Beware Target Fixation

Scope_of_M-91In sales, maintaining clear line of sight to your ideal future clients is important.   Target fixation is an interesting phenomenon.   Becoming blind to all obstacles or hurdles around you in pursuit of your target.  You can often see this present itself in motorsport – something they train to avoid.  They are taught to look where they want to go – not at the hazards as it is likely that, if you stare at the hazard, you’ll hit it.

Why is this important in sales?  When prospecting for new clients, you need to be fixed on your target.  You need to have line of sight to them.  But what if you mis-identified them?  Or, what f they were ideal at the outset, but something changed during the sales process?

What if they never were, or cease to be, ideal?  Two things can happen.  First, you can spend considerable time and effort on a prospect that will never become a client.  Time you could have invested in someone who would.  Or, you could win a prospect which you find out afterwards you don’t want, or doesn’t want you.

Neither of these are desirable outcomes in sales.  The first represents a significant opportunity cost and the second, whilst you have the revenue, can create a relationship management nightmare.

How do you avoid this?  You need to continually ask yourself some key questions for your prospects during the sales process:

  1.  Do They?Is there a material event, opportunity or risk in the business that they need to address?  Is there something which warrants the conversation turning in to a proposal?   Maybe they just haven’t identified the opportunity/risk the warrants a decision.   As a sales professional part of your job is helping them identify unknown opportunity or unidentified risk
  2. Will They?

Know they have a need – will they move on it?  Some prospects will just continue to meet, but never be moved to a point where they will make a decision or act.  They just don’t wish to change or don’t see a compelling need.  Or maybe haven’t seen the need to – yet!  Can you show enough value to overcome any inertia?

  1. Should They?

Whilst the displacement event may occur – do you have the products/services to meet it?  Sometimes a client will make a decision to move but your offering may be sub-optimal to them.   Sometimes, the competitor is actually better.

  1. Can They?

Does the prospect have the ability to use and buy your service?  Can they afford it?  Are they ready to use it?  What needs to be done before they can use and receive full benefit from your product/service?

Point 1 and 2 are intertwined.  As a sales professional, it is often part of your job to help your clients identify unrealised opportunity or unidentified risks in their business.   To help them see why changing could be of value to them

It is important to ensure you are constantly checking in to determine whether your pipeline is still full of your ideal clients – or whether you are just fixated on certain opportunities because you can’t or won’t let them go.

Sales is a courtship – it’s as much about determining whether you should do business together, as much as finding out whether you could.

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