This Week’s Big Deal: Avoiding Unforced Errors in B2B Sales

March 4, 2019

Avoiding unforced errors in B2B sales

Even as most of the nation is still buried in snow, the telltale signs of spring are starting to crop up. The trees have a few buds on them, birds are returning… and baseball players are suiting up for spring training.

I think baseball and B2B sales have a lot in common. Both are team sports that can hinge on a stellar solo effort. Both move slower than we’d really like them to. Both have pitches. (Okay, that one’s a stretch. A 7th-inning stretch.)

Most importantly, though, both baseball game and a B2B deal can slip way through an unforced error. A wild pitch or an defensive gaffe can put you out of the running without any opponent interference.

This past week, sales legend Anthony Iannarino wrote about the three types of unforced errors that can cost a rep a sale.  Here’s the big deal:

3 Unforced Errors that Sink B2B Sales

There are plenty of external challenges in B2B sales. So there’s no reason to make things harder by tripping over our own feet. As Iannarino puts it, “One way to lose, but likely not the most common, is to be outsold by a competitor. Fair enough, you have been on both sides of that story. However, the most common way to lose is by unforced errors, the mistakes you make in your pursuit of a client.”

So we can say there are three types of unforced errors that may cost you a sale. But let’s flip it around: There are three opportunities for you to turn a potential loss into a closed deal.

Error 1: Lack of Planning

Back in the old days, a sales rep could get away with opening a sales meeting with, “So, tell me about your company and what you need.” The rep could then rely on people skills and charisma to get the prospect talking and go from there.

There’s just no reason to go in cold anymore, however. People expect you to have done due diligence online and on social media to get to know the company and its needs. Not only should you have that information, you should already have been establishing credibility, providing decision makers with valuable content that will help them make a decision.

Iannarino recommends making organization and planning a part of every aspect of the job: “Starting your year without goals and a plan to reach your quota, starting the week without a plan, and beginning your day in your inbox all make you reactive, and will eventually cause you to lose deals–or not to have any deals to pursue.”

Sales Navigator Deals can be a powerful tool for this kind of planning and organization. Use it to keep your pipeline in order, build relationships, and be truly ready for the make-or-break meeting.

Error 2: Botched Execution

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men (though they never say why mice are making plans in the first place). Planning is only as useful as the follow-through that comes after it.

Once you earn face-to-face time with a prospect, Iannarino says, don’t let sloppy execution derail the meeting. “Selling is made up of conversations and commitments,” Iannarino says, “...The inability or an unwillingness to create real, differentiated, compelling value for your prospect will have them look elsewhere for help.”

Keeping your execution on point means combining communication and presentation skills with your natural selling abilities:

  • Take good notes while the prospect is talking to remember key points
  • Keep your energy level up
  • Make your presentation lively and compelling
  • Sharpen your negotiation skills

Error 3: Inflexible Strategy

The last opportunity for improvement is the broadest category: sales strategy. That can include the way you approach the prospect, how well you assess potential competitor threats, and how well you evaluate the prospect’s evolving needs and moods.  As Iannarino puts it, “By not matching your strategy to the situation, you make an error of ignoring context and stubbornly sticking to an approach that reality rejects.”

It’s crucial to keep up with the information that will inform you that your strategy needs to change. For instance, if your biggest competitor just slashed their price by 20%, your prospect will want to know why your company didn’t, too. Having a ready response can help demonstrate why your solution doesn’t need discounting to be compelling. Or, say your prospect is moving to a new department, or out of the company entirely. Having a heads-up on the move can help you keep contact with the rest of the buying committee.

Stay informed, stay agile, and you can smooth out speed bumps before they slow down the deal.

To Err Is Human. To Close, Divine.

The most successful sales reps are meticulously organized and thorough in their prospect research. They have the soft skills to rock a sales meeting. They have the inside information to know when to change their strategy (and the flexibility to do it).

If your batting average could use a boost, it’s time to do a little spring training of your own. Subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog for the coaching you need to succeed.