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The Shotgun Approach to Business and Selling is Dead! Seven Strategic Tips from Experts

Here is a fact to wrap your head around: According to, roughly 60 percent of sales reps fail to meet their quota these days.

As the business world rapidly and exponentially changes around us, what are those of us in sales doing to keep up? The answer is somewhere between very little and not enough.

The economy is booming, unemployment is at an all-time low, yet six out of ten salespeople are dying on the vine. Where is the disconnect? Some argue this has always been the case, while others place the accountability on their companies for setting the bar too high.

Allow me to enter a third possibility into the mix.

Maybe, just maybe, ALL the business won is coming from the same group of sellers. That’s right, I’m hypothesizing that the same four out of ten reps are winning all the new great customer bids.

Before you say that’s not possible, consider the Pareto Rule: Eighty percent of output typically comes from the top 20 percent of actionable input. Why then would it be hard to conceive that our customers are choosing to buy from the select few that are changing along with them?

Many salespeople still look like something out of the Wolf of Wallstreet. They carry paper planners and hit up the town like some sort of pub crawl, shaking hands and kissing babies. Strategy? What’s that? It’s all about volume baby! Fill Your Funnel! Nothing replaces good old-fashioned hard work and a breath of prospects, right?

Wrong! The shotgun approach to selling is dead. No longer can we simply prepare and pitch our way to success. Instead, we must identify the select few target customers, those with the most promise, and go all in. We should be targeting with something more akin to a cannon, not a shotgun.

Strategy, much like the Battleship games of our youth, is paramount to success.

Let us then look at seven tips on how to take a cannonball approach to targeting.

1. Map Your Territory

As stated, the Pareto law states that 80% of output will come from the top 20% of input. Less is more when you create this kind of awareness and focus. Find the customers that are likely to benefit the most from what you have to offer and look for value through the eyes of the receiver.

Questions to Ask Yourself

· What are the top 20% of targets that drive 80% of sales?

· What 20% of your actions drive 80% of results?

· Which prospects or customers are most likely to be receptive to what I have to offer?

· Which are willing and able to make a change?

2. Plot Your Targets

Bucketing your business is important whether you’re new to a territory or have years of experience with your customer base. It’s an exercise that should be done with regularity and consistency. Benchmarks provide information and should be consistently monitored. The goal of mapping your current state is to gain an understanding of where you’re getting your business, who from, and what opportunities or threats may exist within. It’s akin to a well-diversified stock portfolio.

Bucketing Your Business

Start by making a list of all your customers. Then do some analysis to understand what percent of your business comes from each.

Step 1:

The first part of this exercise is to decide which group of customers provide consistent and sustainable revenue. Call this group your “why” bucket because chances are you’re already aligned on value.

Step 2:

Next identify the customers who seemingly purchase with some regularity but are still inconsistent and ripe with potential. This is your “how” group.

Step 3:

Lastly, take the remaining customers and label them your “what” group. Your what group has trialed or ordered a few times, but they are either early in development or you’ve yet to gain their trust or commitment.

3. Develop a Strategy- Use a Tool to Remove Emotion from Your Decisions

Step 1:

Take your customer base and stack rank them on revenue generation from highest to lowest on a spreadsheet.

Step 2:

On a separate tab or worksheet rank them on perceived future revenue potential. Make sure you pick some targets and prospects from each of your buckets. Pick a couple of long term opportunities with sizeable potential, several steady eddies or low-risk targets, and a good breath of additional prospects that are quick hits. Use your buckets to identify where these are coming from.

Step 3:

Finally, on a third sheet, come up with a list of variables that you believe will increase or decrease the customers’ ability to take action or implement change. For each of these factors assign an equally weighted value. For instance, let’s say the factors are “red tape,” “readiness,” “purchasing power,” and “internal influence.” For each variable use a value from 1 thru 10 for each customer (1 being they are high in that variable and 10 being they are low). Then run a sum function and stack rank your third sheet from lowest value to highest.

Step 4:

Write a formula such that X=sheet1 rank times .25 + sheet2 rank times .25 + sheet3 rank times .5. The resulting list will then rank your customers from top to bottom based on current revenue + potential + knowledge. By doing this you have done something similar to what most stockbrokers do. You have reduced, but not eliminated personal knowledge and emotion.

Sound too complicated? I’ve got good news for you. I’ve done most the work for you. The formulas and spreadsheets depicting this example, along with a free tool you can use for your own customer base, can be found at under targeting tools.

4. Plan your Approach- Pre-Call Plan

Make preparation and research what sets you apart. The topic of “why” is discussed a lot of late. However, rarely do the books and methods around the topic touch on how to uncover it. How often are we starting with the “why” but still going off assumption? Planning requires understanding where and what the value is in the eyes of the receiver.

Questions to Ask in the Planning Phase

Why is having the right partner or vendor important to this business segment?

Why have you made this a priority?

Why did you choose your current vendor or product?

Why would you consider switching in the future?

Why would you be concerned to make a switch?

5. Know when to use a cannonball to sink a ship

In order to sink a big ship and close a big deal, you must avoid fear and go all in. Know when one is in your sights and go get it. Too often we allow distractions or timing to get in the way of success. When you have a big target in your sights avoid any thought of doing what you think will be enough to win the deal. Adjust your calendar and schedule to allow yourself the time to prepare in a way that will assure yourself the win.

6. Generate Big Impact

Often the best part of landing a big target is the story you can then tell other customers in your industry. Nothing sells better than a case study from a trusted source from within. How can you parlay the deal you just closed to win business from other similar clientele? It’s difficult to land a big customer by sharing examples from those that have yet to achieve the level of success they have. Once you have solidified the business and can confidently sustain it, look for other similar opportunities close to the situation. Track every data point you can that will point to success in the partnership you’ve created and build a case study for future use.

7. Embrace Crashes and Misses

Those that have mastered anything failed a lot along the way. The difference between the master and the apprentice is in how quickly they learn from the mistakes. Look at failure as a future opportunity and don’t spend too much time making excuses or benchmarking the failure to others.

Putting it all Together

So, what are you to take away from all this? Our customers are changing and expecting more from us. No longer is this something we can fight. Just as the middle class has seen a decline in recent years, the “average” sales rep is currently taking a sizeable hit to their pocketbook. The difference? In sales, we often have everything we need right in front of us to change that. Start looking at your business through the eyes of your customers and target differently. Develop a strategy instead of a plan and when you have a big customer in your sights use a cannonball!

If you want to learn all the techniques, tips, and tricks you can check out the book that stemmed from this five-year project entitled The Pirate’s Guide to Sales - A Seller’s Guide for Getting from Why to Buy. It can be found on Amazon, Kindle, and will soon be appearing on Audible!

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