Applying the principle of Fast Fail to the sales process
First posted at Porter Consulting (porterconsulting.net)
Everyone wants a full pipeline. A full pipeline means more opportunities, and all things being equal, more closed business. But — are all things equal? Is your pipeline stuffed with wheat or chaff? From a marketers point of view, we need to do everything we can to help sales winnow the chaff quickly, consistently and positively.
Fast Fail is an approach widely applied in software development. This concept is described in the article, Fast failure: The secret to fostering more IT innovation than your competitors. The author explains, “Without failure there can be no innovation, learning, or transitioning in an organization, and the organization that never fails often stagnates and becomes irrelevant. What’s difficult is learning to accept failure, and encouraging that behavior throughout your organization.”
Fast Fail means trial and test quickly, learn what you can, and move on if things don’t look positive. I believe this concept also has a lot of relevance in the sales process.
Another article, Qualifying out, published on the ChangingMinds.org website, builds on this concept by describing how to quickly qualify out leads that will need lead to success. The author reminds us of the following, “Once your potential customer is in the sales funnel, you have three routes: convert the potential into an actual by closing the sale, get rejected by the customer (they walk away) or qualify them out of the funnel (you walk away). Qualifying is a difficult art at the best of the times, and in many ways, qualifying out is more difficult than other forms of qualification.”
One key finding in this article is that sales reps resist qualifying deals out after they initially engage with the customer. This is a big issue, and one that needs to be addressed from a sales process perspective. Attempting to take poorly qualified deals to the proposal stage wastes everybody’s time. Sales is all about opportunity cost — spending time where it does the most good.
When Porter Consulting puts together sales tools for our clients, we always build in ways to help sales reps do a fast fail analysis. Our 3 key points include:
1. Tightly define what a qualified lead looks like.
2. Tightly define key stakeholders, including Blockers, who can oppose or redirect projects.
3. Provide scoring models that support consistent deal evaluations and raise red flags early.
Ultimately, it is up to the sales rep, and sales management, to make those hard decisions. Sales management must make “fast fail” something that is rewarded, because it bolsters sales rep performance. Make it easier for them by thinking through and defining where your solution, or the sales process, is not a fit.