Tomatoes Don’t Grow in Winter: How Sales Leaders are Building Value and Getting Creative

April 20, 2020 Matt Heinz

Although the weather is warmer and sunsets are later as spring marches on, it sure feels like winter almost everywhere else. If your prospects and best customers are hibernating (pausing new spending, preserving cash, waiting for clarity), you’re not alone. 

Of course, in the right conditions, plenty of crops still grow and flourish in winter. Which of your prospects and customers still need to buy? Find them, be proactive at engaging with them, sell with compassionate empathy.

For the rest? Well, tomatoes aren’t going to grow in winter (at least for most of us). But how you till the garden, condition the soil, add fertilizer – how you work the variables now will give you epic tomatoes this summer.

Invest in your relationships, lean in on building value, give generously. The harvest is coming.

There was a noted sense of increasing energy and optimism among sales leaders at last Thursday’s Sales Leader Cocktail Talks meetings. Sure, headwinds continue. But both meetings featured a wide variety of best practices, creative thinking and success stories.  Among them:

  • A roadmap for their rebound:  Timelines aside, your customers need to get back on the horse and pave a way forward. How is your organization giving them clarity and direction to do so? There may no longer be an “old” normal the way we knew it, but you (as a seller) can help create clarity and confidence in moving forward, which can unlock buying decisions sooner vs later as well.
  • Invest now in coaching and role playing:  Many sales leaders are reinvesting time in improving skill sets, negotiation strategies and tactics, call confidence and more. And many of those leaders are intending to keep that focus as business and pipelines warm up again in the weeks and months ahead.
  • Clarify time to value:  ROI calculators are still valuable to help customers quantify value, and especially now successful sellers are also calculating time to impact as well. If the buyer’s CFO is going to let go of some cash in this market, she’ll feel better doing it if there’s a calculated return sooner vs later.   Easier for some products and services than others, but if you have this opportunity lean into it.
  • Demand hasn’t decreased, cash has:  So if there’s still need for what you’re selling, how can you make the immediate cash hit smaller or easier? Get creative on payment terms? Defer some initial payments? There’s a difference oftentimes between commitment and cash. And depending on who’s buying, your ability to be creative on financing options can not only get a few more sales but also more appreciative, loyal customers from the get-go.
  • Have a specific, tiered negotiation strategy:  This includes predetermined “retreat points” specifying what you’re willing to give up, and in what order, to get to the yes.  Mark Kosaglow from Outreach outlined a four-part negotiation strategy that he teaches his team: 1) lead with empathy, 2) acknowledge the objection, 3) showcase the partnership, and 4) develop a collaborative plan (i.e. a mutual action plan).
  • A “yes” now is very valuable: Time kills all deals, anyone who has sold considered purchases knows this. Getting your customer to agree to something, even if it’s less than the full package you want to sell, might be one of your best sales strategies right now to get the ball rolling, get some commitments and cash in the door, and create more upsell opportunities as the economy warms up further.
  • Has the buying committee changed?: Make sure your sellers know precisely who’s involved in the purchase decision now.  Have members of the buying committee been let go? Are there now more senior people (i.e. a CFO) who must give approval now (whereas a decision-maker had more autonomous buying authority before)?

If you’d like to join the Sales Leader Cocktail Talks live this week (or any Thursday afternoon for the next few weeks), you can register and get hands-free calendar invites here.

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