Avoid silver bullets and 4 other costly major account selling mistakes

New sales managers

Five major account selling mistakes

Business executives make “bet the company” decision every day.  According to Bain’s Michael Mankins, when good decisions are made, they almost always result from a robust decision making process.

Mankins and his colleagues identified five mistakes that account for the majority of poor decisions.  We thought that these five mistakes were equally important for those who are engaged in major account selling.

The five mistakes are:

  1. There’s no silver bullet.  Business problems are complex – and so is crafting and executing effective sales solutions to solve them.  In a transactional sales market there may be one best solution – that is not the case in major accounts.  There’s no one simple answer to the challenges that major account reps need to address – spending time seeking one is a mistake.
  2. Good alternatives are necessary to make good choices.  Sounds logical, but when crafting a solution salespeople too often grasp ahold of the first idea that sounds good – without evaluating alternative options.  This is a great way to present a solution that assembles exactly what the competition is presenting – an opportunity to differentiate is missed.
  3. Too many people involved is inversely related to how thoroughly an issue is discussed.  Why?  The “Rule of 7”– the maximum number of people that can effectively participate in a meeting.  Mankin’s research reinforces this concept, noting that for each person added beyond seven people, decision effectiveness declines by 10 percent.  In major B2B sales where teams are playing an increasingly significant role, this “Rule of 7” will become increasingly important.
  4. Not considering opportunity cost.  This is a critical and frequent mistake made by sales reps.  Sales people have a propensity for under investing in lead qualification and subsequently for not walking away from a bad opportunity – especially when they have invested time and resources.  But continuing to pursue opportunities that are “bad business” only means you are continuing to consume resources that could be invested elsewhere.
  5. Underestimating what’s involved in making a change.  Business managers often underestimate what it takes to make a change.  Bain research, for example, indicates that only 12 percent of large-scale changes are executed as intended.  Major account sales usually involve solutions that require complex implementations.  If a sales rep underestimates what it will take to get the job done, they may win the business but lose the relationship because they will not be able to do what they said they could do.

You can’t sell if you don’t know how people buy.  So understanding the decision process used by business executives is always a good place to look if one wants to improve their ability to win business.

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©2013 Sales Momentum, LLC



About Janet Spirer

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. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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1 Response to Avoid silver bullets and 4 other costly major account selling mistakes

  1. Danielle Morales says:

    Hey Janet, Thank you for sharing valuable insights on common sales mistakes that businesses should avoid. I agree that when formulating solutions, it’s really a case to case basis. We shouldn’t take the “one size fits all” approach.

    “You can’t sell if you don’t know how people buy” – proves just how important it is to be able to relate to your target market in order to bring in the sales. Sharing an interesting article I came across about sales mistakes: http://www.spi-global.com/blog/think-tank/6-sales-mistakes-businesses-avoid/

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