Give Your Sales Team Treasure Maps By examining each stage of the sales funnel -- in reverse -- you can now answer the question, "What leads to a sale?"

By Al Lieb

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Goonies | Warner Bros.

In the classic movie The Goonies, five friends discover an old treasure map left by the pirate One-Eyed Willy. They embark on an epic adventure to find hidden treasure and save their families from foreclosure.

If the kids had gone instead on a scavenger hunt, the movie would have been exasperating and four times longer -- because the Goonies would have spent all their time wondering what to do next.

In other words, the Goonies would have looked like most modern sales teams.

Salespeople traditionally play a scavenger hunt in which they sift through as many leads as possible. If the seller finds pirate gold, it's often the product of luck and volume, not strategy. The process is inefficient and success is unpredictable.

To close more deals, sales teams need to upgrade from scavenger hunts to treasure maps.

The key to building a treasure map is to work backward from actual deals to determine what lead to success. Sales teams must analyze all the key decisions, conversations and actions along the way. With the final map, sellers can focus on the leads that best resemble real buyers, and they can consistently take actions that correlate with completed deals.

Let's talk through the process.

Related: To Have a Successful Meeting With Executives, Salespeople Need to P.U.S.H.

1. X marks the spot

Study the sales your organization has already made. Value and price are the two most important variables in the deal, so review the final terms. Then figure out what pushed the deal over the edge.

What were the last actions you took before the customer signed the deal? Maybe it was the marketing executive who couldn't participate in early negotiations but was able to wrangle a sale with specific late-in-the-game information. Maybe you emailed technical documentation that earned a final OK from the IT department.

Find the repeatable actions that created urgency to complete the deal.

2. Navigate your negotiations

Sellers and buyers usually negotiate a deal before the final offer is delivered. Examine what exactly was under negotiation in deals that eventually closed.

Did the buyer want a discount for committing to a longer contract? When you offered a two-month implementation process, did the buyer consider that fast or too slow?

Time and approval are major blind spots in negotiations. Sometime buyers like what you offered, but they don't know if higher-ups at their organization will agree. They try to negotiate a set of offers they can present to the boss, knowing well that a single offer will be shot down.

For your treasure map, determine how to make the negotiations as easy as possible for your buyer. What will help buyers champion your product within their own companies?

3. Verify your value

Before negotiation, sellers usually demonstrate value through product trials, samples, demos and case studies. Here's the question to ask for your treasure map: What value propositions actually addressed the buyer's pain points?

In the scavenger hunt, you toss out value props hoping one will stick. In the treasure map, you study the problems that eventual buyers had at this stage. You examine how they reacted to your proposed solutions by reviewing data from emails, phone conversations, live pitches, etc.

It's difficult to gauge reactions because prospects don't want to hurt your feelings, even if your solution is way off the mark. So look at social cues. Did buyers open, read and respond to your emails? How quickly? Did they call back promptly or reluctantly, compared to non-buyers?

Again, compare the data across all your future buyers to see what success looks like.

Related: 6 Ways to Overcome Your Reluctance to Sell

4. Check your connection

As we continue to work backward, how did you reach out to the buyer and build a relationship? If you wrote an email, what did you write about? If you called, what business problems did your buyer focus on during the conversation?

Study how you formed a relationship before the proof-of-value stage. Pay attention to the medium (in-person, phone, email, social media, etc.) and the content of the exchanges that led to a demo or trial.

5. Find the source

And finally, where do your future buyers come from?

Tradeshows, native ads, your blog, databases or word-of-mouth? Identify the marketing efforts that lead actual customers to you and/or the resources that lead you to customers.

When you identify this source, plan to scale it, but keep in mind that some sources are harder to scale than others. Word-of-mouth, for instance, is notoriously hard to track and control. It's more a byproduct of a passionate customer base rather than a word-of-mouth strategy. Social media, too, is difficult to scale because of boom and bust cycles. One viral video might lock in good leads, but it's difficult to repeat those results.

You examined each stage of the sales funnel -- in reverse -- using data pulled from completed deals. You can now answer the question, "What leads to a sale?" The final treasure map is a guide to all the scenarios that make or break a deal. Whereas the scavenger hunt leaves sellers guessing what to do next, the treasure hunt says, "If X, do Y."

You know how to find One-Eyed Willy's gold.

Treasure maps are no substitute for experiments and evolution in your sales process. The treasure map changes with new marketing techniques, product offerings and competitive threats.

Leave the guesswork, chaos and confusion of scavenger hunts to your competitors. Be a sales pirate, and make your treasure map.

Related: Slicing and Dicing My Way to Becoming an Entrepreneur

Al Lieb

CEO of ClearSlide

Al Lieb is the cofounder and CEO of ClearSlide. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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