This Week’s Big Deal: Playing the Long Game
January 20, 2020
Patience is in short supply these days. That’s exactly why it’s more valuable than ever.
For B2B sales prospects, patience has grown thin when it comes to aggressive sales pitches and intrusive messaging. As a result, these techniques from impatient sellers and brands become increasingly ineffective.
Playing the long game is essential. This means focusing on meaningful conversations, staying persistent with relationship-building, and emphasizing quality experiences for your existing customers.
How to Win More B2B Deals Over the Long Haul
For B2B sales pros, our top advice for 2020 is similar to that we offered B2B marketers: slow down. It can feel counterintuitive when pressure to drive results is constantly high, but a more methodical and thoughtful approach is the way to win.
To help you hone your long game, here are a few tidbits from top trending sales articles.
Tending the Garden
“Fact: Only 3 percent of your prospects are ready to buy now,” writes LinkedSelling CEO Josh Turner in a recent article published on LinkedIn, The #1 Reason B2B Businesses ‘Lose’ Leads & Sales. By this math, if you push a solution straight out of the gate, you’re going to be hit a wall 97% of the time.
“Top sales performers also know that it actually takes 7 to 13+ touches before most prospects will even consider doing business with you,” asserts Turner, adding that sellers are doing themselves a disservice by giving up after four touches on average.
Modern prospecting is like gardening: If you don’t consistently tend the seeds you’ve planted, they’ll wilt and die. Prospects need nurturing to spark and solidify positive brand associations, or they’ll fall out of the pipeline. Marketing should play a role here, but sales can have an impact.
The Conversation Curve
Resistance and doubt are common hurdles with sales prospects, but they’re not impassible. Sometimes we just need to ramp up our sales activities.
Matt says that some teams go too far in disqualifying opportunities that aren’t deemed promising. “Sales activity in any B2B environment is like a flywheel in a machine,” Crabtree writes. “Once in motion, with enough momentum behind it and assuming an at least half-decent product, sustained performance comes at a constant rate of effort. However, shifting a slowing flywheel will require a big spike of extra effort to get it back to the same rate as before.”
“Determined sales leaders push through the Conversion Curve zones of Resistance and Doubt and are rewarded with growth on the y axis,” according to Crabtree. “As for the x axis, how long this all takes depends to some extent on the average length of your sales cycle - but mostly on how well you can keep the faith.”
Increasing tenacity and follow-through are worthy goals, but they bring us back to that eternal sales dilemma: How to stay persistent without being pesky? The solution might lie in a theme discussed by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, in a guest post here last week: 2020 is the Year of Human-to-Human Connection.
“We need to get back to basics and acknowledge that sales is a communication process and communication is a basic human experience,” she writes. “Communication is about listening, understanding, relating, and engaging. Mastering these communications skills is required more than ever in an increasingly technology-enabled sales environment.”
To ensure you’re presenting a human front, Thomas recommends three things:
- Ask informed questions founded on research and insight
- Employ empathy by putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes
- Elevate the conversation by shifting focus from your solution to the buyer’s issues
Above all, every interaction should carry inherent value for the human on the other end. As Anthony Iannarino lays out among his directives in a fun post listing “regulations” for a 2020 B2B Sales Hunting License:
“The holder of this license also agrees to trade enough value for the time they are requesting from their prospective clients. Proof that the holder’s intent to provide value in excess of the time they are asking for includes possessing a theory about how their client might produce better business results, solve a systemic problem, gain some advantage in their market, capitalize on some opportunity, or avoid some future harm.”
Take Care of Your Current Customers
The directive to win new business should not cause you to lose sight of the business you’ve already won. Current customers can be extremely valuable to the future bottom line, as powerful conduits to new opportunities via referrals and word of mouth.
Belkin points to customer experience as one of the most critical B2B sales trends of 2020. “The impression you make on your existing customers impacts new connections better than expensive marketing campaigns,” they explain. Among the ideas they offer up: flexible refund policies, bonuses for loyal customers, and rapid response to complaints.
When we talk about playing the long game, it’s about going beyond the closure of a sale. The journey doesn’t end there.
Patience is Money in B2B Sales
… Literally. If you’re rushing through the sales process, and failing to give each opportunity in your pipeline the thought, care, and commitment it deserves, your team is likely leaving money on the table. This year, we recommend exercising patience and seeing things through.
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