Five ways to avoid the activity vs. achievement trap

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Selling is the only profession where you can be extremely busy from morning until night, and at the end of the day, make no money. This happens when we are working with the wrong prospects. I call this the Activity vs. Achievement Trap and it can create huge problems for sales people, sales support people and business owners who need to sell. You need to make sure you are spending your limited time and resources with prospects that have the greatest likelihood of ultimately working with you.
Five ways to avoid the Activity versus Achievement Trap:
1. Don’t give up resources too early
One mistake many salespeople make is to do proposals, presentations and time intensive demonstrations before the prospect is even qualified. Is there really a strong need for the product or service, would they invest in a possible solution, and are you talking to the decision-makers? Asking a set of simple qualifying questions before doing too much work can help solve this problem.
2. Avoiding unpaid consulting
Unpaid consulting can be another activity vs. achievement trap. This often happens when you have a specific type of expertise to sell. Prospects will ask for your advice and recommendations before they commit to working with you. In some cases the prospect will take your recommendations and try to implement these themselves or find a cheaper alternative. Guard your knowledge and expertise and only give it up after someone has committed to paying you for your work.
3. Be equally committed to the next steps
In some ways the sales process should mimic the dating process. If you are far more committed to sharing time and resources than the prospect, it is most likely a bad omen for the relationship. How many times have you been in the situation where you bend over backwards providing endless revisions to a proposal and the prospect ends up not buying. One way that may help avoid this situation is to ask yourself this question at the end of every step in the sales process: “Is the prospect as committed as I am to the next step?” If not, try to understand why.
4. Avoid happy ears
Many sales people fall into the trap of hearing what they want to hear instead of hearing what the prospect actually said. When a prospect says, “If you give me a detailed proposal and a customized demonstration we will probably move forward”, a salesperson may not hear the word, “probably.” Prospects love to live in the gray areas, and may use these types of statements to eventually get out of the deal. We need to focus on what the prospect has actually said and respond to that.
5. Understanding the difference between marketing and selling
Many salespeople/organizations confuse the marketing and selling functions. Marketing is a necessary activity that can help build brand awareness and support the sales process but it isn’t selling. Producing new marketing materials, e-mail campaigns, or an improved website all can contribute to growing the business but they are not a substitute for developing leads, meeting with prospects and taking prospects through a sales process. It is critical to have an active business development strategy along with marketing efforts to ensure long-term success in getting new clients.
While there is no one way to guarantee all of your sales efforts will lead to success, focusing on the “right” activities with the highest probability prospects will put you in the best position to avoid the Activity vs. Achievement Trap.

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