B2B sales strategy is centered on holding a strategic viewpoint- not just a tactical one. Great B2B sellers develop and revise plans for their accounts, rather than simply taking tasks as they come.
We get it, it’s hard to remember to be strategic when a lot of opportunities are knocking at your door. In this scenario, it’s easy to just keep writing proposals, scheduling meetings, and working on statements of work. But if you aren’t regularly checking back in on the big picture, your B2B sales strategy is likely to lag far behind organizational changes and opportunities in your accounts.
Planning is Vital
Many B2B sellers implicitly believe that planning is secondary to their day job. They tend to live by the famed quote, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” B2B sales teams often over rely on intuition, people skills, and their ability to react quickly to a phone call, a proposal opportunity, or a change in a key account.
Wiser advice comes from Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
So, what’s so indispensable about planning? Again, let’s look to Eisenhower. “…if you haven’t been planning, you can’t start to work, intelligently, at least.”
B2B sales teams who don’t work intelligently just waste time. Wasted time leads to lower sales, missed quotas, and no commission.
To get your planning efforts started, here are three tips to make the process easier.
1. Planning Keeps Strong Emotions in Check
When planning, the first thing a B2B seller needs to do is to set their emotions aside. Admittedly, this is exceedingly hard to do in sales due to the nature of the work. In sales, your heart wins you deals as often as your head. Any deal you win usually requires you to emotionally invest in the project, the client, and the account. Lack that emotional investment and clients lack trust in you- which leads to lost deals.
Planning isn’t an emotional activity, however. It’s a logical activity.
History is full of examples of leaders who ignored obvious facts that they were losing, that an invasion was a bad idea, or that specific government policy was poorly conceived. These colossal errors were made in large part because the leaders let emotions be the sole foundation of their planning and decision-making processes.
Your sales team can do better. Keep high fiving each other of course, just balance all that joy, competitiveness, and emotion with strong, clear-sighted planning.
2. Remember, You are Not Part of the Tribe
B2B sellers are always missing critical bits of information about accounts and key contacts. You don’t work inside your accounts. You work with them. Hence, you’ll never know as much about your clients’ company as they do.
This knowledge gap leads to:
- Accounts that truncate their spending with your company without warning.
- Contacts who simply stop communicating with you for no reason.
- Layoffs in key accounts that come as a surprise to you.
- Organizational changes that appear with no warning.
- Key leaders on the client-side changing roles during an ongoing project.
- Long-standing clients who suddenly switch to working with the competition.
Many sellers fall into the trap of believing, “I completely understand this account” or “they love me” or “I’ll know when or if something is about to happen.”
It’s only natural that sellers would make these very human errors. B2B sellers work on deals and accounts for years or sometimes decades. In these scenarios, it becomes quite easy to feel like you’re part of the tribe. Sellers often fall into the habit of falsely assuming they are privy to every internal conversation.
But, remember, no vendor is privy to all these conversations. It’s fair to say you might only have access to 10 percent- at most- of the conversations that are going on in a client company. That percentage is far less when you’re dealing with an enterprise account. It’s essential to remember that some of the information you are not privy to could drastically change the account relationship and trajectory of a project.
3. Plan Before the Rain
For years, philosophers, writers, and presidents have been trying to tell us that it’s essential to do our planning and building before the rain.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” – John F Kennedy, State of the Union Address, January 11, 1962
“When did Noah build the ark, Gladys? Before the rain. Before the rain.” – Spy Game
B2B sales teams are no exception to this advice. You want to plan when it’s sunny weather, when sales are good, and it’s easy to hit your quota. Doing it at any other time leads to quick fixes, truncated plans, and poor decision making, all because you’re trying to find the next sale in a hurry.
As a B2B seller, make sure you are sketching out strategic plans in your best quarter as well as during your worst.
How To Be a More Strategic B2B Seller
As a B2B seller, you need to be thinking months or years ahead.
Consider Elon Musk. Musk was the CEO of PayPal in 2000. In 2002, PayPal was sold for $1.5 billion, and Musk personally netted $165 million from the transaction. He famously went on to create SpaceX, the company that just recently launched Americans into space from US soil for the first time in several years.
Obviously, this is a guy with some foresight.
Two years before the sale of PayPal, Musk began traveling to Russia for a project he called Mars Oasis. Musk initially planned to buy a few retired Russian ICBM’s to send payloads into space. When this plan failed, Musk took $100 million of his newfound fortune in 2002 and founded SpaceX instead.
The point? Musk was already planning for a big leap during a time of exceptional growth for PayPal.
While your average B2B seller isn’t an astronaut or a rocket builder, all of us can follow Musk’s example and plan for the next big leap, even when POs are plentiful, and times are good.
Did you plan this week, month, or quarter?
If you didn’t plan this week, that’s fine, just don’t forget to spend a couple of hours next week. If you didn’t plan at all this month, it’s time to start on that tomorrow. Finally, if you didn’t plan at all last quarter, now is the time to plan.
Fail to do this type of sales enablement work, and you’ll be standing in water over your head- no boat to be found.
If you want to learn how to have a strategic viewpoint that leads to accounts that generate revenue for years, check out our B2B Sales Enablement services.