“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
– Neil Gaiman
Oh don’t worry, you are at the right place. This is still an article about sales.
But just because it’s about sales, doesn’t mean the dragons are not real.
I’m talking, of course, about sales myths – giant, all-consuming ideas that seem to loom over the sales mindscape and impact our every action. If we don’t stare them down, they might as well swallow us whole.
In my 6+ years in B2B sales, and in my many conversations with sales professionals with decades of experience, I keep coming up against some of these myths about sales that don’t really stand up to scrutiny. Being someone who loves data and verifiable truths (It’s one of the reasons why I started Wingman, after all!), it’s always fun to bust them.
So let’s do some dragon-slaying and put some B2B sales myths to rest!
Some of the more popular strategies and templates would have you believe that sales happens in clear-cut stages, one smoothly flowing into the other:
Demo booked > Deal created > Demo done > Technical round > Evaluation > Closed won.
Hate to break this to you but the truth is a lot messier.
Sales stages tend to overlap each other, fold in on themselves and sometimes, prospects might even go back a stage. You have to keep rolling with the punches, err stages.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
Or, as Managing Partner of Founder Collective (and part of Forbes’ list of Top Tech Investors of 2020) Eric Paley puts it, “Sometimes good enough is good enough”.
What does that have to do with us sales professionals?
Well, conventional wisdom dictates that when presenting a product, it is the sales representative’s responsibility to put the “best foot forward”. To highlight the highs and if possible, hide the lows.
And yet, prospects (especially decision makers) appreciate it more when you show a product that can solve 80-90 percent of their problems, as long as they feel a genuine desire on your part to improve it..
The keyword here, of course, is “genuine”. Back your words up with action, and you’ll see that prospects are not as unreasonable as the myth dictates.
“The move from the full sales cycle model to the SDR/AE is no exception; we wanted to reduce the CAC (customer acquisition cost) and thought we would improve specialized skills, but we lost in customer centricity, people centricity and didn’t always observe that promised profit.” —Darius Lahoutifard, Founder, MEDDIC Academy
Breaking up the sales cycle is easy and efficient – for the seller.
For the buyer, it’s just something they have to grin and bear.
Full cycle sales encourages building a rapport with the prospect from the word go. It helps salespeople develop a deeper understanding of the prospect’s problems, which naturally leads to them providing better value for the prospect.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a pricing calculator handy.”
“I’m not allowed to discuss pricing.”
“I don’t have that information handy.”
Scroll through any sales forum/discussion board long enough and you are sure to run into some hapless SDR asking what to say when a prospect brings up pricing.
The idea is that if the SDR somehow gets it wrong, the prospect may flee without even taking a look at the product.
I believe this does more harm than good.
It puts the SDR in a difficult position, it inconveniences the prospect and it makes the business look like it’s run by amateurs.
How about instead of restricting SDRs from talking price, we actually empower them with information and coaching? Instead of making the prospect jump through hoops and waste their time, we help them get the information they want?
First impressions count. Empower your SDRs to make the best first impression.
Sure, you call it a “discovery call” but what is the prospect discovering about you? Why does the discovery process run one way?
Think about it from the perspective of the prospect: here’s someone telling me that they have a solution to my problem, but can’t even give me a basic walkthrough of said solution!
Why? Is it too complex? Too time consuming? Too difficult to learn?
Train SDRs to showcase your product, even if it’s not a full fledged walkthrough. It builds confidence about the product and tells the prospect you don’t want to waste their time.
“…buyers now dictate the sales process.” —The Hubspot 2021 Sales Enablement Report
Also in the above report 61% of buyers said “not being pushy” was the best way a salesperson could improve the sales experience. It was the second most popular reason, right behind 69% for “listening to my needs”.
As myths go, this one is the granddaddy of them all. You’d think it’s been refuted enough, but once an idea goes Hollywood, it’s tough to rip it away from the zeitgeist.
That’s what makes this one so dangerous.
The salesperson who wants to “always be closing” and treats their profession like a simple “numbers game” will inevitably come off as pushy and worse, far more concerned about making the sale than solving a problem.
I can’t think of a better way to scare off B2B buyers.
A much better mantra is ABE – Always Be Educating. Sure, it’s not as catchy as ABC, but it’s much more effective. After all, with a lot of basic information available online, salespeople who take up the role of experts and take the time to educate their buyers on the details and nuances of a problem and its solutions are far more likely to seal the deal.
Oh, and at the cost of sounding like I’m doing an ABC of my own, one of our customers actually said on record that they chose us over the competition as we were less pushy and more thoughtful.
When you really think about it, a CTA is a subtle bit of a pressure tactic – basically a request to the prospect to commit to a future action.
That’s ok, most of the time.
Sometimes, however, the prospect may not want to commit.
Sometimes, you have to give the prospect space to breathe.
Sometimes, you just need to be patient.
After all, isn’t that how the best relationships are built?
At this point, cold calling has been pronounced dead a dozen or more times over, and it keeps finding ways of coming back.
And sure, that is half right.
Cold calling, as it used to be, is very much dead.
So clearly, some salespeople are finding ways to make cold calling work for them.
The secret is that the cold call has evolved. With far more tools at their disposal, top salespeople are using a mix of technology, smarts and old-fashioned persistence to make hay using the humble cold call.
It just makes sense, right? Extroverts are sociable, great talkers and love to be around people. Of course they would make great salespeople!
However, the truth is that sales is a skill – a combination of science and art that needs more than a naturally outgoing person.
“One of the biggest myths about salespeople is that they’re always extroverted and outgoing…Introverted salespeople can also thrive and excel at their job. The stereotype of a pushy salesperson works in their favor, and customers are also very appreciative of the different approaches to sales.” —Aaron Agius Co-Founder & M.D @ Louder.Online
In fact, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, the most common qualities shared by the top salespeople are modesty and humility.
Introverts also make for amazing listeners – another underrated quality among the best salespeople.
Take that, popular, outgoing folks!
The trouble with myths…
…is that they often come to us in the shape of “common sense” or “conventional wisdom”. And usually, that’s what they used to be, once upon a time. Which is why it’s so important for us in the sales world to keep questioning, keep testing, and keep facing down those dragons.
Got some myth busting of your own? Sound off in the comments! We’d love to hear what you have to say.