Getting to “Sales Nirvana” — 15 insights
In the intense and high-stakes world of software sales, “nirvana” is not a term you’ll hear often, if at all.
However, it is absolutely possible to reach a state of perfect peace and happiness — even if all mayhem is taking place above and below you. Most importantly you can do it whilst consistently being the top performer.
The power of saying “no”
One of the most powerful lessons I had the fortune of learning very early in my career was the power behind respectfully saying “no”.
In 1999, when I was door-to-door selling in Sydney, Australia, the buyer often made it harder for me to leave without the sale, than with it.
Why? The Jones Effect. The fear of inferiority with their neighbors really kicked in when I was able to rationalize why what I was selling just wasn’t for them. I got so good at building deep levels of trust quickly that often it would have been MUCH easier just to let them buy what their neighbors had just bought, but I never did.
Refusing to sell someone your product for what you determine their own good, is ultra-powerful on so many levels in sales, and critical in building a sustainable pipeline that compounds — critical in SaaS.
Working your way into a position where you can confidently say “no” to deals really is “sales nirvana”, it’s the promised land.
If you’re reading this and thinking…
“WTF! Is this dude really saying that after me and my team have put in all of that work, and we’re at the point where we can “close” a deal, I should then look a gift-horse in the mouth and say “no thanks I don’t think this is for you” and lose my sale?! “…
..well the answer is, emphatically “YES I am” 🙂
You walk away from that deal, and here’s why starting with 5 signs of when you should walk:
5 signs you should walk away from a deal:
1) You re-discover they don’t actually match your ideal customer profile definition (ICP).
2) They can’t clearly articulate how they will measure the return on investment (ROI) of this engagement, and will not entertain you helping them create an ROI measurement protocol.
3) You were invited to an RFP, and they have not convinced you that all they are doing is a show and tell pony parade, to force a better price from the incumbent.
4) Failed promises: They keep missing agreed deadlines.
5) Cheap: The economic buyer only cares about price.
If despite the signs, you don’t choose to walk away here are 5 damaging knock-on effects you’ll face:
5 impacts of not walking away from unqualified deals:
⏳1) Lost time:
Time wasted on this deal will reduce the time you can spend on bigger deals, or deals that will close faster. Time is finite. Be protective of it and only spend time on the deals of the highest value and those you believe have the highest near-term close probability. Poor time management gets salespeople fired.
❌ 2) Early cancellations:
When they discover for themselves this product does not fit their needs, your customer will most likely try hard to cancel early, they will contact you and bring you back into the fold, all the while your Customer Success counterpart may now struggle to hit renewal goals. This is a stressful train crash on so many fronts!
📉 3) Your revenue will not compound:
SaaS companies rely on revenue from existing customers compounding to reach their forecast growth multiples. Net Revenue Retention (NRR) is a key metric in SaaS that justifies big multiples. You’ve got to sign quality customers that meet your ICP to get 120%+ NRR.
🗣 4) People talk. Your reputation amongst your peers and in the market will be damaged.
That might be hard to recover from, and confidence is a salesperson’s best friend. Your reputation is a proxy for confidence. Screw around with it at your peril.
👋🏼 💸 5) You’ll actually lose money not make money
When the client tries to cancel early your commission will highly likely be clawed back. But worse you’ll be distracted and underperform as a result of spending less time on your live pipeline, and to point 4, when your confidence gets hit, so does your pipeline.
The net net is, that deal you thought was going to make you money, but you knew was a bad fit, is actually going to lose you money!
5 tips on getting to Sales Nirvana
So how do you get to sales nirvana? Here are 5 things I and my teams do routinely to help us get there:
🏗 1) Build volume into your pipeline
It’s much easier to walk away from a deal when you have a burgeoning pipeline. You have to find a way to have 3x your target in a pipe that is forecast to close for that quarter. You will struggle to get to sales nirvana without that kind of volume. Always be building volume into your pipeline, never stop.
👂🏼2) Actively listen
The only way to become a trusted advisor is to actively listen and empathize with your prospect. If in doubt, just resist talking. They have things to say, let them say it.
They will feel your understanding of their predicament. You will double-check you heard them right, by replaying what they described in your own words, you will selflessly riff with them about solutions that are a few degrees separated from your own. You will work yourself into a position where they want to find a way to work with you even if your product is not the right fit — which is of course when you actively decline to sell them your product. Working yourself into this position is a key indicator of sales nirvana.
🤔 3) Re-qualify frequently
When actively listening, and advising, what you should be doing asynchronously is re-qualifying them. Most salespeople don’t do this. They focus on themselves and look to close a deal regardless. The salespeople that stand the test of time know that it’s damaging to the business in the long term to sell to a poorly qualified prospect. They hold the company values tight, they re-qualify frequently and they ultimately only allow prospects to do business with them that will bring value to both organizations.
👩🏽🎓 4) Don’t rely on Sales Engineers
You need a strong degree of autonomy to get to sales nirvana. At certain points in the process, depending on the complexity of your product you will of course need SE support, but know your product well enough that you don’t over-rely on them. You need to be the trusted advisor, to truly evaluate the fit, and to be in a position to make an executive go/no-go decision on the deal — you must own it. You can only get to sales nirvana if you own it.
💪🏼 5) Do the deal on your terms
You are closest to the deal, by a huge distance, so you know best. I pride myself on being able to predict the signing of an enterprise contract down to the hour. I never leave a stone unturned in understanding the criteria and process to get a signature. This means I am able, with confidence, to predict when and why I might also choose to walk away from a deal.
It’s really important that you recognize you have a unique vantage point, and it’s really important you recognize it’s your responsibility to explain to your superiors why you are walking away. If you don’t do this you will likely be challenged by them to get the deal done on their terms (this is a whole other story!) — avoid this at all costs.
You can only reach sales nirvana if the deal is done on your terms.
I’ve always prided myself on not just winning but winning in a certain way. As a leader what I’ve learned is that the longevity of myself and my team can only be achieved if you strive to create an environment of perfect peace and happiness.
High-performing sales environments are rarely described as that, some feel it’s not possible, but they are wrong. It does not come easy, but if you care about sustaining a high-performance culture and if you care about consistency, you have to strive for sales nirvana.
Thank you for reading and good luck!
About: Wayne Morris is the Founder of Morris Consulting, LLC a consultancy practice advising multiple tech companies in the US and Europe on building optimal go-to-market motions. Formerly Chief Revenue Officer at Wonderschool Inc, an a16z backed Edtech SaaS & Marketplace start-up, where he led and executed a successful pivot during the pandemic that resulted in $multi-million ARR and industry-leading growth. Prior he was Chief Revenue Officer and a long-standing member of the executive team at Guidebook, where led the company through 5x growth across the US, EMEA, and APAC over a 6 year period. Previously he was GM of Maxymiser UK where he was part of the leadership team that led the company through 14x growth in 4 years, prior to them being acquired by Oracle. Wayne also had stints in sales leadership roles at leading AdTech firm Criteo, and Kelkoo (acquired by Yahoo!) in the UK, and Hitwise (acquired by Experian).