How Self-Limiting Obstructive Beliefs (SLOBs) Sabotage the Sales Cycle

“The economy is hurting us”

“Our solutions are too expensive”

“We need better marketing, website, social media and brochures”

“Our competition has better features and benefits than us”

Sound familiar? 

When salespeople are struggling, they have a litany of excuses for their troubles. While some of these reasons might be valid, there is usually something deeper going on: that person isn’t self-actualizing as a salesperson and therefore, not doing what is necessary to find new opportunities and close new business.  At Venator, we use an acronym called SLOBS (self-limiting obstructive beliefs) to describe this situation.

Some examples of SLOBS include:

  • Cold calling no longer works.
  • I must send a quote as soon as my prospect asks for one. 
  • My prospect will get offended if I ask about competition and budget or ask too many questions. 
  • I must discount in order to get the business.
  • Questioning my key contact’s budget authority or influence will hurt the relationship.
  • Any type of conflict with a prospect will destroy the relationship.
  • I must bring a subject matter expert on a first call to earn credibility.

These are just a few sample beliefs that salespeople collect throughout their career regarding what they can and cannot do.  Besides limiting the ability to hit quota numbers, these SLOBS severely reduce the effectiveness of any and all sales training.  Regardless of how good the process or training technique is, if self-limiting beliefs go unaddressed, they will cripple a salesperson’s ability to execute.

So how do we overcome SLOBS?

Step 1: Identify the SLOBS

Since SLOBS are programmed so deeply within our subconscious, how can we identify them? After all, we may not even be aware they exist in the first place. A great way to litmus-test these SLOBS is for a salesperson to ask themselves the following questions:

  • If the opposite were true would it be to your advantage? 
  • Do you find yourself emotionally defending the belief despite contradicting experiential evidence? 
  • Do you quickly dismiss other people’s offering of proof that contradicts the belief? 
  • Would questioning the belief require action that is uncomfortable? 

Step 2: Question the SLOBS

Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias (American radio astronomer that co-discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation) used a type of questioning technique which he called “Jugular Questions.”  Each morning he would wake up and ask himself these questions:

  • Why do I strongly believe what I believe?”
  • What am I inclined to believe?
  • What if I didn’t believe it?”

We can leverage these “Jugular Questions” to get to the root of our SLOBS and move on to the next step which is challenging them.

Step 3: Develop the will to challenge your SLOBS

Rather than looking to validate SLOBS, seek experiences that contradict them. Some examples include:

  • Prospects who keep answering qualifying questions.
  • Key stakeholders that are willing to give you information or access to their manager.
  • You or a colleague closing a large opportunity that came from a cold call.
  • A prospect who shares information about budget and competition and a deal closing without having to discount.

In sales, the right mindset is crucial. If a salesperson is holding on to SLOBS, they will likely sabotage most deals and potentially an entire sales career.  SLOBS are only as strong as the references that support them and these references influence our perspective on reality.  Effectively addressing and correcting these beliefs is critical to sales success.

To quote Nathaniel Branden (psychotherapist and writer known for his work in the psychology of self-esteem), “One of the hardest expressions of self-assertiveness is challenging your limiting beliefs.” Are you willing to take that challenge?

 

John Carino (Director of Business Development) & Jenifer Parr (Director of Client Services) .  Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

The Importance of Early-stage Pipeline Management

“My key contact is ghosting me now that I sent them a proposal.”

“I thought I had a 90% chance of closure and I just received an email that they are staying with the existing vendor. I’m so confused!”

Do the above scenarios sound familiar?

I hear these situations far too often in companies, spanning industries worldwide. Is it the salesperson’s selling technique? Are they targeting the wrong prospects? Or perhaps they are just not trained correctly when it comes to closing?

As much as all these factors can play a role to some degree, the real issue lies within the culture of risk aversion that exists in most buying organizations, where every buying decision requires full consensus from multiple stakeholders.  As the red-tape measures seemingly get more bureaucratic, salespeople must learn to adapt their selling style to this new environment. They can no longer continue to sell as they did decades ago: asking a few good probing questions, but still complying with any request for a proposal without question or consideration of whether the deal is closeable or even viable.

So, how should salespeople navigate this cultural shift? How do we remediate the risk of failure and improve conversion rates? 

The answer lies in strategic pipeline management and deal coaching in the EARLY stages of the sales cycle.  This is the critical point in time where a salesperson has the greatest leverage to negotiate for information and access: that moment in time just before the salesperson submits a quote and a copy of the presentation material for review.

Unfortunately, most sales managers focus their coaching and pipeline reviews on opportunities that are later stage and nearing closure. They assume that that previous training and sales experience will act as a guide and therefore allow the salespeople to manage the earlier stages of the sales cycle on their own. For the most part, deals do not rise to the level of management’s attention until proposals are sent and closing delays begin. Regardless of the manager’s best efforts and good intentions, it is often too late to coach an opportunity after a proposal has already been sent. I compare it to trying to push toothpaste back into the tube.  It is impossible, due to the loss of leverage that should have been established at the beginning of the deal.

Great sales management requires coaching a sales team through ALL opportunity stages, especially when a key contact begins showing interest in receiving a quote.  This is the critical moment in the sales process that either makes or breaks a good opportunity and it is what I describe as the “Collaborative Prospect” stage. This stage is where a salesperson develops a partnership with a key contact who will help navigate the organization’s buying culture, provide relevant and accurate Information about the relevant constituents and their issues, and ultimately clear a pathway to the higher-level decision makers.

Unfortunately, for improperly coached salespeople, this early stage is where the biggest mistakes are made.  The average salesperson sees a request for pricing information as the ultimate buying sign and will enthusiastically hand over their presentation material and proposals before obtaining all the information they need. Rather than intelligently challenging the buying process, the approach most salespeople take is the path of least conflict.

In the Collaborative Prospect stage, salespeople must be willing to courageously challenge the internal champion and negotiate for info and access in return for presentations and quotes.  They must continue qualifying the opportunity by gathering information about:

  • Competition (internal and external)
  • Other stakeholder’s concerns and involvement
  • Incumbent vendor relationships
  • Competing priorities
  • Potential opposition in the account

This Collaborative Prospect pre-proposal stage is also a great opportunity to test an internal champion’s influence and power.  (For more on the topic of testing for influence refer to our previous article,Great Meetings that go Nowhere.”)

Since following the path of least conflict often drives most salespeople’s behavior, managers must be willing to coach reps and help them better manage the early stage opportunities.  This level of pipeline management will result in a much greater number of deals successfully progressing through the pipeline to ultimate closure.  It will also empower the salesperson with a decision framework of whether to invest time and resource before it is too late.

 

Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

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