Selling – beware of big bright shiny objects

Good vs. Bad Business

Justifiably sales reps are always looking for that next new big opportunity. But while all new big opportunities initially look like “bright, shiny objects” – some caution is warranted.  A mistake many sales reps make is pursuing all the “bright shiny objects” coming their way.

Successful sales reps make a distinction between “bright, shiny objects” that represent good business and those that are bad business. The distinction is important because time is one of the most valuable commodities a sales rep has and investing it in bad business can have significant short and long-term negative consequences.

Let’s explore a particularly devilish yet strategically important scenario that deals with bad business.  It is the situation where the opportunity is bad business but also one where you know you can win the opportunity.   Here are two examples …

  • Scenario 1. The implementation of the project may take more resources then planned because the initial specifications are vague.   You could end up with significantly less profit then anticipated and/or you are unable to pursue other opportunities due to lack of available resources.
  • Scenario 2. The people on the customer’s side of the table may not be able to fulfill their responsibilities or they are likely to re-scope the project as it unfolds.

These scenarios are simply two examples, bad business can take many forms.  So what do you do when faced with the situation where it is business that you can win, but it is bad business?

There are two strategic options.  The first and best option is to re-define the scope of work with the customer doing the sales process so that it is a good piece of business for you and brings greater value to the customer.  The second option is to strategically withdraw.

  • Re-defining a win-bad situation into a win-good situation. Re-defining requires a skilled business conversation with the customer where, based on your experience and expertise, you are helping the customer view the issues and challenges from a different perspective and perhaps bring a different point of view in regard to what the solution might look like.
  • Strategically withdrawing. The second option for dealing with a win-bad situation is strategically withdrawing from the opportunity.  This is an option that most sales reps are justifiably hesitant to employ.  There are, however, those situations where the opportunity is bad business – you tried but cannot re-define it, so withdrawing may be the long-term best answer.  If you use this option the key is not to “burn your bridges.”  Withdraw in a way that enables you maintain the customer relationship and be in a competitive position for the next opportunity with the customer.

In general there are four best practices when dealing with the “Good-Bad” distinction:

  • Conduct win/lose analysis
  • Know what’s good and bad business
  • Learn how to re-define bad business
  • Know when and how to get out of bad business

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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