There are several variables that impact your win rates, and all of them are important to buyers. The best way to evaluate your performance on these variables is to approach each one as a clear-cut question. Buyers evaluate you by considering these same questions and failing to recognize that means you may lose deals that you might have won.
1. Are You Credible?
Your contacts measure your credibility. When a salesperson doesn’t present themselves as a credible source of information, buyers and decision-makers seek insights elsewhere. In the past, salespeople were taught to borrow credibility from their company. This outdated strategy is no longer enough. You must be credible to win deals.
2. Can You Create Value?
The contacts that you meet have questions as they approach an important business decision. Creating value is helping buyers make the right decision. Salespeople who are unable to educate their contacts and facilitate a decision aren’t likely to win. You need value-creation strategies you can use in the sales conversation.
3. Do You Understand Your Client?
The legacy approach to B2B sales encourages salespeople to ask questions they should already know the answers to. Your contacts will measure you based on what you know about their company and industry. Few salespeople do the research and the reading to understand their prospective client’s company and the external forces creating headwinds in their industry.
4. Will You Embarrass Me?
When a contact isn’t willing to introduce you to their peers or their leadership, it is evidence that they aren’t willing to vouch for you. The reason is that they are afraid you are going to embarrass them. When salespeople get ghosted by their contacts, it is because they failed their audition.
5. Are You a Good Fit?
Your contacts are trying to determine who they want to work with going forward. This is why I continually make the case that you are never going to win all the clients you want, but you will win all the clients that want you. Recently, I have had three sales reps pitch me. Two of the three were incredibly aggressive and self-oriented. The third salesperson was not like the other two. Your contacts are looking for how well you will fit as a partner.
6. Do You Have Expertise on the Problem?
B2B sales is moving away from the transactional legacy approaches and toward expertise and authority. Decision-makers and stakeholders want an expert on their problems and pain points. When you rush to share how your solution is perfect for the client’s problem, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on the context and industry. You win here when you can speak to the problem as an expert.
7. What Is the Value of Your Questions?
We don’t often think about the value of the questions we ask our clients. In discovery, we ask questions to learn what we need to know to help them. Stronger salespeople also know how to ask questions that can teach their contacts something. When you ask questions that allow the client and their team to learn something that helps them approach their decision, you can check the box on this variable.
8. Can You Lead Us?
You sell what you sell every day. Your contact rarely buys what you sell. It’s important to remember that you are trying to help the client with an important decision. You are responsible for leading your contacts through their buyer’s journey. This is a variable most salespeople miss. Those who believe the client should lead will fail to check this box.
9. What Is the Value of Your Advice?
First, you must have the advice to give. Most salespeople’s advice amounts to “buy our solution from us.” A lot of salespeople get in trouble with this variable, mostly due to a lack of advice and recommendations. You are either One-Up or you are One-Down. One-Down salespeople cannot provide counsel, which is rooted in business acumen and a deep understanding of your client’s industry and problems. You can learn more about how to be One-Up in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
10. Do You Offer Certainty of Outcomes?
In an unstable environment, certainty is a variable. Buyers are generally afraid of deciding without knowing with certainty that they are going to succeed. When your contacts are uncertain, they will look for a salesperson who can provide certainty or decide to do nothing. Most salespeople prefer to pitch the certainty of better results too early, another holdover from the past. There is a sequence that helps this variable: First, explain the certainty of negative outcomes if the client fails to change. Then, discuss the certainty of positive outcomes.
Putting It All Together
Most sales organizations believe their company and solution are the key variables to winning. This mistaken belief leads them to lose deals. The contest isn’t between two companies and their solutions. Instead, it’s a contest between the salespeople competing for the clients’ business.
The reason one salesperson wins a deal over their competitor is because they were more effective in the sales conversation. The more effective salesperson will address these 10 variables to best help their prospective clients. This is how to create value in B2B sales.