a strategic initiative; the customer may just be fishing. Sometimes salespeople can get a sense of the relative strategic importance of the purchase from online research, annual reports, and what the customer organization and key stakeholders post on social media. Other times, salespeople will learn this information through dialogue with their key contact and other stakeholders.

Regardless of the source, salespeople should gather evidence of the initiative’s importance beyond one or two people’s opinions. Every sales professional has seen a customer with a “pet project” they’re personally passionate about—but one that goes nowhere.

Another key probability indicator is whether the customer organization has a level of urgency or a compelling event pushing them toward a buying decision. Little will get done without at least one of these—the opportunity will stall and the salesperson will invest a lot of time and energy that, ultimately, leads to no decision.

A resounding “Yes” to this question indicates that the opportunity might be well worth pursuing; it’s certainly worth assessing potential profitability and whether the customer will buy something.

If the answer to this question is closer to “No,” it’s time to rethink whether the deal is worth the time and resources required to pursue. While not a stop sign, a “No” can be a speed bump.

2. Value Analysis: Does This Opportunity Have Value for Me and My Company?

Value lies not only in the potential top-line revenue. It also lies in the cost of the opportunity. That includes the salesperson’s, sales executive’s, and support team’s time and expense before the sale—and ensuring the post-sale implementation budget delivers the required margin.

A “Yes” to this question ensures that the opportunity represents business that’s good for the customer and the selling organization. A “Yes” is required to pursue; a “No” indicates that the deal isn’t profitable enough to justify the pre- and post-sale cost.

Recall a time when you wish you would have lost a deal you won.

David Yesford(傅大卫)

作为Wilson Learning 全球资深副总裁、亚太地区董事总经理,傅大卫有着30多年在全球范围内发展和实施人力绩效解决方案的经验。 傅大卫先生总能以其宝贵经验、策略方向和全球视角为客户和团队带来价值。多年来,他在Wilson Learning的核心领域——销售、领导力、e-learning和策略咨询业务上扮演着重要的角色。

傅大卫先生是多部书籍的合著者,其中包括《双赢销售》(Win-Win Selling),《灵活多变的销售人员》(Versatile Selling),《社交风格手册》(Social Styles Handbook),《销售培训2》(Traning Book 2)等。并在美国、欧洲、拉丁美洲、亚太地区的商业出版物中发表了多篇文章。他经常被邀请在国际性会议上做有关销售、领导力、员工和客户参与度提升、品牌和战略实施的演讲。