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31 July 2016

Don’t Shortcut the “SALES” Switchbacks

Where does blog inspiration come from?

Many, MANY posts over these last few years have come from being on the buying side – analyzing and reverse engineering my experience as a customer to share the Do’s, Don’ts and #SALESFAILS that can help my clients and audience build smarter sales strategies.

Many blog posts also come from drawing analogies and creating metaphors from other life experiences to relate them to sales and business. Most of my close family and colleagues know when I’m telling a story, there’s probably a blog post to follow to illustrate a sales principle.

So this weekend, as I was huffing my way back down a hiking trail on a mountain in Arkansas, I saw a sign that said, “Don’t shortcut the switchbacks”. I said the words aloud and asked my mom, who was hiking next to me if she knew what exactly that meant. She said, “The switchbacks are the sharp, zig zag turns on steep grades. Shortcutting them is going straight up the mountain, off the trail and causes erosion and problems.”

“Don’t shortcut the switchbacks” I repeated, and my mother looked at me and said, “Is this going to be a blog post?”

She knows me very well.

I began chewing on the similarities of shortcutting the mountain trail and shortcutting the sales process.

Switchbacks are a key part of creating a safe and successful trail up a steep peak that can withstand thousands of hikers while preserving the natural environment. Impatient climbers see the straight route up the mountain but taking these shortcuts would create a path for water gullies that would wash away the soil and plants and ruin the trail to the top.

Taking shortcuts is damaging to the trail and the mountain just as sales shortcuts are damaging to your results and customer relationships.

In more complex sales – those that touch multiple departments or multiple decision makers – shortcutting straight to the top means you’re –

  • Missing insight from key users or influencers. So much of successful selling is knowing how to navigate the internal culture and unofficial hierarchy of an organization. If you skip past everyone who can give you insights as to what’s important and valuable to those making decisions, you’re selling your efforts short. You may ruffle feathers, hit the wrong note with your offer, or erode the potential for future opportunities.
  • Creating a proposal without due diligence. If you’re not talking to several people along the way, do you really know the issues you’re trying to solve? How can you create a comprehensive, customized, or consultive solution if you’re guessing at the problem? You could be proposing a solution that misses addressing key problem areas.
  • Not developing relationships. A swift ascent skips many opportunities to build trust and credibility. Even if you’re truly only selling to one person, you’ll still need several meetings to establish credibility and learn the currency of your buyer. Going in for the sale too soon could undermine your position, make you seem desperate for the sale or as if you’re not interested in the best solution for the customer.
  • You are “Single Threaded” without additional champions or advocates. Should you earn the opportunity to provide a solution without building relationships with others along the way, you are in a tenuous position, vulnerable to being replaced by a competitor who has built relationships and consensus with influencers along the way. You could be missing the signs – grumbling, or dissatisfaction – that could help your competitor unseat you as the incumbent provider.

Impatience on the “sales trail” leads many sales pros to think they need to go straight to the top – to the Executive Suite, the Budget Owner, or Company Owner – believing that’s the most succinct path to selling success. However, shortcutting those “switchbacks” – and not taking the turn by turn route to get to the top can cost you.

When it comes to your sales process, Don’t Shortcut the Switchbacks!

Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!

-sks

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