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,