March 15, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Rapid revenue growth requires a focused, disciplined, highly effective sales organization. But, too often, salespeople sabotage their own success with bad habits, costing organizations millions. The disciplined, thoughtful approach that helped them win deals early in their career erodes over time. As they become more comfortable selling, they choose to pay less attention to research, meeting preparation, and building deep connections with prospective customers. The results can be devastating to your bottom line as sales cycles begin to drag out, deals routinely push into the next quarter and the organization prioritizes activities over outcomes.
I have seen a lot of sales approaches over the last 15 years as a sales leader, some good and some bad. Our sales teams have consistently achieved growth by focusing on delivering value-based outcomes for customers through effective preparation and an agile approach to selling. To change your sales trajectory, better equip your teams to win and sell more, there are a few key stats you should keep in mind:
- Gartner research finds that when business-to-business (B2B) buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17 percent of that time meeting with potential suppliers. When buyers are comparing multiple suppliers‚ the amount of time spent with any one sales rep may be only 5 or 6 percent.
- A recent study by Hubspot found that roughly 58 percent of buyers say their sales meetings aren’t valuable.
- According to a new study of more than 230 buyers, the men and women surveyed found 12 percent of salespeople are excellent, 23 percent good, 38 percent average, and 27 percent poor. In addition, just 18 percent of the salespeople buyers met over the past year would be classified as trusted advisers whom they respect.
These statistics underscore the importance of sales teams delivering immediate and continuous value to prospective buyers. Below are some ideas to help your sales teams refocus and win more business faster:
1. Always be authentic.
Customers want to work with people that they trust, and they value authentic people and relationships. As this Entrepreneur article notes, a lack of trust [by the buyer] often results from a lack of authenticity on the part of the salesperson. Buyers can see through scripted pitches, boilerplate objection handling and premature hard closes.
Successful salespeople curate their sales approach to incorporate who they are, what they believe in and the tangible value that they can bring to the relationship. Honest discussions about a solution’s value, the challenges that exist and the collaboration that will be required to succeed, help lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship built on authenticity and trust.
2. Outcomes over activities.
Sales is a performance-based career where results matter. Sales leaders often make the mistake of focusing sales teams on activity rather than outcomes. For example, focus on meetings booked and deals closed rather than the number of calls made and emails sent.
One salesperson could make 300 calls, send 600 emails and not book a single deal, while another salesperson might make three calls, send six emails and book two new meetings and a million dollars in new business.
When activity overshadows outcomes, it distances the team’s performance from results and creates silos and incentivizes finger-pointing. On the other hand, focusing on outcomes, drives better alignment, team collaboration (sales, marketing, product, customer success), and will deliver real results.
3. Plan, prepare and map.
Too many salespeople walk into calls ill-prepared and wing it. This wastes time, demonstrates a lack of respect for prospective customers, and dramatically diminishes the likelihood of a positive outcome. Before meetings, salespeople should complete an account plan, an account map and organize research on the company, prospects, buying process and more to ensure they are prepared.
This will enable salespeople to consider multiple scenarios, write out important questions and uncover opportunities for better alignment. Account maps should include company structure, key personnel information, illustrate preexisting relationships and identify knowledge gaps. This will enable salespeople to connect more effectively with the prospective customer, keep the conversation on track and understand how to rapidly expand influence across the organization. These documents should be updated through the sales cycle to include the latest information about prospects, evaluation criteria, key initiatives and other relevant information.
4. Continuous education.
Salespeople should regularly consume world and business news, funding and partnership announcements, trade magazines and any other source of information that relates to their market and prospective buyers. Understanding factors that affect prospects, enables salespeople to better shape conversations, build rapport and uncover opportunities to deliver more value.
As an example, our sales and customer success teams at Anvyl (an intelligent digital supply chain visibility and automation company) regularly share articles internally that relate to customers and market. This allows our teams to engage in discussions on current issues affecting the supply chains of prospective and current customers. Some recent areas of focus have been: raw material shortages, commodity price increases, tariffs and natural disasters.
Any good conversation involves people connecting, building a mutual understanding, forming some level of trust. Think back to a conversation in your personal life where you and another person felt comfortable and understood: Connecting in the context of sales works the same way. The salesperson and the prospective customer are comfortable, freely share information and reach a mutual understanding. This type of exchange helps uncover real opportunities, develop meaningful alignment, access deeper insights and opens the door to collaborative problem-solving.
With these ideas in mind, spend some time each week with your salespeople to help them refocus, take a disciplined approach to selling and win more deals faster.
Article curated by RJ Shara from Source. RJ Shara is a Bay Area Radio Host (Radio Jockey) who talks about the startup ecosystem – entrepreneurs, investments, policies and more on her show The Silicon Dreams. The show streams on Radio Zindagi 1170AM on Mondays from 3.30 PM to 4 PM.