Everyone is confident the deal will close. Then it doesn’t – and the win rate drops.
It hurts to chalk up a forecasted sale to the “lost” opportunity or “no decision” column.
Every sales professional wants more wins. But they aren’t getting them.
Win rates have been stagnate – at 47% – for about five years, while losses to the competition increased and losses due to no decision decreased slightly, according to the CSO Insights 2019 Sales Performance Report.
“Without a doubt, the one metric that we have tracked over the years that causes the most heartburn for CSOs, CFOs and CEOs is the outcome of forecast deals,” the researchers said.
Put the antacids away. Here are nine ways to increase your win rate.
Before you can decide if your win rate is acceptable or not, you want to have a clear definition of it. What one organization considers a win, others might call a pipeline move.
For our purposes beyond here, we consider a win rate the percentage of opportunities proposed or quoted that are eventually won.
Your definition may be slightly different, but once you nail down what you consider a win, stick with it. Switching from one definition to another (say a proposal win rate to a revenue win rate) can conveniently make numbers look better or worse than they are.
From definition to strategy, here’s more you can do.
Connect with more people
LinkedIn found a clear correlation between the number of connections a salesperson has within an account and increased win rate.
Beware though: “Winning isn’t simply a function of having lots of LinkedIn connections. It requires a well-thought-out strategy,” says Jill Konrath, author of More Sales, Less Time. “If you’re only well connected to one or two people at a company, you’re vulnerable if something happens to them.
“Most decisions today involve four-plus people. It’s essential to establish relationships with all of them. That way you have a greater likelihood of getting buy-in, working through obstacles and keeping the decision process moving forward.”
- Know your key players. Consider all of the people involved in your recent deals and the common threads. Was the CMO at each organization in every meeting? Did you almost always see an end-user? Know the roles that are most often involved in wins and losses to help you recognize the connections you need to make on other deals.
- Find the connections. Connect with your initial contact on LinkedIn, then search in “others at Company Name” to find co-workers and their titles.
- Reach out. Konrath says you can’t be reluctant to connect with others in fear of stepping over or around your contact. If you want, let your contact know you hope to connect with others in his or her organization. Then send an InMail message like this: Hi Anna. I’ve been talking to Dave in Billing lately about how we might be able to help your company with … Usually when I work on these kinds of projects, VPs like you get involved early. Do you have time for a chat next Monday or Tuesday?
Pick relationships over process
Organizations that establish and follow a sales process, are more successful at closing. But the CSO Insights researchers found the stronger the personal relationship between sales professionals and customers, the higher their win rates.
Researchers said if you’re trying to balance process – following every guide and pipeline rule to a T – with relationship-building, lean harder on the relationship. Spend more time getting to know prospects and their organization and less time checking the boxes to move them to next step in your pipeline.
Yes, this can increase sales time, but the payoff is a better win rate.
Heed the process
Now, just because researchers found relationships trump process doesn’t mean any sales professional should throw process out the door. Quite the contrary. Relationships thrive when they’re nurtured through a seamless, consistent experience.
A clearly defined sales process that moves prospects through stages such as prospecting, qualifying, presenting, proposing, and calling to action – plus guidelines for when prospects move along – help safeguard that only highly qualified deals hit the final stage.
The key to winning more deals: Managers need to ensure – without micromanaging – the process is followed, plus enforce consequences for failing to stay the course.
Sell knowledge, not product
Salespeople who offer expertise and perspective on customers’ businesses – not just their own product or service knowledge – experience higher win rates, CSO Insights researchers uncovered.
Perspective and insight boil down to one thing: making prospects and customers more successful. Salespeople can boost win rates by learning what’s working and what can be improved in their prospects’ and customers’ operations. Then they want to build a plan (that includes their product or service, of course) that will help them become at least 10% better.
Be hyper-diligent about time
In only makes sense that the more selling time salespeople have, the better their win rate will be. But most salespeople lose selling time to internal interruptions and unnecessary housekeeping.
The less unpredictable salespeople’s schedules are, the more productive salespeople will be.
This is where sales leaders can help individuals boost win rates: Establish specific time and cadence for meeting as a group and individually. Prepare to briefly review what’s going on, and spend more time focused on how to maximize selling time – whether that’s training, coaching or planning. This gives everyone the opportunity to plan for the check-ins and get the most out of brief meetings.
Pursue with purpose
In the same vein as hyper-diligence to time, be thoughtful and purposeful about the opportunities you chase. That might mean giving less or no attention to unlikely opportunities so you can consolidate all your time and effort into more likely opportunities.
How? Regularly put your opportunities to a rating or lead scoring test. Whether your organization has a defined test – perhaps assigning points for every positive action prospects take through the pipeline and subtracting points for non- or negative actions – or you rate the situation yourself, you want to critically analyze which deals will likely improve your win rate.
Then you can match the amount of time and resources you put into the pursuit of leads.
Create a more hands-on experience
When it comes to competing for the deal, the sales professional who provides the best experience usually wins.
Prospects will pay more attention to presentations and calls to action when they’re actively engaged in the process. So brochures, PowerPoint presentations and handshakes with the CEO are the least effective ways to win sales.
Tools and events that allow prospects to experience your solution, expertise and value win sales. Salespeople who spend less time explaining their solutions and benefits and more time giving prospects opportunities to experience those will naturally increase their win rates.
Build an advisory board
Once you’ve increased your win rate, you ideally have more customers to call on for feedback. Even if you haven’t yet won more, you can get insight from existing customers.
Create an advisory board, CSO researchers recommend. Individual salespeople, managers or an entire sales operation can pull together a board. It’s different from a user group. You want insights from the people who decide to buy from and retain you. (You’ll still want user feedback. Just get it separately.)
Regularly ask for feedback on what:
- it’s like to be your customer
- information and insight is truly valuable
- information is useless or superfluous
- is the best and worst parts of doing business with you, and
- makes your solution excel and fall short.
Be ready to hear and respond to the good, bad and ugly.