When we were young we often played the kids game Marko Polo in a pool or any body of water for that matter. The person who was “it” would close their eyes and shout “Marko” and all the others in the pool where not it would yell “Polo” . The objective of the game was if you were saying Marko to locate and tag others who said Polo and you win. Far too many salespeople today act like they are “it” and blindly shout out features and benefits to anyone in their market who will listen , just hoping one of their buyers yells polo and they can reach them fast enough to make a sale before the buyer moves.
Salespeople who do not allow buyers to play “Marko Polo” achieve and surpass sales goals.
I was asked to help a top sales star on a large elephant sale he was working for over six months but for some reason has not been able to close. I asked to meet with the buyer to try to understand what was preventing this salesperson from closing this order that could make his, and his companies’ sales year. On the drive to the account the salesman shared how he saw this opportunity as pretty straight forward. The buyer contacted him about six months ago and wanted to meet to discuss products and get a quote that may be able to fix a problem she was having. The sales person went on to say how every time he follows up on this proposal, the buyer changes something and needs to speak with someone new or adds another criteria that is very important and this has stalled the sale.
We met with the buyer and she shared that she did in fact contact the salesman six months ago because she found his product on the internet doing some research, asked around in her network and felt it would be a perfect solution to a problem her company was having. She asked for a quote and she went on to say how the salesperson did a great job of sending her a quote for what she requested within 24 hours. I could feel something was definitely off in this salesperson – buyer exchange so I started asking questions. I wanted to clearly understand the problem and the buyer was more than willing to share and actually take us both on a tour and showed us the situation. (this was the first time in six months this salesperson had been beyond the meeting office adjacent to the lobby) As I continued to ask questions I found the salesperson was firing features and benefits that could possibly solve the question …”Marko”. The buyer would then grow quiet as the salesperson played feature and benefit bingo just hoping something he was trained to say would stick and help close this big sale. I would start asking more questions and the buyer invited me to meet with their chief engineer who was in charge of the technical application and integration of whatever product they decided to purchase. I continued to ask questions and this engineer brought up new criteria and expectations the buyer had yet to share. I asked if anyone else was involved in the project and the buyer and engineer smiled and said “well this is Bob’s plant and nothing new goes into this plant without his blessing”. So I asked if we could meet Bob and they said he is typically a really busy guy who does not meet with vendors, but we will try.
Bob was in his office, perch if you will over looking the entire facility. The engineer asked if he had a minute and he saw all of us in his doorway and quickly said no, just gather their information and email it to me. So I stepped forward and introduced myself and said the reason we wanted to meet him was we understood this was his plant, and we were quoting this project to solve the problem we discussed and wanted to make sure we completely understood the problem from his perspective and wanted to make sure we gathered all the requirements . Bob agreed to give us 5 minutes and an hour latter we left his office.
When we returned to the buyer’s meeting office the salesperson moved into an awkward at best close. He even went as far as saying he could probably get a discount since their prices were going up in 30 days. REALLY? I could not believe he was using a tactic that might work on his small mom and pop accounts on this multinational corporation. The buyer grew quiet again. I quickly asked if we could meet again next week and present the ideal solution based on everything the buyer, engineer, and Bob shared.
The trouble with this sale is what I call “Marko Polo sales”.
How do you know if your salespeople are “Marko Polo selling?
- The buyer asked for a quote of a specific product and that’s what they received.
- Your salesperson does not know or understand the problem the buyer wants to solve.
- Sales has not identified all the decision makers and influencers
- Sales quickly provided a quote “Marko”
- Every time the salesperson follows up something new comes up or someone new has to approve the quote “Polo”
- The buyer is often not sure what the entire problem is to be solved so they are gathering information and share new criteria on each call. “Polo”
- The sales person plugs the opportunity into their CRM system and calls the buyer every 2-3 weeks to see if they have made a decision? “Marko”
- Often the buyer goes dark and fails to respond to email or voice messages.
- Sales proceeds to get more aggressive trying to close and calls the buyer more often “Marko”
- Ultimately the buyer makes a decision to buy your product or leave the pool “Polo”
Unlike the child’s game if you catch someone leaving the pool you yell “fish out of water” and win….in sales you lose. Chances are the buyer found another salesperson who took the time to clearly understand the problem and their quote just felt right.
If you ask your sales star why the deal everyone thought he would close fell though he will say Price, Availability, and my particular favorite the competitor’s product had a feature ours did not have. In reality, if you do win loss calls buyers will tell you why they did not buy and price is not even on the list.
If you want to Fix Sales Performance; Stop Playing “Marko Polo “With Your Buyers!
We returned to the account a week later and presented an different solution and we asked our product engineers to also attend to answer any technical questions that may arise and after the presentation we took Bob and team to a near by installation so he and his team could speak with someone using our products. My client won the sale and went on to win all their facilities from what I understand over the next few years.
Are your salespeople playing “Marko Polo” with your buyers?
Have you lost a large order you thought you were going to win in the last six months?
Why did your salesperson say you lost this order?
Did you conduct a win loss call with the buyer to verify?
One of my early mentors used to say “time kills deals” The longer a possible sale drags on the less your probability of closing. When salespeople do not understand the problem being solved and just quote what the buyer asked for they run the risk of playing Marko Polo and having experienced buyers just leave the pool.