Stress Test

Making big news Friday was the EU’s report on which of the 91 European banks studied failed their stress test. Seven smaller, regional players didn’t come up to the mark, five Spanish and one apiece from Germany and Greece.

Yet most commentators appeared to say that the tests were not stressful enough. With full criteria mysteriously undisclosed, the main headline factor emerging assumed the impact of a 0.4% fall in national GDP.

Despite my personal belief that ‘europe’ as a concept has for some time been veering off in ridiculously misguided directions, and regardless of the merit of the detail of this particular exercise, a stress test of this nature is worthy of consideration.

Solution salespeople come into contact with deal stress testing daily. We tend to see it as Qualification. The majority of the business we win often comes within the boundaries of a recognisable, measurable sweet spot.

Although we can take time to check the fit of a prospect to this ideal, it remains baffling to me how few sales teams formulise their approach to qualification.

The typical, banner attributes are easy. Size, level of prospect contact, competitive presence, desperation of need. There’s several among this bracket.

Yet these are the qualities that make us engage with a bid. They are all about the start of a process. Its tastiness is often a product of salesrep hunch and effort anticipated. And then once ticked off, the Qualification Sheet is left forgotten, abandoned in a folder.

But what about testing the bid’s robustness during the campaign?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such thinking deployed. Does this mean simply that it’s not required, or is it an oversight in sales management?

I sway towards the latter opinion now having considered it. My sense is that it would make any salesperson more proactive and less complacent. Both can only be good things. And an increased admin overload can be happily avoided.

I remember studying as an undergrad the strategic discipline of Scenario Planning. I marvelled at the Perrier case study. The way I was taught described how contaminated sparkling water occurred and they simply enacted the back-up plan (including tasks such as instant product recall from shop shelves, switching to a different type of packaging and implementing a ready-made new advertising campaign) although web accounts today appear to focus in an anti- big-business manner on the ‘disaster’ upfront rather than planned response. Then there was the entire department inside oil giant Shell, mobilised to enable quicker reaction to political upheavals in drilling lands by dreaming up responses to all sorts of practically unimaginable events that then amazingly came to pass.

In both cases, the prescience of the planners rescued their organisation. The enormous cost of their indulgence apparently fully justified with just one success.

My thinking is embryonic for sure, and I do not necessarily advocate a solution on the scale of these aforementioned pair. Yet I am minded to salute an approach that takes into account previous happenings that have derailed deals in the past, and assess for any current bid’s strength if such should re-occur.

Any framework that incorporates factors such as frequency of contact, reliability of contact action, prospect role changes and prospect policy evolution must focus effort. And then there’s things like competitor product launches or price alterations to think about too. These would surely make any bid more robust.

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