How Willing are you to Win?

A Sales Rep’s Tale

In the middle ages, most of Europe consisted of wide open fields with widely spaced towns. Merchants (our potential customers) lived in the towns and worried constantly about the marauding thieves (yes, you and our competition) who wandered the medieval highways.

The merchants built walls around their towns for protection. The most prosperous towns had high walls, moats filled with nasty brown water, cannons and a militia to guard the town. There was only one way in, and a gatekeeper kept track of passwords and managed access.

Sometimes wandering thieves would come to the main gate, knock on the door and be asked for the password. When they didn’t know it, the gatekeeper would slam the peephole and the thief would slink away. Problem solved.

Other times, a king or a baron (yes, kind of like a sales rep) would decide he wanted the treasure within a prosperous town. He would hire a band of mercenaries to lay siege. They would first knock on the gate, hoping to impress the gatekeeper with their huge force lying in wait outside the walls. But when refused, the army would drop back, make camp and begin building the war machines they would need to try to take down the town walls. Towns were well prepared for these sieges. They knew it was only a matter of time until someone would want to claim their treasure and their businesses.

The army would cut off all access to the town. They would build machines to throw rocks at the walls, trying to break them. At times, they would even throw their garbage over the walls, hoping to convince the townspeople to give in.

The towns were skilled on how to hold on during these attacks. During quiet times they brought in stores of food, they planned together on how to repel attacks, they trained as a team and learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Beyond their preparations, though, they had two huge advantages over the outside force. First, they had the strength of their walls. Second, they had time. Why time?

The army outside the gates, while vicious, hungry and ready to attack, didn’t have anything against the townspeople. Sure, they wanted the treasure, but they didn’t want to work all that hard to get it. They were also underpaid and easily bored. They would make a lot of money if they got to the treasure, but that was hard work. If there was no fighting to be done, they began to drift away, looking for more excitement and easier prey. Even their leaders eventually got bored. They would then move soldiers and machines to a different, perhaps easier, town to attack.

How Willing are You to Win?

How hard are you willing to work to get inside a prospect’s walls? How much work have you done to build deep knowledge of your prospect? Do you understand your prospect’s business?

When you knock at the door, does the gatekeeper turn you easily away? Do you just give up?

Did you know the average customer says “no” to a salesperson four to six times before buying? How many times do you hear no before you pack up your war machine and move to the next town?

Which side of the customer’s walls are you on?

If you are outside, how do you get in? How does the gatekeeper really know YOU are the trusted individual who should be let in?

How can you slip inside the walls and do your work from the inside?

You, your company, need to be inside. Inside helping the customer understand the weaknesses of their defenses and how your company can help. Working with them, knowing the people in charge of each main area of the customer’s business. Training them on how to use your services, showing them the benefits of your service to their business. Then, instead of fighting a war, the customer invites you to be part of their team.

If the customer is reluctant, do you have a batch of letters from other customers who were on their current product but switched to you? What tools do you have to create a sense of urgency for the customer to do business with us?

Meanwhile, Outside the Walls

Never forget there are multiple attackers trying to get to your prospect. How will you win?

Remember also that your competition doesn’t have much patience to fight a long battle. The vast majority of them are not half as good as you are in talking through solutions as well as price. And you, my friends, if you’ve attacked well, are on the inside of the walls. You are working on new and exciting solutions with the prospect.

You will not get bored and walk away from a great opportunity.

Think now about the customer’s current provider. Do they have account managers? Does anyone really care about their account? Who will save them? Will they just react on price and try to keep the business? Will they lose hope and think there is no way to win?

How Willing are You to Win?

  • Are you willing to learn about the customer and not abandon the cause
  • Do you have “3 Deep” or more relationships with key decision makers in the company
  • Do you understand the customer’s business
  • Do you know your industry and that low price offers generally leave something out
  • Do you have a record of doing what you say and being a part of the business community
  • Do you have reference letters from customers who switched to you from company X
  • Do you have the ability to come around the table and sit on the customer’s side (inside the walls) to objectively evaluate competing offers
  • Do you have superior attitude, commitment and consistency
  • Are you willing to win?