If you were working in the health or social services, or in the nuclear, aerospace, oil, rail and military industries, you would be well aware of the need to perform risk assessments on a regular basis wherever there was a serious threat of a hazardous situation.
In fact, if you happened to be in a management or executive position in those environments, you might well have a legal responsibility to ensure that the necessary risk assessments were performed to the appropriate professional standard.
Some may regard these risk assessments as burdensome, and a few might hanker after a simpler, less bureaucratic climate. But there’s no doubt that risk assessments have saved many lives, and will continue to do so. Which might lead us to consider whether risk assessments could save sales deals, as well…
You can imagine the response from some of the more traditional sales people: having to do a risk assessment would be yet another unnecessarily bureaucratic, burdensome process, another management-driven “hoop to have to jump through”. But they would be wrong.
Unless your experience is very different from mine, you can probably look back on deals that sales people assured you were “in the bag” - and yet they escaped (or the bag disappeared). You can probably look back on deals that went quiet, and being assured that there was nothing to worry about. And yet there was.
Every sales opportunity - no matter how cast-iron - has its share of risks, and most deals have many more risk factors than are usually acknowledged. Sales people tend to be predisposed to listen to good news, and to avoid seeking out bad news for fear of what they might discover.
This is why thoughtfully designed checklists have become such an important element of the modern sales process - they force sales people to assess factors that have been proven to impact their chances of sales success. They make it harder to miss the obvious. As Atul Gawande points out in The Checklist Manifesto, they serve to systematically eliminate errors of ignorance and ineptitude.
And that’s precisely why I’ve been working with a growing number of clients to create opportunity risk assessment checklists that ensure that they uncover and pay proper attention to a range of well-proven risk factors that they cannot afford to ignore or sweep under the carpet.
I’ve learned that these risk assessments are most effective when jointly conducted between the sales person and their manager - and if there has been significant pre-sales involvement it’s often invaluable to have their perspective as well.
It’s possible that you’ll have a few risk factors that are specific to your environment, but if you’re in a complex B2B sales environment, the following risk factors tend to be universal:
If any of the above risk factors are present, or if any of the risk factors are unknown, you must determine what action is required to mitigate the identified risk, and put that action plan into place.
Sweeping the issue under the carpet, or failing to ask the tough questions, is a recipe for disappointment and failure. You can do better than that. A little healthy paranoia is much more useful than a large dose of complacency.
These opportunity risk assessments are a core element of our Value Selling System. I’d be very interested in your comments: have I missed any other common risk factors? And after considering this list, how many of the opportunities that are currently being forecasted might be at risk?
CEO at Inflexion-Point, the UK-based B2B sales and marketing performance improvement specialists. Inflexion-Point helps B2B organisations to design and implement highly effective customer acquisition systems based on a combination of the winning habits of their top sales performers and the latest industry best practices.