You have no control over the external events that impact your business or your client’s businesses. Most of the time, things are good, with occasional interruptions, like national emergencies or economic recessions. These interruptions tend to cause people to get religious about what’s essential to their business, and they respond by deciding to do things differently. While you might always use events to improve your sales disciplines, you are better off never losing them in the first place.
Succeeding in sales is always a matter of discipline around the fundamentals.
Territories and Accounts
In good times and bad times, identifying and targeting your dream clients provides a sense of direction and provides you with what you need to begin the process of creating new opportunities. If you haven’t done the work to determine the companies and contacts you are calling on, developing some theory as to why they should change, the lack of a target will prevent you from using your time and energy on what’s important.
You need to know what companies will benefit from the outcomes you can help them improve, the contacts who care enough about those results to be interested in what you do, and an influential theory about what they need to different and why.
Prospecting and Opportunity Creation
When external events change the environment, a lot of salespeople and sales organizations decide they should start prospecting. A few of them are opportunistic, trying to take advantage of the situation or crisis. Others try to impose a prospecting discipline that is missing when things are good.
Of all the B2B sales fundamentals, nothing is more important than prospecting, even though this idea is mostly honored in the breach. B2B sales are made up of two different outcomes, 1) creating new opportunities with your clients and prospective clients, and 2) pursuing and capturing those opportunities, i.e., winning deals.
The order in which these two outcomes are obtained is governed by rules that are as persistent as gravity. To capture an opportunity, you first have to create it. Opportunity creation is the prerequisite to growth. The discipline of prospecting and creating opportunities must always be maintained in good and bad times.
Planning Sales Calls
When the environment is challenging, you recognize the value of our client’s time, and you start to do more to ensure that you are successful in each interaction with your potential clients. When it’s essential to winning, you prepare. When isn’t it important to win?
Your contacts are giving you the gist of their time, their single, finite, non-renewable resource when they agree to meet with you. You honor that gift by showing up prepared to create value for them, which means doing your homework. I once watched a salesperson open a sales call by asking the client, “So tell me what your company does.” It was a very short meeting.
You need a reliable, value-creating plan you can share with your contacts at the beginning of the call. You need a list of questions you need to have answered and some ideas about what you believe your contacts are going to want to know. Showing up unprepared is to be ungrateful for the time and the opportunity.
Sales Processes and Methodologies
The worse things get, the more people decide to look at their forecast, as if looking at the scoreboard will improve the score. Only playing the game more effectively improves the score.
Even though the sales conversation is now nonlinear, there is still every reason to follow some structure that gives you an idea where you are in the conversation, even if you sometimes have to go backward to move forward. The time to observe your sales processes isn’t when things go pear-shaped. You should always be working to achieve the outcomes of each stage of your process, perfecting your approach before you desperately need better results.
The same is true of your B2B sales methodologies, like your sales methodologies for value creation, consensus-building, commitment-gaining, asking powerful questions, overcoming objections and resolving concerns, and negotiating. These disciplines are always necessary, and you should continually practice them.
You win deals very early in the process, and mostly in the stage of the B2B sales conversation, we call discovery. There was a time when the discovery was made up of identifying your dream client’s pain points, the source of their dissatisfaction, something that is still important to creating and winning opportunities now. But the new discovery is also helping your contacts discover something about themselves.
Stressful external events cause people to recognize the value of being able to help their dream clients by compelling change, helping them make sense of their circumstances, and identifying the changes they need to make to produce better results now.
If pressed to identify the one part of the sales conversation that, if improved, would produce better results, it would be discovery. Your focus here should never depend on external events; it’s where you win deals.
B2B Sales Effectiveness
Most people look at more significant activities to improve their sales results. In many cases, they’re correct to increase their effort in creating new opportunities, especially if they lack discipline in that area. But in difficult times, people also start to recognize they aren’t as effective as they need to be.
Sales leaders should always be working to improve their salespeople’s effectiveness through B2B sales training and B2B sales development. Individual contributors who have chosen sales as their profession and their craft should commit to continuous improvement, using all of the resources available to them.
There are no secrets to sales success. Everything one might need to know is not only understood, but it is also widely available on the internet, in books, in training courses, and on YouTube. If there were a secret to success, that secret might be a devotion to the fundamentals of good selling and a commitment to mastering the craft.
In good and bad times, focus on the fundamentals.
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