Have you ever left a sales call with your prospects feeling overly confident, only to find out later that the deal stalled due to customer indecision, or that you lost to a competitor?

This phenomenon, known as Happy Ears Syndrome, occurs when sellers become overly optimistic about a deal's progress, disregarding the need for thorough discovery and validation.

It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming a sale is going in the right direction based on seemingly positive interactions, but true success in sales requires diligence and adherence to proven methodologies.

I know this from experience.

I used to get off calls thinking I nailed it because the prospect sounded so interested and was nice, but then realised I forget to get the basics covered:

  • I had no clear next steps
  • No commitment
  • Little understanding of their pain and the costs of keeping it as the status quo, which lead to no real urgency or upcoming compelling event to drive the change.

This put me on my back foot and I had to find a good reason to reach back out again to get an agreement on how to proceed.

What are some ways to avoid Happy Ears Syndrome?

1. Use proven methods and checklists

Use proven methods and checklists that keep you honest (like BANT: Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline, and MEDDICC: Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, Champion and Competition).

These keep you focused on factual information and less on your feelings. Ensure that you're properly probing with honest intentions to solve the prospect's issues.

This will help you qualify your deals better and improve your sales forecasting.

2. Read “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

This book reveals how using simple checklists can significantly reduce human error in complex fields.

Think checklists for items like account plans and opportunity plans.

3. Seek feedback

You should seek feedback from your manager or a peer on how you are handling your calls and deals, and adjust your approach if needed.

The best athletes in the world understand the power of a coach - no one makes it to the top on their own.

Moving away from a ‘checkbox’ sales training mentality with Jaren Krchnavi, Siemens | SEC
Siemens’ Jaren Krchnavi explains why moving away from a ‘checkbox’ mentality will help your sales training be more successful | SEC

4. Don't confuse niceness with interest

Just because your prospect is friendly and curious doesn't mean they are ready or able to buy. They may lack the authority, or not possess the budget or influence to mobilise key stakeholders to make a deal happen.

5. Balance optimism with realism

Make sure to ABP - Always Be Prospecting - to ensure that if the deal turns out to be a pipe dream, you have some back-up deals in your pipeline to cover.

6. Stay partially skeptical until the deal is signed

Don't celebrate too early and lose sight of important details. Many deals unfortunately have fallen apart at the last minute due to unforeseen obstacles or competition.

Keep pushing for the final signature and confirmation, and make sure there's a proper hand off to customer success for long term customer satisfaction and repeat business, including opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling.

7. Be human, be authentic

Keep reading to find out what I mean here!

What to avoid at all costs

Avoid the pitfall of mechanically "BANTing" or "MEDDICCing" the prospect without having a genuine interest in understanding their unique situation.

I've experienced this far too often - it feels as if the seller has a checklist next to them and all they're doing is trying to answer the questions to meet an internal guideline.

No one wants to feel "sold to" or receive a cookie-cutter demo, lacking in any personalised touch that truly resonates.

Too often sales reps fall back into their comfort zone of giving a standard demo in their calls with me, only talking about products and features, at the cost of not making any meaningful advancement.

For me, when I am on the receiving end, I would prefer honesty.

Just say you have some questions that you need to ask upfront to better understand my position and the challenges my company and I face so that you can tailor the talk to my unique situation.

Approach sales with curiosity and a desire to solve real problems! This will foster trust and provide you with all the answers you need for your MEDDICC assessment.

By embracing the human aspect of sales, and combining it with methodical approaches, you can increase your chances of success, while avoiding the pitfalls of Happy Ears Syndrome.

Jaren is Global Head Sales Enablement at Siemens, and first posted this article on LinkedIn here.

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