Sales reps don’t close deals. Buyers do.
Most of the make-or-break moments that happen in the B2B sales process – the debates, the decisions amongst a company’s leadership about their problems, the levels of priority – happen during an internal meeting. Not a sales meeting. So what can we do to make sure we don’t lose the deal just because we’re not in the room?
- Buying decisions don’t happen in sales calls; they happen in internal meetings.
- Shift from selling to buyers to selling with buyers.
- The right champion can help you shape the outcome of a deal, even when you’re not in the room.
- A good champion can influence internal conversations, is incentivized and motivated for the deal to go through, and can provide hard-to-find deal intelligence that helps move the deal forward.
- Enable your champion with a clear, compelling message in the form of a written one-page business case and a three-sentence strategic soundbite.
Ask yourself, Where is the number-one place that you lose deals?
Hint: It’s when you’re not in the room.
Buying teams are having conversations that are happening about you without you.
Shift from selling to your buyers to selling with them
The single most important shift you need to make in your B2B sales approach is to sell with your buyers, not to them. The right approach will give a seat at the table when it matters most, helping you shape the outcome of the deal.
This shift should fundamentally change how you see the role of sellers and buyers. Most people believe that a seller’s job is to pitch and close deals. But that view is dated, and it’s led enablement teams to continue focusing on the sales rep in the sales meeting and making it easy with templated content to send from sales rep to buyer.
When you shift to a buyer enablement point of view, you see that it’s the champion in an internal meeting who is closing deals. So the sales rep’s job is to enable that conversation with a clear, compelling message. When Fluint made this shift, they went from $0 to 30% of net-new ARR across the entire company in just three years.
There are two parts to doing this. The first is to create a committed champion for every deal in your pipeline, and the second is to enable them with a clear, compelling message in the form of a written business case.
How to select a good champion
There are a couple of different things to think about as it relates to building or selecting a champion because not everybody is created equal. What you’re essentially doing is renting somebody’s internal reputation and credibility when they’re delivering your message. So you need three things:
- Influence. Can they shape the internal conversation?
- Incentive. Is there something tying your champion to the deal, something that’s in it for them?
- Intel or information. Can they provide that hard-to-find deal intelligence that will move the deal forward?
Being a champion is all based on behavior. There has to be evidence of actually converting that potential into forward motion in the deal.
Guide your internal champion’s internal conversations
Let’s go deep on the second part – creating a compelling business case to guide your champion’s internal conversations when you’re not in the room. Nate takes inspiration from Amazon’s internal communications approach:
It’s a collaborative process. This idea has shaped how Nate sees the role of buyers and sellers more than any other training or book or mentor.
Why? Because B2B sales are internal communication. It’s the process of finding and framing a problem, then aligning a dozen different contacts, each with conflicting opinions and incentives on the right way to solve it. It’s the process of crafting internal narratives and influencing the internal storylines that are already accepted in the buying team – essentially, packaging up your ideas so that they travel around your target account.
Contrary to some of the popular conversation that’s happening today, writing as a skillset isn’t going anywhere. Fundamentally, writing is clear thinking and clarifying a point of view on how you’re going to help the buying team. When done alongside a champion, you’re increasing buying commitment. You’re clarifying the message about how you’ll help by removing some of the noise and distractions. And you’re creating influence when you’re not in the room. So let’s go deeper on the tactics of how to do this.
The one-page business case
Creating influence when you’re not in the room can all be done with a single page using this framework: the one-page business case. That’s all you need alongside your buyer’s words.
Notice what it’s not. It’s not an email that stacks up a series of links, like product descriptions, case studies, about us content, and an ROI calculator. It’s a narrative.
Let’s begin at the top.
Lead with a bold, compelling headline
The headline is something that should relate to and signal that you are aligned with a strategic priority that the executive in the deal is already sold on. You should use some of the internal language they are using to signal or reference that priority to their team. It’s a trigger phrase or internal shorthand. Think of it as a codename or catchphrase. As an example, for Jim Franklin, the former CEO of SendGrid, a trigger phrase at a certain point in time would have been, “Make the mail move.” According to Jim, what he cared about was more accounts sending more emails per account more successfully at higher deliverability rates. If a project proposal or a budget request didn’t explicitly talk about making the mail move, then he wasn’t interested. There’s an equivalent phrase inside every account that you’re developing. That’s what you want to find and lead with.
Frame a sharp problem statement with a high-cost, high-priority problem
Once you’ve figured out your bold and compelling headline, frame up a high-cost problem that is standing in the way of that priority through a problem statement. Your problem statement should address cost and consequences. Use customer data to talk about the active loss as a result of letting this problem go unsolved.
The consequences are copywriting gold. What does that problem, that cost actually mean? And if it’s not solved, what happens? It gets worse.
Sell the approach first, then the product
Once you’ve created a clear problem statement, the next is to create an approach. Don’t jump straight into features. First, you need to build a logical bridge that connects the problem and the product.
Executives think about priorities and trade-offs. If the company has limited resources, what are they going to go deep on? The higher up in the organization that you’re selling into, the higher the level and the greater the number of paths or metrics to get to that one outcome.
There are a number of different levers, and until you’re aligned on that approach or the right path to walk, then and only then, you can go back and talk about the unique differentiators of your product.
Paint a visual of the future payoff
Now you begin to clarify the outcome. This is where you create an emotional visual of what life is going to be like after walking across that bridge and working with your product. You don’t want to leave people to guess what that payoff is. You want to make it very concrete. Think about this as taking the metrics you used to quantify the problem, flipping them upside down, and then creating the payoff. Ideally, you want to talk about these numbers in terms of scenarios or ranges as opposed to a single figure or a single target. That’s how you build more trust with a team. It’s not just something that you deliver unilaterally. You’re working with the buying team, and it’s based on their involvement and their investment.
Lay out the investment required
A lot of sellers jump right to costs and contracts. Include things that aren’t finances, like time, people, energy, and resources. What’s the buyer’s role? What do they need to commit to in order to solve the problem with that approach and unlock the payoff?
Create a strategic soundbite
Most of us typically don’t remember anything more than just a couple sentences. So even though you’ve compressed your approach down to one page, you need to go even further and be intentional about what you want to leave buyers with.
Here’s how to shape your strategic soundbite for the buyer.
- Because of a shift that’s taking place, this is not a choice. This is happening, and you have to respond to this.
- You’re going to take some type of unique and differentiated approach to this problem.
- The right response to this problem will unlock a very good outcome. But if you don’t do this, the problems will continue and even get worse.
Three sentences. Think about sending a large file over email. You want it to travel around, so what do you need to do? You need to compress it, and shrink it down. So first you’ve taken the whole sales cycle and compressed it down to one page. Then you shrink it down even further into just three sentences. That’s the strategic sound bite.
This overall approach will take a but it is worth it if you embrace your new job description.
If you begin selling with buyers and enabling your champions during their internal conversations with a compelling business case, the extra bit of effort and creative energy will be worth it when you reap the results at the end of every quarter from here on out.
To hear Nate’s presentation, including a few more anecdotes, head over to SaaSiestTV.