In the book Extraordinary Minds, Howard Gardner the developmental psychologist, concludes that exceptional individuals have, “A special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.” How many of our sales teams have this special talent? Of the ‘special’ talents that sales people have, identifying their weaknesses and gaps is clearly not one of them. This makes it hard for those challenging and supporting salespeople to find the ‘reality’ of a given situation. When we ask a straight question, we expect a straight answer. For example, “Do you perform ROI calculations with your prospects?”If the real answer is ‘no,’ we should get the response ‘no.’ But in the world of sales enablement we often get a ‘yes,’ which is technically a lie.

But think about the last time you went to the doctor, and she asked you how much you exercised and how much you drank. What are the chances that you estimated both accurately? Survey measures of alcohol consumption are acknowledged to underestimate consumption. Comparisons of such survey measures with government data on alcohol sales suggests that survey estimates of consumption represent between 55% and 60% of the true figure.[i]It appears we humans, generally, find estimating and communicating our behaviors a challenge. Similarly, when it comes to estimating the facts about our wider lives, we also seem to struggle. A Mori survey in the UK asked the question, “For every 100 people in England and Wales, how many of them are Muslim?” The average answer from this survey, which was supposed to be representative of the total population, was 24. British people, therefore, think that 24 out of every 100 people in the UK are Muslim. Official figures reveal the figure to be about five.[ii]It appears there’s a big gap between what we estimate about ourselves and our environment, and what others objectively observe and empirically measure.

So when we ask salespeople, sales managers, leaders and sales support professionals about levels of sales performance we expect an accurate answer. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that we’re surprised when we find the answers we’re given are significantly wide of the mark.

Deal Hacks create a level of transparency in deals that helps to close these gaps. At the start of every Deal Hack, the deal coach asks the sales person these questions:

  1. What is the deal name and how much is it worth to you?
  2. How comfortable (happy, neutral, sad) are you in these four areas of the deal:
    1. Decision Makers
    2. Decision Criteria
    3. Decision Process
    4. Deal Value
  3. What is the forecasted date of close?

The output of the conversation is captured, and after the Deal Hack converted into a traffic light system that shows how the sales people feel about their deals:

If we think outside of Deal Hacks for a moment, this is typically the deal information that is broadcast upwards in the sales organization for forecasting purposes. But Deal Hacks go a stage further. After the Deal Hack, the deal coach also provides their assessment of the same deals, based on the same criteria, like this:

Put side by side, we can see at a glance where the blind spots are. Such reporting is a good cure for blind spots at the individual and company level. There is the information and feedback the sales person needs to identify and the close the blind spots in the deal. There is also information and feedback on their performance, so they can close personal skills gaps too. This is possible because the more objective deal coach strips out the cognitive biases to reveal the blind spots. When you’ve held a number of Deal Hacks, it will become apparent that memoirist Anais Nin was on the button when she said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” In my experience sales people don’t see deals as they are, they see the deals as they want them to be. That is why the deal coach assessments are invariably less optimistic than those of the sales people. When both views of the deals are provided to sales leaders, the leaders are in a better position to see what deals are likely to close, what deals they need to focus on and resource to hit target, and the competency areas where their teams are falling short, which is the path to future success.

[i]Linda Ng Fat and Elizabeth Fuller2011. Chapter 6. Drinking Patterns. The Health and Social Care Information Centre. Pg. 4.

[ii]Alan Smith. April 2016. Why You Should Love Statistics.