Why Success in B2B Sales Requires a Focus on the Basics of Selling

The Gist:

  • Noise about changes in sales is mainly used to capture attention, making sales research a fashion business.
  • While there have been real changes to how we sell, the fundamentals that create success don’t change much.
  • Your success is going to be found in prospecting, meetings, proposals, and negotiated deals. The activities that produce these outcomes should dominate your time.

Never forget that B2B sales insights is a fashion business, one often driven by the larger research and insights companies who need something new to say and sell every year. Some years ago, the provocative idea was that the internet would eliminate all but a few million B2B salespeople. A few years after that, the trends were “social selling” and “digital sales.” When these fashions fizzled out, they were followed by a half-hearted attempt to revitalize account-based marketing by renaming it “account-based selling.” Now the dedicated followers of fashion are being promised that the future is “virtual” and that they will never be in the same physical space with their clients again. This is hogwash.

Your success in sales is not going to be enabled by any of the fashions designed to give executive leaders a manufactured problem to throw money at. These fashions have little to do with your results. Your success in sales requires that you execute the basics: nothing more, nothing less.

Creating Opportunities

Your success in sales begins by creating enough opportunities to let you reach your goals and targets. You are either making calls, leaving voicemails, following up with emails, and nurturing your dream clients or you are not. This is binary: a yes or no, a one or zero. You can never capture an opportunity you didn’t first create by prospecting, making this the critical variable in your success.

The only way to create a new opportunity is to schedule a meeting with your prospective client. The more time you spend thinking about prospecting, doing less than the minimum viable research necessary to make calls, and staring at your inbox and praying for the gods of prospecting to provide you with a lead, the more success will evade you. (Besides, the only prayers they listen to are cold calls.)

If you want greater success in sales, spend more time prospecting.

Client Meetings

Open your calendar and count the amount of time you spent last week meeting with clients. Take the total number of hours and divide it by forty. You now have a reasonable estimate of how much time you spent selling. But you’re probably still being too generous with yourself. Out of those forty “work” hours, how many did you actually spend browsing the internet, responding to emails that do nothing to improve your sales, and all the other non-sales-related tasks that distract you from your job?

Your success is not going to be found inside your company. The contributions you make, the things that brings meaning and purpose to your work, are only found in the results you create for your clients. Your success comes from helping your clients succeed.

The more time you spend in meetings with people outside your company, the more certain your success.

Salesperson creates a presentation

Presenting and Proposing

There are over four thousand posts on this site. Plenty describe a modern B2B sales approach, explaining how to do good discovery, how to gain commitments, and how to overcome objections. Many others tell you how to make a cold call, how to differentiate yourself and your offering, and how to be truly consultative. Complex sales are, well, complex. But don’t let the complexity and difficulty convince you that the larger fundamentals should take a back seat.

You prospect to gain a first meeting. You meet with clients to help them through the sales conversation, including discovery and consensus and all the other outcomes that make up your version of the sales process. But at some point, you are going to have to propose and present a solution. A quick look at your pipeline can help you measure how you are doing when it comes to creating success.

Look at the number of opportunities where you have presented and proposed a solution. Getting to this stage is critical to success because it means that you have provided your prospective client with an offer to which they can say “yes” or “no.” In complex sales, fast is slow and slow is fast. You should never try to speed through the conversation to get to this point in the conversation, but you should also recognize that you are not going to win any deals until you provide your client with a proposal.

Your number of proposals is another indication of how you are spending your time. The lower it is, the more likely that you need to spend more time meeting with clients and creating opportunities.

Negotiating and Getting Ink

I hope you are in the middle of negotiations on a large number of deals, getting your clients that much closer to spilling a little ink at the bottom of the contract. Yes, we have digital ink now, but clicking through Adobe Sign is nowhere near as much fun as watching your client sign their name on the crisp, white paper that binds them to an agreement—while making you accountable for the outcomes you sold them.

With all of the distractions and noise about the current state of sales, how much the buyer has changed, and this week’s new normal, it’s important to remember that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Those who would implore you to change everything about how you sell should remember the fundamental roles and responsibilities of a B2B sales professional and how they create success.

Your limited time, energy, and focus should be used to prospect, to meet with clients, to help your contacts solve their business challenges, to present them with solutions, and to negotiate and win new deals. Success comes down to doing the few things that matter.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin used his magic pipe to lure the rats away from a plague-stricken city, drowning them in a river. Ulysses put wax in his ears to he wouldn’t succumb to the sound of the Sirens. So ask yourself: do you want to be a rat or a hero?

Do Good Work

  • What one activity, if you performed it consistently, would improve your overall results the most?
  • How much time you do you spend prospecting and in meetings with clients?
  • What activities do you need to increase to win more deals?

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