Slow Down to Speed Up: Three Keys to Increase Sales Effectiveness

Slow down to speed up sales? What!!!

Please, bear with me. There’s method to the madness. This is an exercise in counter-intuitive selling behavior.

One of the most common mistakes we see when working with sales teams is their desire to put the “pedal to the metal” when talking with a prospective customer. They try to:

  • get to the closing stage of sales as quickly as possible, and
  • treat all stages of the sales process with equal importance

This is a big mistake! In their haste to win business, sales professionals and managers - yes, managers are complicit in driving this behavior as they want proposals out the door and deals closed too quickly - fail to do the following:

1. Ask the Right Questions

Sales Professionals often fail to ask enough solution or consultative questions to appear interested in their client’s challenges, objectives and outcomes they are looking to achieve.

Many sellers still ask “leading” questions that point to one of their solutions, rather than having broader conversations and asking true “no agenda” questions which will help get a wider perspective of their prospective customer’s environment. This behavior means that they often miss opportunities to sell more holistic solutions (leaving money on the table or smaller deals).

2. Dig Deeper

After they hear “the magic words” when the customer articulates one or two problems or outcomes that the sellers solution can impact, average sellers get to excited and start "standing up on the pedal" in order to move more quickly to advocating how their solution can meet or address the needs the customer has just expressed. We call this behavior "eating the marshmallow" – top sellers don’t do this and delay the impulse to start advocating/eating the Marshmallow.

There's some powerful behavioural science behind this called - The Marshmallow Test. Check out this video for more details:

The problem is, in many early selling/buying conversations, the buyer has not taken the time to think through and prioritise the issues or objectives that they are looking to address. This often means that the first 1 to 3 issues or objectives that they share with the seller are often symptoms of deeper core issues that need to be addressed.

If the sales person doesn’t help to guide the customer down to the core issue by asking “What else?” to their list of challenges/objectives until everybody has a complete list of everything the client is dealing with and then help to put them in order of priority, the sales person risks proposing a solution that doesn’t scratch the real itch.

The result is then more likely to be no decision or the opportunity will go to a seller who took the time to do execute this exercise effectively.

3. Add Value

Sales professionals typically send out proposals that either contain no business case and/or use the seller’s own metrics as justification for making a decision. With no business case we make it very difficult for our clients to see the ROI and make informed business decisions.

With a case that uses the sellers own metrics only, without the input of the client's numbers, we make it very difficult for them to believe us and have any level of confidence in the business case.

Top sales performers work with their clients to elicit the customer’s beliefs about the potential return and value of investing in a solution. They also base their business case on conversations on the numbers that the client believes are possible. These sellers have much higher win rates.

Dramatic Results

Slowing down the sales process by investing the time to thoroughly qualify opportunities dramatically increases the probability of a win as well as increasing the scope and size of the deals that your sellers could be winning. Of course helping your clients to complete a thorough diagnosis of the issues they face also creates terrific value, ensuring any future solution exactly meets they needs. There is an art in how to do these things well. We call it Helping Clients Succeed: Qualifying Opportunities.

To learn more about FranklinCovey’s award-winning sales performance solutions click here or if you are interested in exploring whether or not our programs are a good fit for your sales team, please contact Ian J Lowe via or 0404 898164.