How to increase win ratios has always been a hot topic in the world of B2B sales, with millions of blog posts about how to achieve this. I’ve often joked that the answer is simple; just don’t pursue the deals you’re not going to win. Logical. So why don’t people simply focus on the winnable opportunities and ignore the longshots and the unwinnables? Primarily because of the pressure from above to have a ‘healthy’ pipeline (the perceived wisdom is that you need three times coverage or £3 for every £1 of your target quota), but the truth is that this delivers a very poor return on sales (ROS).
In my opinion, there are only two headline activities required to increase your win ratio, namely:
- Continuous, ruthless ongoing deal qualification.
- Developing a customer-aligned win strategy for the surviving deals
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.
Continuous, ruthless ongoing deal qualification.
Remember the adages ‘The second best result is to lose quickly’ and ‘quality not quantity’? People mistakenly see qualification as a one-off activity undertaken early in the sales cycle, whereas it’s actually continuous, as things change on a daily basis. It also needs to be ruthless. One of my favourite examples of this was an important proposal that was ‘pulled’ hours before submission because, according to the sales director, ‘it didn’t meet our quality standards and would have therefore damaged our brand’. A good call in my book. Prioritisation is also an important factor in qualification and this must be reflected in any formal deal selection criteria. Prioritisation is simply the answer to the question ‘infinite opportunity, finite resource, so where do we focus our effort?’
It’s worth remembering the adage that you can do a lot of things badly, fewer things far better, or a select few very well, so prioritise the winnable deals and dump the distractions early.
Developing a customer-aligned win strategy for the surviving deals.
People will buy something that either solves a business problem and/or delivers value to their business. So sales must know what problem the customer needs fixing, and/or what will deliver value to their business as early as possible in the sales cycle. The answer forms the basis of a customer-aligned win strategy; anything else is guesswork! Developing such a win strategy is the responsibility of everyone involved with the customer, with others being consulted or informed, but the accountability lies with the sales lead. The more focused the sales effort (quality not quantity), the more likely it is that the team will be able to achieve this, ideally in a structured way and in a facilitated workshop. This win strategy must be communicated and the best way to do this is via a structured management summary. This should restate the customer need and desired outcome, your approach, why you (in the context of this opportunity) and the headline commercials.
Dell used to ask two questions about a deal; So what? and Prove it? Test your win strategy against these two questions, and if it doesn’t pass the test, revisit it until it does.
Less is more.
Both of the activities I have highlighted here are all about focus. Your business will fundamentally be more successful by focusing on those deals that are really winnable and having a laser focus on developing the right win strategy aligned to the customer need. As competition intensifies and customers become more informed neither of these activities fall into the ’nice to have’ bucket. Far better to dedicate your valuable resources on the key winnable deals and hone your skills on achieving high conversion rates.