Chasing Sales Efficiency Won’t Make You More Effective

Generating reliable, top-of-funnel activity is notoriously difficult these days, not to mention expensive and time-consuming. After all, your outreach must be hyper-personalized, timely and add value to the potential buyer. We all agree on this – at least, in principle.

The reality tends to play out differently. Desperate to scale success and paint a picture of sales activity for stakeholders, some sales leaders fall into the trap of thinking more is better:

If 200 emails translate to seven meetings, then 800 emails will translate to 28 meetings, and 2000 emails will…

You see where this is going.

I’ve heard of small teams going as far as to send 225K emails over the course of a quarter.

How many new opportunities typically result from these whirlwinds of activity?

You guessed it – zero.

The Trap of Untargeted Outreach

Whenever I see leaders hyper-focused on making reps more efficient so they can conduct more outreach with less effort, I can’t help but ask, What’s helping them be more effective?

Don’t get me wrong – sales tech can be tremendously useful. It helps you automate and amplify, but there’s a hidden pitfall here: What if you’re amplifying the wrong behaviors?

Chasing efficiency over effectiveness has five primary consequences:

  1. Damages your company and personal brand: Buyers are bombarded with outreach and have no patience for sellers who get it wrong. A recent study by Lusha found that 49% of B2B sellers believe that poorly targeted outreach damages a company’s reputation.
  2. Annoys Prospects: Why should a prospect invest their time with you after you show them that you didn’t do the basic research to understand how you could add value to them?
  3. Impacts Sales Performance: The same Lusha study reported that 52% of sellers believe it leads to ongoing missed sales, and 37% think it leads to immediate loss of sales.
  4. Builds the Wrong Habits: It’s all too tempting to lean on tech and untargeted techniques to hit a desired number – but the actual power of sales tech lies in its ability to make sales more human.
  5. Damages Team Morale: When sellers focus the majority of their time and energies on activities that lead to lackluster sporadic results, they feel more like cogs in a machine than strategic professionals, and morale plummets.

How to Focus on Effectiveness

Research = Credibility

It all comes down to developing the behaviors that build relationships – and that starts with a credible perspective.

According to LinkedIn’s 2022 State of Sales Report, sales tech usage exploded during the pandemic, with 91% of sellers at large companies using sales tech at least once per week. However, top performers aren’t using it to send more emails. They’re leveraging sales tech to be more human, to form better relationships: 89% of top performers report that they do research “all the time” before reaching out to any potential buyer.

To deliver the right tailored messages at the right time, you have to put in the work and do the research. Tech solutions like LinkedIn’s Deep Sales and ZoomInfo, can help you identify potential buyers, gain a better understanding of likely buying committee makeup and get the timing right thanks to intent data.

Once you’ve identified the right prospects, digging deeper into their company’s financials will enable you to develop compelling messaging that simultaneously establishes your credibility. Spend 10-15 minutes on the company’s annual report with particular attention to:

  • The CEO’s letter: It’s been wordsmithed again and again, but the priorities haven’t changed.
  • Financial Statements and Supplementary Data: Are they growing or not growing? What are the trends?
  • Risk Factors: They’ve done the hard work of assessing the threats to their business – better be informed.

Better Business Conversations

Here too, more isn’t always better. discovered that asking too many questions actually decreases your win rate – and a clear link between longer prospect responses and sales success.

Our research supports this. Top-performing reps don’t interrogate the prospect, they get potential buyers talking with well-crafted open-ended questions, gain crucial insight with probing questions and test their understanding with rapport-building confirming questions.

Ultimately, sales will always be about human connection. B2B buyers will always seek out credible sales professionals who can provide them the one thing that AI cannot: confidence in their buying decision. By carefully balancing efficiency with effectiveness, you elevate yourself from “seller” to “strategic business advisor” and better meet buyers wherever they are in the process to forge long-term relationships that will fuel revenue growth in 2023 and beyond.

Need more advice on scaling your sales success? Check out some of our recent thought leadership content:

Until next time, happy selling,


5 Keys to Closing Sales Before the End of the Year

The understatement of the year? Selling in 2022 has been difficult.

As we look to the end of Q4, external factors continue to play havoc with our ability to win new business. From the lingering effects of the pandemic to supply chain disruptions to continued inflation, we’re fighting an unpredictable economic environment – and yet, there are reasons to be hopeful.

To close business in Q4, you must be strategic, deliberate and honestly evaluate your opportunities to determine where you’ll have the most impact – it all comes down to these five keys.

Step 1: Power

Let’s face it – relationships with potential buyers are hard-won these days.

After weeks or months of carefully building rapport with a champion, sellers are rightfully hesitant to do anything that may put that relationship at risk.

However, if your champion does not have the power to buy, they will never buy.

It’s as simple as that.

For proven techniques on engaging C-level executives, watch this refresher video.

Now that you know how to access decision-makers, don’t forget to form a solid understanding of the prospect’s buying process and identify everyone who can influence the deal. After all, 86% of sellers have lost a deal or had it delayed in the past year by a decision-maker changing roles (Linked State of Sales 2022).

Step 2: Differentiation

You’ve forged relationships with the entire buying committee. Well done – but will they change?

You might sell consulting services or janitorial supplies or SaaS. At the end of the day, we’re all selling the same thing: change.

And change is frightening, especially with a potential recession looming on the horizon. You must provide buyers with a clear and compelling reason to change.

To do that, ensure you’re truly differentiated. Being different will make marketing’s job easier, but true differentiation takes place on the customer level when you connect your solution to the prospect’s unique business issues.

To evaluate your position, ask yourself:

  • Why does your difference matter?
  • Does your prospect care about your differentiator?
  • Have you connected your solution to your prospect’s business issues and drivers?

Step 3: Business and Personal Value

Say it with me: People make logical, business decisions for personal, emotional reasons.

Yes, you must first build an airtight case for the ROI of your solution, demonstrating how it will impact the prospect’s company and further its business goals.

Then you must do the same on the individual level.

From outreach to contract signing, always focus on the buyer’s agenda to ensure the value you’re offering is quantified on both levels.

Step 4: Process, Plan, Timing

‘Tis the season of holidays and treasured time with loved ones… and the season of travel, purchasing deadlines and surprise out-of-office responses.

To close business in Q4, ensure you’re aligned on three crucial elements:

  • Process: Do you have a thorough understanding of the prospect’s buying process? How many signatures will be on that PO? How long will the contract take to get through procurement? You’ll need to understand every step along the way to avoid costly surprises.
  • Plan: Do you have a mutual plan in writing? The most important word in that sentence is mutual.
  • Timing: Expenses may need to be pushed into the next quarter, or it might be advantageous to use up year-end dollars. Get creative with terms and conditions to make it easier to buy.

Step 5: Objections and Surprises

Nothing sidelines a deal like last-minute objections.

If this happens to you, take it in stride. After all, objections at this stage are often requests for more information in disguise. Remember to get them all out on the table so that you can dispel them all and move the deal forward.

Need a refresher? You can always rely on this five-step process for handling sales objections.

Now that we’ve covered the five keys to closing sales in Q4, you’re good to go, right?

Well, not so fast.

There’s one final question to ask yourself: What are you missing?

Have you uncovered all internal deadlines within the prospect’s company? Does legal have a cutoff date for reviewing contracts? When will everyone who needs to sign go on vacation for the holidays? Find out now and adjust your timeline accordingly.

Despite the challenges we face as sales professionals, there will always be problems worth solving. Salespeople who come with solutions to pressing business problems and can demonstrate the impact on the organizational level will not only find sales success – they will become vital to businesses that thrive in 2023 and beyond.

Start that journey today by using the checklist above to ensure that the crucial Q4 deal you’re chasing comes through on time.

Until next time, happy selling,


5 Ways to Negotiate a Win-Win

Early in my sales career, my company hired a phenomenal negotiator to put us through a rigorous one-day training.

We learned how to focus on the other individual, generate a feeling of safety, use their language to increase rapport, and tactics for isolating and overcoming obstacles.

At the end of the event, I was confident and energized… until I found out that the procurement officers at my largest client had gone through the same training – two full weeks of it!

That’s what we’re up against as sales professionals, so you’d better be prepared.

Let’s look at five dependable tactics you can use to negotiate a win-win with your most demanding buyers.

1: Choose Your Moment

Before entering into any negotiation, always review the questions that are crucial to closing any deal:

  • Can they buy?
  • Will they change?
  • Are you differentiated
  • What’s in it for them?
  • Is the timing right?

Many sales reps dive into negotiations at the first sign of hesitation – but if you haven’t created urgency by connecting your solution to problems worth solving right now, no mix of embellishments and discounts will magically close the deal.

Instead of incentivizing quick action, you compromise price integrity early in the process and put yourself at an incredible disadvantage.

2: Know What’s Negotiable

Can you offer a price discount if the client commits to a case study and features your company as a preferred partner?

Can you compromise on deliverables to reach a win-win?

Both are viable solutions. And to offer anything, you must first fully understand what you’re empowered to change.

It’s all about collaborating to find joint value here. Still, if you offer something you’re not authorized to provide, you only risk damaging credibility, trust and rapport – the critical ingredients for complex B2B purchases.

3: Make a Trade

Once you understand all the bargaining chips at your disposal, it’s time to get to work. The first tool at your disposal is the trade-off.

Both examples above fall into this category. The main idea is to listen to the buyer’s position, identify areas of flexibility, and get creative where and when you can.

For example, if you get the sense that one of your deliverables isn’t valued as highly as others, there’s an opportunity to reduce while maintaining price integrity. Alternatively, if the total price is a sticking point and those budgets dry up at year-end, it may be advantageous to offer a discount if the client prepays for services.

4: Sweeten the Deal

Think high-value, low-cost deliverables.

If you host an industry event like Dreamforce, including complimentary passes is a fantastic tactic. Another option is to offer additional training hours or user seats if applicable.

Think back to discovery and uncover additional personal and professional value you can add with these embellishments.

5: Compromise

Sometimes, you have to compromise. Once you’ve isolated the sticking point – whether it’s based on deliverables, terms and conditions or price – find the middle ground that will satisfy both parties.

The key to compromises is to look at a single category: Isolate, confirm and then split the difference.
In the end, companies and humans are incredibly dynamic – especially in Q4 of 2022. And everyone always wants to feel like they’re getting a good deal. No matter your industry, product or tenure, these tactics have served me well over my thirty years in sales. I’m confident they’ll help you propel your business forward as well.

Until next time, happy selling,


4 Ways to Jump-Start Renewal Sales

Over the past two years, the sales profession has seen more than a few headlines that turn heads:

“43% of B2B customers prefer a rep-free experience.” (Gartner)

“86% of reps said they’ve either lost or had a deal delayed because a champion changed roles.” (LinkedIn)

“Often, B2B buyers don’t buy the best solution but rather choose the lowest-risk solution.” (Forrester)

“While Gen Xers generally have larger budgets than millennials, the “heads down” generation now dominates B2B purchase decisions.” (Outreach via Selling Power)

What am I trying to illustrate with these diverse data points?

One simple and powerful fact.

Things change.  

That’s the number one thing to remember about renewal sales — and yet, it’s a lesson that’s easily forgotten. Salespeople tend to trust in the fallacy that just because a customer is actively using the solution, value is being realized.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

To successfully renew business — especially in an unpredictable economy — sales professionals must treat existing customers with the same attention and dedication they show to new prospects.

After all, each renewal cycle is an opportunity to identify new ways to deliver value and provide an exceptional experience to your customers.

Let’s dive into four strategies you can use to jump-start renewal sales.

Step 1: Demonstrate Your Commitment

What have you done recently to demonstrate that you are truly invested in your customers’ success?

We all know that it’s key to maintaining the relationship post-sale, and it’s easy to lose sight of. By nature, salespeople are hunters. We’re always going to be drawn to the challenge of the next big deal.

In the same way that you built out strategic cadences to connect with the customer in the first place, use the same tactic to create regular touchpoints.

Now, the timeline and approach will be vastly different, but the underlying principles are the same. Use these periodic check-ins as opportunities to add value in small ways and stay up to date on emerging business issues.

That way, when a new business challenge rears its head, you’ll be among the first they come to.

Step 2: Identify the Reasons Customers Leave

Every situation and customer is unique — but the reasons customers leave tend to be eerily similar.  

Maybe they didn’t receive the expected value from your product or service. Or perhaps, the handoff between sales and customer success didn’t go as planned, or a power shift occurred within the organization.

Lean into your tech stack to monitor potential red flags like the above, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you see something.

Step 3: Lean into Your Data

Your customers might be actively using your solution, but how are they using it?

Do they gravitate toward a certain product or feature set? Is there an underutilized part of your product or service that has the potential to generate an impact that’s more closely aligned with their current business issues?

You get the idea. Time to put on your analyst hat and dive into the data that’s available to you.

Look for patterns in the usage data, pay attention to what marketing collateral they’re engaging with, and research recent changes in their marketplace, so that you come to the table with an understanding of the new challenges that are likely top-of-mind for your customers. 

Step 4: Uncover New Problems

Let’s say your product/solution was designed to solve a common problem for your ideal customer, and it’s done its job.

That’s great! Only, what happens now?

Renewal sales are all about giving customers a reason to stay. Go back to the beginning and approach the opportunity with the same rigor you used to win it initially.

That means having the business conversations that uncover problems worth solving, and never losing sight of three vital questions:

  • Are you differentiated?

Does the prospect believe that your product/solution will continue to significantly impact their unique business challenge?

  • What’s in it for them?

Amid continued uncertainty, clients crave trusted advisors and tend to make rational decisions for emotional reasons. If they continue their agreement, what personal value does this bring?

  • Do they believe in the ROI?

You once provided them a compelling case to change. You’ll now need an equally compelling reason for them to stay.

Review those initial conversations, their latest usage data, and your more recent talks. What’s changed? Was something missed? You’ll need to ensure your new plan to deliver value is impactful and qualified on the customer level.

Ultimately, it’s vital to uncover opportunities for future value realization. Past value will simply not motivate future behavior. To see those renewal rates rise, you must requalify each customer and stop making assumptions that they will automatically renew.

Until next time, happy selling,


4 Ways to Advance Sales Opportunities During the Summer (or Winter) Lull

Summer means sailing adventures off the coast of Crete and golfing holidays in southern Portugal — and executives anxiously checking emails and monitoring economic developments.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons to be hopeful — especially for those of us who sell on value. As executives are reigning in discretionary spending, they’re also seeking trusted business advisors to help them bring about meaningful change.

Bottom line: Businesses will always have problems worth solving. It’s only a matter of uncovering those problems — and there are four steps you can take to identify those opportunities and move them forward.

Step 1: Research

Now’s the time to find your inner analyst.

Even during the best of economic times, the average user deletes 48% of all emails they receive (EmailAnalytics).

As an executive who’s a target for many sales professionals, my number is closer to 80% — and those are the messages that make it past my spam filter.

Unless you show up with insight into challenges already on an executive’s radar, it’s a one-way ticket to the trash bin. Now’s the time to dive into industry trends, the prospect’s company, their competition, and the latest from research and consulting firms.

Step 2: Prospecting, Prospecting, Prospecting

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to catch the women’s 400-meter hurdle finals at the World Athletics Championships. If you follow track and field, you’ll know that it was one of the most anticipated races of the whole event for one reason: Sydney McLaughlin — she did not disappoint. She delivered an epic record-breaking performance to take home gold.

To put her win in perspective, the silver medalist, Femke Bol, ran a 52.27, which would have been a world record in 2018 — and she finished 20 meters behind Sydney.

How did Sydney McLaughlin accomplish the unthinkable?

Drive, which fuels discipline, which creates habit — and it’s a powerful lesson for sales professionals.

Prospecting results inevitably tapper off during vacation season — but that doesn’t mean your prospecting habits should change. Commit to 10 hours/week until it is second nature. And always focus on:

  • Respectful Persistence: Don’t give up too quickly: 54% of initial meetings require more than five touchpoints, and 10% need ten or more. Use multiple communication channels and never go more than five business days between touches to stay on a prospect’s radar.
  • Research: A sales pitch winds up in spam. A value-added interruption with intriguing third-party insights gets opened.
  • Strategic Cadences: As you type out that first email, you already know vital information about the prospect and their likely business issues. What you don’t know is their preferred communication channel — that’s where strategically-choreographed and multi-channel cadences come in. Use a mix of social media actions, phone calls, InMail, and emails — and remember to focus on thought-leadership and value-added content for the first few touch points. 

As I mentioned earlier, prospects may be on vacation, but they’re likely still plugged-in — especially executive-level buyers. And it’s those individuals who crave consultative sellers who know how to solve business challenges.

Step 3: Mutual Plans that Keep You and the Buyer on the Same Page

Nothing keeps deals on track to close like a written agreement summarizing the steps to value realization.

Mutual plans begin with a two-way understanding of a company’s business issues and the steps needed to resolve them. From there, reverse engineer a timeline that keeps the opportunity on track and demonstrates your commitment to buyer success. 

The most successful mutual plans always use the prospect’s language and incorporate:

  • A summary of the company’s current challenges
  • How your company’s solution positively impacts business goals
  • The steps you’ll take to deliver measurable value to the organization and the individual
  • A summary of the buyer’s purchasing criteria and procurement process
  • An agreed-upon timeline of the actions both parties will take to realize the promised value

Step 4: Revive Stalled Opportunities

When times get tough, inaction sets in.

While potential buyers may view this as a prudent approach, if a problem is truly worth solving, indecision only compounds the pain.

When this happens, use carefully phrased anxiety questions to create urgency.

Perhaps you sell a sales tech solution that reduces administrative tasks for sales teams, and you’re talking with a CSO tasked with driving 15% YOY growth. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to table the conversation until next quarter.

Since you’re up-to-date on the latest from research and consulting firms, you’d likely know that Gartner found that “mean quota attainment for sellers reporting low levels of Drag is 1.7 times higher than for sellers reporting high levels of Drag” and that “70% of high-drag sellers report actively looking for a new job.”

At that point, you might say, “I understand, but, as you know, 70% of sellers who feel overburdened with administrative tasks are actively looking for new jobs. How will you hit your 2023 revenue goals if three-quarters of your sales force walks out the door?”

You must find a way to inject urgency into the conversation and make the prospect sit back and ask themselves, “Did I miss something?”

Remember: Questions like this require a solid foundation of trust, credibility and rapport to pull off. Otherwise, you risk damaging business relationships and losing the deal altogether.

Ultimately, the best way to move forward is to focus on the factors within your control: filling the pipeline, finding problems worth solving and setting the value of the products/services you sell on unshakable grounds.

Until next time, happy selling,


How Salespeople Can Ask the Right Questions During Discovery

I attended the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philly last week, where many of the talks had a shocking theme running through them: Discovery is dead.

The premise was that buyers hate it. They view sales discovery calls as an annoyance — a roadblock to the demos and nuanced answers they crave from vendors. 

That’s surprising because that’s never been my experience. 

I’ve always found that asking thought-provoking, deliberate and intentional questions is not annoying — it’s engaging. And it’s the critical component that allows sales professionals to make the leap from seller to valued business advisor.

How can we reconcile these two viewpoints? 

It all comes down to what you mean by discovery. In my mind, there are two keys to effective sales discovery calls. 

Step 1: It’s not about you. It’s about your buyer

Salespeople often make the mistake of viewing discovery as a one-time event that’s used to begin qualifying an opportunity. 

As a result, it takes on a transactional light: Give me this info, then I’ll give you what you really want. 

Sellers start the call and attempt to run through their list of questions. Typically, these are situational questions that are stacked at the beginning.

This ends with the potential buyer feeling like they’re being interrogated and putting their guard up, which only makes sense. 

After all, have you given them a reason to answer? Have you added value in your past interactions? Are you prepared to share insights from your research and lessons learned from other customers?

Research shows that impactful business relationships are built on a foundation of trust, credibility and rapport. 

While trust is built incrementally over time, there are two powerful actions you can take to hit the ground running:

  • Put the pro back in sales professional: Building your personal brand on LinkedIn is vital to presenting as the talented and dedicated sales professional you are. 
  • Put in the time to do quality research: People trust those who understand their point of view. Go beyond pain points to understand the priorities of the prospect’s company and form a narrative of the unique challenges that are most likely already on their radar. 

On the other hand, credibility is something you can establish immediately: 

  • Tell a good story: One of the most influential and succinct ways to present as a trusted business advisor is by telling a value-based story. It’s a 30-second opener that explains how you and your company have helped individuals like the prospect in the past.
  • Think like an executive: If you come in with a transactional mindset, you put yourself at an incredible disadvantage. When you develop the business acumen to adequately understand how the business objectives, business issues, problems and value connect with your unique solution, you’re ready to sell to decision-makers.=

When you look at rapport building, there’s nothing more powerful than asking the right questions, which leads us here. 

Step 2: Ask the right sales questions.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s a magic number of questions or the perfect sales-call script out there. 

If you do, you’ll fall into the trap of overanalyzing and miss the X-factor that will make your discovery calls valuable for you and your buyer: You need to ask questions that get the prospect talking.

After analyzing nearly one million sales calls, found that “high-performing reps ask fewer questions per minute than lower-performing reps, but are able to get the prospect to open up more.”

Our research confirms this. When we asked sales leaders what separates their top performers from the rest of the pack, the second most important quality was the ability to ask relevant, targeted questions throughout sales conversations and actively listen to the answers. 

Start with open-ended questions that showcase your familiarity with the prospect’s situation and your interest in helping them. 

For instance, if your research revealed that the company recently brought new executives on, you might say: 

  • “I saw that ___  brought on a new CEO & CFO. With those leadership changes in place, how does that impact your priorities for the business objectives and key initiatives that the company is focused on right now?” 

Once you’ve learned about the changes in focus and how those impact the individual you’re speaking to, shift the conversation to better understand their perspective on possible solutions. 

  • “When you think about implementing a  ___,  what are you hoping will change as a result? 

Throughout the journey, you’ll want to ensure you’re using the prospect’s language to build rapport and ensure they feel heard. You might say something like:

  • You mentioned that ___ could be a potential roadblock in your first few months of ___. What are some of the other challenges you see from a ___ perspective that could get in the way?” 

These are merely examples, but you get the idea: The more the prospect talks, the more you win. 

Of course, not every question can be open-ended. The magic behind the O-P-C questioning technique is the ability to get them talking, go deeper when you need more information and confirm what you’ve heard to improve your understanding and showcase your commitment to uncovering their most critical business issues — and helping to solve them.  

Ultimately, effective sales discovery calls will always expand perspectives and add value. Remember that discovery is a process and must be mutual — the salesperson needs to understand the prospect, and the prospect also needs vital information from the seller.

When you switch your mindset from checking a box to having consultative business conversations, you better serve your potential buyers — and improve your chances of uncovering challenges that your product or service is uniquely qualified to solve. In doing so, you’ll forge trusted business relationships and uncover the value that motivates individuals to act with urgency. 

Until next time, happy selling,


How to Continually Qualify Prospects Throughout the Pipeline

Accurate and reliable forecasting will transform a sales organization.

When it comes to a process as vital as this, you would assume there’s no room for guesswork — but the reality plays out differently:

In a recent Forrester study, 60% of respondents said they did not have a well-defined or scientific approach to sales forecasting — and it’s not for lack of effort. When asked how much time they spend on forecasting weekly, 25% of all respondents said 100 hours or more. (Outreach)

Yikes! At that point, you’re dedicating a tremendous amount of resources to an educated guess.

Now, that’s not to say the obstacles standing in your way are easily overcome. After all, most sales teams treat qualification as a discrete event, not realizing that it’s a process — one that’s not always linear.

They also typically lack a common language for describing opportunities. As a result, information degrades at every step, and salespeople fall back on their instincts when predicting outcomes. This adds another layer of abstraction and eats up more of sales managers’ valuable time.

What’s the fix? You must embrace a framework for ongoing qualification: A multi-dimensional set of criteria that sellers repeatedly use to mitigate the risk of working unqualified opportunities and improve forecast accuracy.

It all begins with these four questions.

Should they buy?

Problem: There is a significant trust gap between B2B buyers and sellers. To the point that buyers bypass the best solution in favor of the one that offers the lowest risk. (Forrester)

Solution: Clearly, products and features are not the answer. B2B buyers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Sales professionals must begin by establishing a solid foundation of credibility, trust and rapport with potential buyers. From there, honestly evaluate whether your solution is a good fit.

Is there enough value to prompt action?

Problem: Salespeople will always be tempted to go after the pain — and organizations will always have pain points that they have absolutely no interest in solving.

Solution: Set the ROI of your product/solution on firm footing and ensure that there is enough value — for the company and the individual — to create urgency and motivate change. Because no matter what you’re selling, you’re selling change. Use that to your advantage.

Can they buy?

Problem: Sales reps work hard to forge impactful relationships. As a result, they’re tempted to cling to their champion inside a client organization. However, if you are not talking to the final decision-maker, the deal is ultimately at risk.

Solution: Use the O-P-C questioning technique to ensure you thoroughly understand the prospect’s buying process and have identified everyone who can influence the deal and those who will have the final say.

Is there a plan in place?

Problem: As we get ready for summer in the northern hemisphere, the potential to be blindsided by OoO responses only increases.

Solution: Salespeople should work with prospects to build a two-way understanding of a company’s crucial business issues and the activities required to solve them. This mutual plan is a powerful tool for building buyer confidence — and ensuring that deals don’t unexpectedly stall.

Ultimately, when you treat qualification as an ongoing event, you set sellers up for success — reducing frustrations and no-decisions while maximizing time spent on winnable opportunities. The results are an increase in win rate, the quality of your data and your forecast accuracy.

Until next time, happy selling,


How to Create a Multi-Channel Prospecting Cadence that Works

You’re scrolling through your LinkedIn feed when you receive a request to connect from an account executive. They recently saw you speak at a sales conference, and your talk resonated with them — seems harmless enough.

Of course, you know that there’s a 90% chance this interaction ends in a hard pitch within the next 48 hours — but there’s a part of you hoping to be wrong.

After all, their first message to you was relevant, engaging and had fantastic timing. You can’t help but think: Maybe this will be a different story.

Two days go by with no additional messages.

You see that they liked your most recent LinkedIn post, prompting you to look into their company. Their conversational intelligence tool could be a good fit for some of the sales coaching challenges you’ve been dealing with.

After 72 hours, the dreaded follow-up InMail arrives, and it’s not what you expected.

It speaks to challenges on your radar and is personalized to your role and industry — suffice it to say you’re intrigued, so you click the auto-response “Thanks” and plan to follow up later.

Immediately, you’re hit with a message asking for a meeting. Ten minutes after that, you receive a Zoom link even though you never accepted.

Admittedly, this is a nightmare scenario of when automation goes haywire — but it’s only so far-fetched.

Think of when salespeople send 12 emails within two weeks or call repeatedly armed with only a prospect’s name and title. Where does it get them? Blocked or sent straight to spam.

To generate results that fill the pipeline with winnable opportunities, sales professionals must build strategically-choreographed and multi-channel cadences to dramatically increase the odds of connecting.

Step 1: Carefully Crafted Messaging

The best cadence in the world won’t get you anywhere — unless you start with succinct messaging that proves you’ve done your homework on the potential buyer, their company and their industry.

In virtual selling, you have to maximize every communication. That means going beyond titles and pain points to understand business drivers.

For instance, do you know the CEO’s top three initiatives for Q2? The company’s latest product news, or if they recently implemented new technology?

The key is to develop the knowledge that allows you to present yourself as a problem expert that’s showing up to solve business challenges.

One way to demonstrate expertise is to share third-party content that’s relevant to your prospect’s challenges and establishes you as a subject matter expert. Another effective tool is the value-based story.

These two methods can be used together to demonstrate relevance and build credibility — because, ultimately, buyers spend their time wisely before spending their money wisely.

Step 2: Tailoring Cadences to Target Buyers

There’s been a lot of talk recently about multithreaded engagements and with good reason. When you’re selling complex solutions to complex buying groups, it only makes sense to engage the different members of a buying committee how, when and where they prefer.

The same goes for prospecting.

Only, there’s a catch: When prospecting, you don’t know your buyer’s preferred communication method, which is why a strategically-choreographed and multi-channel approach is so vital.

Build your cadences using a mix of phone calls, social media actions, InMail messages, email and voicemails — and throughout it all, never forget to add value. In fact, the first few touches should be focused on thought-leadership and sharing valuable content.

When building these cadences out, fall back on your research. For instance, recent research by LinkedIn shows that potential buyers are 65% more likely to accept InMail if they switched jobs within the past 90 days. With these prospects, it’s a safe bet to start with InMail. On the other hand, if your primary prospects are manufacturing leaders, your best bet might be a phone call.

Respectful and personalized persistence is critical. To stay top-of-mind, never go more than five business days between touches — and remember that a typical cadence involves 15 to 17 attempts across 20 to 24 days.

Step 3: Guarding Your Time

Take a page from the playbook of every successful executive and guard your time fiercely.

Schedule non-negotiable blocks of time on your calendar for prospecting and prospecting alone. No coffee breaks or scrolling Instagram. Focus on one task, and you’ll be rewarded. Not only will you achieve the consistency that generates results, but the dedicated and focused effort will help you improve.

Of course, things will come up. The trick is to never let an interruption shorten that prospecting time — move that block to later in the day or the week on your calendar and aim for 10 hours/week.

It sounds simple, but it works. We’ve seen clients create about $6.5M (USD) in pipeline in their first three days of call blocks. Capitalizing on this initial momentum, that same company went on to have the best Q4 in the company’s 24-year history and see a 131% increase in YOY revenue.

Ultimately, there’s no cure-all for your prospecting problems, but when you put in the work with quality research, buyer-centric cadences and consistency, the results speak for themselves.

Until next time, happy selling,


Three Ways to Create Human-to-Human Connection in a Virtual Selling Environment

Think back to the last time you shared a meal with a good friend.

You likely recall the restaurant and the food, the little sensory details like the man smoking the cigar across the street or the squawking birds in the background.

Now, think back to the first meal you shared with this person. Suddenly, it becomes much harder to remember the little details that paint a vivid scene — but I’m willing to bet there’s one thing you do remember: the conversation.

I’m also willing to bet that you talked about more than the weather. You likely talked about ideas, a problem, possible solutions and the motivations driving you to solve that problem.

Those are the types of conversations that build authentic human-to-human connections. And if you want to win more business, you’ll need to find a way to reliably connect on a human level — especially when there’s a screen standing between you.

Let’s look at three strategies you can use to build better connections, have more meaningful business conversations and start marking more deals closed-won.

Step 1: Strategic Questioning & Active Listening

Thoughtful inquiry and active listening are two factors that continue to separate high-performers from the rest of the sales team. And there’s a persistent misconception here: many believe you cannot teach these skills.

I’m here to tell you that they can be taught — but it requires a strategic approach that breaks the desired behaviors into their component parts. Let’s start with questioning:

Here at ValueSelling, we teach the O-P-C Questioning technique. The concept behind it is simple:

  • Open-ended questions get people talking.
  • Probing questions lead the prospective buyer on a journey of self-discovery to explore the business issue from all angles.
  • Confirming questions summarize and validate shared information.

The true magic of this formula is learning to switch between question types seamlessly until you have identified a business driver that your solution will impact in a meaningful and measurable way.

That takes practice and experience — and there’s certainly no shame in stacking the deck in your favor.

Lean into your research to prepare 6-10 open-ended and probing questions that will help you identify problems already on the prospect’s radar, how those issues impact the business, and solutions that your product is uniquely qualified to provide.

Now, don’t rattle these off like a nervous understudy in the school play.

You might even only ask a few in their prepared form. The idea is to help you envision the possible avenues the conversation could take ahead of time — freeing you up to place all of your attention on the other human.

However, just because your attention is where it should be, doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly master active listening. Here too, you have to put in the work — and your recorded sales calls are a gold mine of real-world examples.

Try listening to a call from Q4, then immediately write a summary of the key points, using the prospect’s words. Note what you got right and where you missed the mark; then do it again. Soon patterns will start to emerge, and you’ll be able to identify areas for growth.

Step 2: Accurate Follow-through

Picture this: You’ve had a brilliant first sales call where you told a value-based story that convincingly illustrated how you and your company have helped similar prospects in the past.

All that’s left to do is summarize your conversation in a follow-up note and provide the requested materials: a case study and a pamphlet that includes information on how your solution integrates with the prospective buyer’s CRM.

It’s an easy task, and it better be — after all, you only have 15 minutes to put this email together before your next meeting. Only, when you send over the case study, you send one on the client in healthcare, not the one in pharmaceuticals.

The prospect opens the email and immediately wonders: “Do they know my business at all?”

It might seem like a slight misstep, but trust is built in tiny increments. Every time you accurately deliver on what was promised, trust goes up. Every time you miss the mark, trust falls and must be rebuilt.

There’s no magical trust grade you have to meet, but trust is the foundation on which complex B2B purchases are built.

Step 3: Carefully Crafted Mutual Plan

When does the sales cycle end?

If you’ve adopted a buyer-first approach, you’ll know that a mutual plan is the beginning, a tentative step toward the ultimate goal: value realization.

Keep in mind that a well-designed mutual plan is much more than a to-do list.

It’s a written agreement outlining a two-way understanding of a company’s critical business issues and the activities needed to resolve them — and it’s a powerful tool for building confidence in buying decisions.

The key term here is mutual. To be successful, ensure your plan uses the prospect’s language and covers:

  • A summary of the business issue
  • How that business issue impacts business goals
  • How your company will deliver measurable value to the organization and the individual
  • A clear understanding of the prospect’s purchasing criteria and procurement process
  • An agreed-upon timeline of the benchmarks and actions both parties will take to realize value

Remember: As the name implies, these mutual plans are done jointly with a prospect to eliminate confusion and build buyer confidence — that crucial element that only human-to-human connection can provide.

Until next time, happy selling,