Shrinking Territory: A Forced Opportunity

John called me and he was pissed.

“They are drastically cutting my sales territory and I’m freaking out. This means all the deals I was working on are going to go to some fool who just walks in and gets to cash in on my hard work.” Listen, I don’t blame him for being angry. That would be my knee jerk reaction too. Fear of loss. That’s a big bear to wrestle with.

However, I have some background on John that he can’t see because his perspective is clouded by emotions right now. What he can’t see is that this is actually a good thing. It’s a forced opportunity.

John is in a unique, and very temporary situation where he has nothing to lose. This is an opportunity for him to break out of his comfort zone and practice asking direct questions he isn’t normally comfortable asking for fear of upsetting his prospect. This is his chance to qualify hard and fast to see if deals he is about to lose are serious and want to buy now, or if they were just wasting his time.

Making the most of a shrinking sales territory

Through many interviews with top sales performers on The Sales Polish Podcast, I have learned that the people making the most money, who are closing the biggest deals, know they have to qualify hard and early. Get ‘em in or get ‘em out. They are very jealous of their time and they use it wisely.

If you don’t manage your time, you will spend it, not invest it. Big difference. When you spend your time, you are not getting anything in return. Are you doing deep dive demos for technical people without the VP or decision maker? How often is a purchase made if those people are not engaged? Never? Then you are not doing the work required to establish these engagements as “opportunities”.

You should absolutely have a casual introduction, get basic information on the company, the project, who is involved in the decision making process, budget and time frame. If there is no budget or time frame, and this is an educational engagement, then you can direct the technical person to your website, have them watch videos, and read white papers until they are ready to involve key decision makers.

If you are in sales, then SELL. By the time they engage you for a demo, they should have an active project, and expected time frame to purchase and be well on their way to saying yes. You are there to help them BUY.

If the technical person isn’t willing to invest a little bit of time to look at your website and do their due diligence to the point where they have a basic understanding of the solution, then you don’t have a qualified opportunity. You are there to provide answers to educated questions, not to answer the question, “So what does your solution do?”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to lower level people, but qualify them. Tell them “Here’s what we find is necessary for a VP or decision maker to say yes to the deal.” and then give them the proposal or reasons why a VP will say yes. They are different than why a technical evaluator says yes to begin with.

Moving the needle

In order to get the VP or decision maker to join the demo, start asking questions outside the evaluator’s experience that only the decision maker can answer.

  • What are the line of business requirements for a successful engagement?
  • How does this solution fit into the organization’s overall KPIs?
  • If they are not willing to do a little bit of investigating on their own so they can involve the right decision makers, you don’t have a deal champion good enough to close the deal.

The point is, get the right people on the demo. If key decision makers are not on the demo, reschedule. Set the expectation that they are to be on the demo or you will reschedule.

Here is what to say to the technical evaluator. “Thank you for your interest, have you watched any of the videos or read any of the white papers? No? Here are some great resources for you. Also, here are the reasons the financial decision makers say yes. You will want to have that ready for when it comes time to do a demo, since we will need to have them attend, or its typically a waste of everyone’s time. Email me with any questions prior to the demo and let me know when everyone is ready.” If they balk at that, they were never going to buy anyway, and you wasted your time.

Seizing the moment

Back to John. John is understandably upset, but this shrunken sales territory is actually a forced opportunity. John needs to break through this issue he has of needing people to like him. I’m here to tell you, if you are not making what you want, this could very well be the reason.

This unique and temporary opportunity has presented a safe place to practice pushing back on time wasters. John has exactly 60 days, if he’s lucky, to close all the opportunities he has been working that will no longer be in his sales territory. John has nothing to lose and it’s the perfect time to practice which is where the magic happens. All sales training is useless repetitive action is taken.

In the book “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success: Connect with Customers and Get Results” by Colleen Stanley, she states that it takes 143 times for an action to reinforce a neural pathway. This means that until someone practices an action repetitively, they will go back to their old comfortable ways that end up the with the same old results, which is the literal definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. So don’t be crazy!

I really hope John can find the courage to do something different, and qualify hard and fast. He’s either going to close more deals than ever before… or get what he’s always gotten.

What would you do?

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