Instead of progressing, B2B sales is regressing back to transactional approaches. Sales organizations and sales reps should be improving their overall sales effectiveness, but this is not happening. If we continue this path, companies will have even more difficulty selling.
A rule: If you are not a technology company, you should not adopt that industry’s strategies and processes because these approaches will lead you to transactional selling. Buyers and decision-makers reject these approaches because they don’t create value and result in an alienating sales experience.
Regarding technologies, you need a CRM, a source of contact information, and a telephone. With nothing more than a stack of index cards and a telephone, I grew revenue from $3 million to $7.8 million in a single year, and I believe you can do the same.
Certain common strategies, including the following, have caused B2B sales to regress and become increasingly transactional.
The Taylorism of Modern Sales
Fredrick Winslow Taylor was responsible for helping Ford to build an assembly line. As cars went down the assembly line, Taylor had each person do one function over and over on each car that passed by. The person next to them would do the next task again and again. To increase efficiency, he timed every movement.
Why would a modern sales organization choose a strategy from the early 1900s? The only reason I can think of is that they believe they need to develop a rote sales process like a set of tasks moving along a conveyor belt. Taylor’s goal was to increase efficiency by splitting the process into a series of discrete steps that can each be done by a single person. For example, an SDR is responsible for qualifying a prospect and booking a meeting with an account executive, who will “close the client” and hand them off to client success.
- Transaction: No prospect hopes an SDR will call them and ask a set of questions to determine if they are ready to buy.
- Transaction: Handing off the client to someone else who works to close the deal makes it harder to have a natural conversation and develop a relationship.
Slicing the sales role into thinner tasks without carefully considering your strategy is a trend, but that’s no reason to follow along.
If you are engaged in a land grab where you need to capture a market before your competitors lock them down, a better approach may be to employ a larger group of full-cycle sales reps who can help the prospect understand why they should change.
Let strategy determine how you organize your sales force. When you need to displace your competitor to reach your sales goals and objectives, it is better to have an experienced sales force who, in the first conversation, can help the client recognize the need to change.
The Cult of Efficiency
The cult of efficiency believes that the high-water mark is automating communication, especially regarding cold outreach. A fully automated prospecting sequence allows a sales organization to rent a list and send emails to hundreds of thousands of addresses at the push of a button. Many of these emails end up in the spam folder, but a few of them will make it into inboxes. This is like asking someone else to lift weights because you want to get swole.
- Transaction: Unless your contacts call to thank you for spamming them, this approach has a high percentage of waste. Using these tools makes it much more difficult for salespeople to get true prospective clients to open their email.
- Transaction: When LinkedIn first launched, they recommended that you connect with people you know and can vouch for. The platform doesn’t allow automated communications, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at your InMail. Sending batches of InMail is only efficient if your goal is to annoy people with an old school spray-and-pray prospecting approach.
A Total Lack of Value Creation
In all things requiring mastery, fast is slow, and slow is fast. Many strategies try to cheat the nature of decision-making by relying on speed instead of momentum. The only vehicle we have to create value is the sales conversation, so you must use it to bring your contacts and stakeholders insight that will help them with their decision. If you fail to create compelling, differentiated value in the sales conversation, you open an opportunity for a competitor to displace you.
- Transaction: Trying to speed up the sales conversation because you need to win the client’s business is self-oriented, something that will make selling much more difficult. When you rush things, it’s like sprinting when your dance partner cannot keep up. You disrupt the tempo and cause your client to slow things down—or disengage entirely.
- Transaction: Using a first meeting to position your company and your solution is a waste of your client’s time. I want you to love your company and your solution, but relying on that to gain credibility is anti-value and will lower your chances of a second meeting.
For more about displacing your competition see Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.
Consultative selling requires you to act as if you are a consultant being paid to offer your counsel, advice, and recommendations. Remember that your prospective client’s time is their most valuable resource. Approaching the sales conversation like a consultant ensures you will focus on offering valuable information and insight in exchange for your client’s time. The client will pay you for this information by giving you their business. You didn’t win a new client because of your product or service, or your company. You were the only person sitting across from your contacts, so you were the differentiating factor.
Every time you see the word transaction, remember that you will improve your sales results by being more strategic.
The Regression of B2B Sales to a Transaction
I may have to write a longer list of transactional approaches and how it harms sales results. A look at the direction of major metrics on win rate, quota attainment, burnout, and buyer frustration with the sales experience should encourage you to remove anything that is transactional.
Optimize for sales effectiveness, not for efficiency. You don’t win by being efficient. You win by being more effective than your competitors.