Hot Pursuit of a Win Can Backfire

By David Yesford

Salespeople love to win, but hate to lose. And sales management applauds this drive, and wants to help salespeople win, but win the right business. The key is, the hot pursuit of a win can backfire if salespeople are going after deals that aren’t profitable.

So how can salespeople, sales managers, and organizations increase win rates and profitability? The short answer—discipline!

Discipline starts by clearly understanding what the customer organization is trying to accomplish—the business impact. That sounds simple but, in my experience dealing with sales managers around the world, I often hear that their salespeople cannot articulate what the customer is trying to accomplish from a business perspective. Additionally, they tell me that their salespeople have a hard time articulating how the customer defines value. These two points serve as the bedrock of a disciplined approach. Once they are understood, you can move to answer 3 basic questions.

  1. Probability—Will the customer buy something? Is there urgency to solve the problem or any specific compelling event? Is the initiative strategically important? Many a salesperson has invested time on an opportunity, only to step back and realize that the customer has no intention of buying anything. This speaks to increased win rates, and if the answer to this question is no, discipline says to move on to another opportunity.
  2. Value—Does this opportunity have value for me and my company? Is the potential revenue enough? What about the margins? On the cost side, how much of your time is involved? And what about the time spent by an executive or other company resource? This speaks to profitability, and if it is too low, discipline says to move on to another opportunity.
  3. Position—Will the customer buy from me? Does your offer have any advantage (over that of competitors) to solving the customer’s business issue? Does your customer see the value in your offering? If the solution isn’t valued, discipline says to reconfigure a new solution or stop pursuing this opportunity.

These Probability, Value, and Position analysis questions are intended to invite dialog within the selling organization, not inspection by the sales manager. Have a “Should we pursue?” conversation using evidence gathered from multiple sources.

We love salespeople for their persistence and desire to win a deal. Taking a disciplined approach with involvement and direction from the sales manager will help you and your organization win more business, and win more of the right business.


David Yesford

“David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., brings along over 30 years of expertise in developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions across the globe. He is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, The Sales Training Book 2, and several other books. He has been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, and he is also a frequent speaker at international conferences and summits.”