10 Unfavorable Selling Conditions That Prevent Sales Success

College baseball is in full swing and my wife and I watched our son and his college team play eight games over the past 10 days as they traveled from Orlando, FL, to Saratoga Springs, NY.  While one of the sales lessons from this trip comes from baseball, the actual travel generated the other two sales lessons.

Lesson #1 – Unfavorable Conditions

Last Friday’s game was played in horrible baseball conditions.  The temperature was in the low 30’s, the wind was roaring, and it was snowing, a prelude to a 16 inch snowfall in Saratoga Springs NY on Friday night. I grabbed the screen shot above of our son (catching) and a former teammate of his (hitting). They used to share the catching on the same team during the four years prior to college and this home/away series would probably be the last time they see (or play against) each other.

An hour later, after the snow had temporarily abated, our son slammed this two-run double with his former teammate catching for Skidmore.

There was not only some snow on the ground, the ground was frozen.  You may have noticed that the ball didn’t really bounce or roll in left field after the line drive landed. The throw from the left fielder didn’t really bounce when it came in to second base on what was supposed to be one hop and when our son slid into 2nd base, he wasn’t able to actually slide. It was more like a thud. When conditions are this unfavorable, it requires more concentration, harder work, and condition-based decision-making.

There is a huge difference between the conditions for winning business with an existing customer that favors you, versus a potential customer who favors one of your competitors.  You must pull out all the stops and sell your value without trying to win with low-margin, low-retention pricing.  Unfavorable selling conditions include, but aren’t limited to opportunities where:

  • You didn’t contribute to the specifications of an RFP
  • You didn’t meet the decision-maker
  • Their compelling reason to buy was not revealed
  • You called on and got stuck with procurement
  • They want to go with the lowest price
  • They want a proposal but you haven’t conducted a discovery meeting
  • They have unrealistic expectations about terms, timelines and/or  conditions
  • They view your product/service as a commodity
  • They stated ambivalence towards your quality
  • They refused to share who you are competing with.

When you encounter unfavorable selling conditions, refuse to accept them.  This isn’t about moving forward with a couple of favorable conditions and hoping for success, it’s about NOT moving forward unless the conditions become more favorable for success. Whether or not you wish to admit it, the truth is that when the conditions don’t favor you, you are not the one who will win the business.

Lesson #2 – The Power of Meeting Decision Makers

We stopped for lunch at the best restaurant in the village, inside the hotel at which we have stayed more than sixty times in the past four years.  It was 2pm, well past the lunch-hour rush, and the new host asked if we had a reservation. We didn’t.  Despite half of the tables being vacant, he said they would be unable to seat us because they were sold out.  We knew the general manager of the restaurant and had a very good relationship with him and I caught his eye.  He came over, said he was happy to see us, and asked what the problem was.  I said, “I guess you’re too busy to accommodate us…” and he said, “Nonsense.  There is always a table for you!”  Decision makers make decisions and will overrule those who are merely tasked to do a job and make recommendations.

When you meet with and make positive impressions with decision makers, even if it’s a very short encounter, they will remember you. Later, when presented with buying options, they’ll review the options, listen to the recommendations, and say, “Oh, I met Dave – let’s go with Dave.”  Decision made.  That is why you must always meet the decision makers!

Lesson #3 – The Power of Relationships

The Saturday forecast was for 2 inches of rain, forcing Saturday’s doubleheader to be played on Sunday.  We needed an additional night at the hotel I mentioned in lesson #2 but they were sold out. They couldn’t cancel somebody else’s room to accommodate us, but they did waive the cancellation fee and give us a full refund for the weekend.  They did that because we have great relationships with the entire staff, from the front desk, to the Spa, to the restaurant.  Given the high turnover in the hotel, all of those relationships have been critical to enjoying the accommodations at our home away from home, regardless of what we ask for or when we ask for it.  This past weekend we were forced to stay at a hotel where we didn’t know anyone and my wife went into immediate relationship building mode to make sure that we were able to enjoy our time there as well.

Most salespeople don’t build relationships beyond their primary contacts, making it difficult to maintain their advantage when their primary contact leaves the company. Almost overnight, their advantage can become a disadvantage.  Relationship building must begin on day one and relationships must must be built with everyone so that everybody there knows and respects you for your expertise and you know them as if you were an employee of the company.

The three lessons from today’s article deal with five of the 21 Sales Core Competencies:

  1. Sales Process
  2. Reaching Decision Makers
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Consultative Selling
  5. Qualifying

You can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies here along with data showing the percentages of top versus bottom salespeople that have the competency as a strength.  If you want, you can also see the breakdown by industry and by your own company to see how you compare!

The lessons in today’s article are not rocket science, but salespeople get lazy and sometimes neglect to perform some of the easiest, most basic tasks in selling.