In the 2008 Olympics, the men’s U.S. 400-meter relay team was considered a sure thing for the finals. They had some of the world’s fastest runners and were closely watched by critics and fans. They did well in the first two legs of their qualifying round, but in the final leg, Darvis Patton failed to place the baton into his teammate Tyson Gay’s hand. As a result, the team couldn’t even finish the race.
“I went to grab [the baton], and there was nothing,” said Gay afterward.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the exact same thing happened with the women’s 400-meter relay team. They were a sure thing for the finals, and did well in the first two legs. Then, in the final leg, Torii Edwards reached back for the baton, and Lauryn Williams failed to place it securely in her hand.
Both teams went home heartbroken.
The same thing happens in sales all the time. We spend millions of dollars on training our best “athletes” (sales representatives), but often fail to give any significant attention to the task of “passing the baton.”
5 ways your sales teams may be dropping the baton
In the Olympics, runners have only moments to make the connection with the baton, and they must do it at full speed. A tiny misalignment in timing or positioning means complete failure.
The same can essentially be true in sales, though the pace is usually slower. A small misalignment between the customer and the salesperson, between marketing and sales messages, during sales and operations handoff, from one stage of the sales process to the next, or even between members of the selling team can frustrate the prospect and lose the sale.
Here are 5 common ways it happens.
The prospect asks the salesperson to “send me some information,” and the salesperson complies without an express agreement regarding follow-up. Here, the salesperson has dropped the baton into the hands of the prospect and lost complete control of it. Oftentimes, the prospect simply drops it into the nearest trash can and the sales process is over.
- The salesperson runs a great exploration call but forgets to agree about and schedule the next steps to take with the prospect.
- The salesperson only speaks with one person on the client side and hopes that they will run the relay race for them internally. Baton dropped.
- Marketing leads are placed in the pipeline without a clear understanding of where the customer has come from, what they already know, who they’ve talked to, or what they need.
- The marketing department comes up with slick messaging, and distributes it via advertising without consulting or informing the sales department, creating a disconnect in the customer experience.
These are just a few examples of thousands of ways a baton can be dropped during the sales process, and even the most skilled salespeople in the world will lose winnable sales when connections are missed.
How to stop dropping the baton
If you want your sales teams to stop dropping the baton, you need to take a close look at your processes, training, and coaching. Smooth handoffs don’t happen by accident.
Identify the gaps in your process where it might be easy to miss a step or flub a handoff. Build the handoff process into your overall process, and train and coach to it.
You can’t fix this problem only with technology, but the right technology can make the fix easier. We think Membrain is the best tool for this. Membrain lets you put the sales process right in the hands of the salespeople, so that they can walk through it smoothly and consistently every time. It has tools to ensure proper baton handoffs between co-workers and clients. It puts the right content at their fingertips at the right time so they don’t have to break their workflow to make content connections. And it provides you with analytics tools that let you determine root causes of problems in the process, so you can patch up gaps and continually improve your process.
Sometimes, the biggest challenge to improving handoffs is bad habits. Old habits die hard. Membrain helps with this as well, by giving you the tools you need to reinforce training and process, and to identify when salespeople depart from it so you can respond proactively.
I’d love to give you a demonstration of the power of Membrain for improving your team’s sales performance. Contact us today.