Although few sales reps would likely admit it – instead of playing to win, they play not to lose. Playing not to lose comes in several flavors. For example, the sales rep who focuses solely on retaining current business in existing accounts versus trying to develop new business in an existing account or new business in new accounts.
Others play not to lose by focusing their sales effort on one or two “tried and true” products. The products they sell they know “cold” and are the products that have few quality or delivery problems. These sales reps would rather remain selling a subset of the existing portfolio rather than to move outside their comfort zone.
What do sales reps who play to win look like? They pursue new accounts and they aggressively approach new products. In existing accounts they look inside the account for ways to leverage their past successes. They look for opportunities across the account – seeking additional opportunities with their current customer contacts, as well as, brand new customers inside the organization. These sales reps are looking to maximize the productivity of their territory.
Sales reps who play not to lose won’t “make” any President’s Club. But, in a low change sales environment it is an approach that can often produce adequate results. The real problem occurs when status quo is not the trend of the times. Three conditions are particularly problematic:
- The buying environment is undergoing significant changes in regard to what is being brought, how things are brought and what the customers are willing pay.
- A number of new competitors are entering the market.
- Your company is releasing a significant number of new products.
This not to lose mentality can often slowly invade a sales team over time due to a dysfunctional compensation system, non-engaged front-line management and/or poor leadership. In most cases, the not to lose situation is a problem that needs solving.
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