“Coffee is for…” and Other Fine Myths

What a great movie!  What a great scene!  Alec Baldwin laying down the law.  But for those of us in Sales, it’s not really that funny.  The conclusions that most people draw from this scene are actually…completely false.  Yet it does strike a chord with many of us- it’s time to close

I’ve sat through some of the most painful meetings at the end of a quarter or the end of the year.  The folks in senior management have threatened, reasoned, rationalized, and even pleaded for their salespeople to make things happen.  Their most common question is “why not now?” and most salespeople answer…”budget cuts, challenging conditions…”  We’ll leave the details of forecasting and pipeline vitals for future posts, but for now I’d like to focus on what brother Alec calls his “ABCs” or “always, be, closing”

Anyone who’s been involved in Sales knows that it’s a lengthy process with alot of preparation, many steps (or phases), and a long timeline.  Even though I don’t have as much experience as many “closers”, I will share the simple questions I was taught to determine if, how, when, and why a purchase would take place.  It’s not important in which order they’re answered, only that they’re answered honestly:

  • Need– Why would the prospect want your product, service, solution?  Is it mission critical for their business, i.e. will they shut down tomorrow without it, or is it nice to have?  Ninety nine percent of what’s sold falls in the latter category, so you better move on to the next questions…
  • Time-frame– When are they going to pull the trigger, ring the bell, or “sign on the line that is dotted…?”  This is the most difficult question for most salespeople and/or senior management because it relates to forecasting and also accountability.  It should be addressed earlier rather than later and any dates given should be treated with extreme skepticism.  I remember a former boss, Mike, who drove home the importance of this question to me.  He’d stare at me with his merciless Irish-eyes and say “you promised me $35K…I rolled it up to the Board!  Get out your checkbook Pablo…”
  • Authority– Who are you speaking with and selling to?  Does this person have the “juice” to make it happen?  All too often salespeople do a great job of selling…to the wrong person.  I was taught to ask this question in many ways…repeatedly- “who else needs to be involved in making this decision with you..???’  Hey! Let’s get them involved now!
  • Money– I purposely avoided saying the word “budget” here because it makes me grind my teeth and get the shakes.  This is one of the toughest questions to ask, confirm, and believe.  I’ve seen alot of prospects be “mistaken” about where their budget(s) were for the year.  It’s here that a salesperson needs to get creative and add measurable value to the potential engagement / sale, not panic and start discounting.  They’re no easy solutions for this question, but that’s why we’re in Sales…
  • WillingnessMany sales engagements end in..”no decision”.  The prospect gradually grows colder and eventually stops communicating.  The opportunity sits on the pipeline until senior management forces it off.  I say you’ve got to be direct-  Are they buying…now?  Why not next quarter or next year?  Have all the other questions be answered?  Pick up that coffee and start closing people!  Happy Hunting!

Paul Williams


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About pablo02134

Sales and Consulting professional with a successful track record of exceeding goals and objectives with over 15 years of experience in Business Development, Lead Qualification, Sales Opportunity Creation and Customer Service. Adaptable leader who communicates effectively with senior executives and serves multi-cultural and multi-lingual teams with his bi-lingual (English / Spanish) skills. Extensive experience also covers strategic planning through implementation of SalesForce.com for sales, marketing, and enterprise transformation.

2 thoughts on ““Coffee is for…” and Other Fine Myths

  1. Another great post, by our COO. Take it to heart people and for what it’s worth, I’ll tweet the world according to Alec in a minute, so go and check it out! Ahh and BTW also from me “Happy Hunting” and let us know, if we can help you get that business in the door. Been there, done that. Everyone in our amazing little team.

  2. I just got some excellent feedback from a former colleague on this blog post-

    “I went to your site and read the NTAM section in the blog “Coffee is for…”

    I have adapted my thinking to include W – “Willingness” in the NTAM qualifications. As I have been a CEO for close to 6 years there are many times where as the CEO I have an internal need and certainly can do TAM but I am not willing to do anything about it. Another way to say it is there are always a hundred things that an executive can do on any given day but is he willing to deal with it and make it a priority.

    My play on words to my sales people is WANTM – If your prospect doesn’t give you answers to WANTM you don’t WANTM either. Pronounced Wantem. As in, I don’t want you to be working on it. Find a better prospect and put that one in the tickler file until they are fully qualified.”

    Brian Kratt
    Language Scientific Inc
    T: 617-621-0940 x 130
    C: 603-234-2190
    F: 617-621-2552
    FKA: RIC International

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