How Sick Are Your Sales Prospects? Five Ways to Perform Sales Triage.

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

When Eric Clapton sings the blues in "Another Ticket" he is speaking to many among us. "Every time you think you have run the course, it turns out there is another horse. Every time you think you have got it made, it turns out you are lying in the shade."

For many business owners, sales reps, and marketers, selling over these last six months has felt like a nonstop succession of new tickets that must be bought or paid for. While average sales people are struggling to sell anything, even seasoned stars are seeing closed sales collapse, prospects renege, and steady buyers simply lock up.

If you or your company’s previously successful sales efforts have become ineffective, it is critical to learn why. Just as an ER doctor performs triage on the incoming wounded, so you should diagnose your prospects and customers in your sales funnel. How probable are the sales you are counting on making? Which opportunities can you save by heroic actions, stabilize for future efforts, or perform last rites on now? Here are five ways to perform triage on your suffering sales:

  1. Do your customers still need what you sell?
    • Are they still consuming what you previously sold them?
    • Are their customers still buying from them?
    • Do your products still make them money or save them costs?

    If the answers are "no", you must change what you sell them.

  2. Understand whether you are helping your customers resolve pain or create opportunities. These are different.
    • If they are in pain, they probably have more time than money.

    Understand if their survival is at stake and repackage what you sell to save them more money by costing them more time.

    • If they say they are interested in pursuing a new opportunity, they probably have more money than time.

    Instead of worrying about the cost of your product or service, sell them on leveraging their other scarce resources of time and energy.

  3. Are you selling your prospects shovels when you should be selling them holes?
    • Is your product or service truly packaged and priced in your customer’s best interests?

    Confirm that you truly understand why your customer buys from you. Should you change price or packaging? Most companies do not sell exactly what customers say they are buying.

  4. Do they have money?

    • While any good sales person can uncover a customer’s budget dollars to pay for a purchase, in today’s economy some companies really do not have the money.

    Make sure your prospect or customer can pay you. A sale is not a sale until the check clears.

  5. Are they buying substitutes or from competitors?

    • Just because your prospects say they don’t need anything now does not mean they are not buying.

    Know when you lost a sale to a competitor and when you really lost a sale to a substitute. You have lost a sale to a substitute when your prospect decides to do it himself or to go without buying it.

The outcome of performing triage on your customers and prospects may be quite sobering. Probably some of your best opportunities to grow sales will never materialize and others are nowhere near closing. While your news at first may have you singing the blues, you will have the strength, passion and focus which comes from dealing with the truth and turning your attention to those fewer customers and prospects who really need your products and services.

Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at  (412) 973-2080, by email at, or on the web at

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