Five golden rules for sales success in the new world


For many, it remains unclear what needs to happen to successfully address the selling challenges brought on by Covid-19.

To put it bluntly, selling is more competitive than ever and it is now imperative the modern sales team makes use of every tool at their disposal to rebuild their sales funnel and help drive business recovery. So, what makes a seller successful? Mike Shea, VP Sales, Eastern U.S at Upland Software offers some golden rules used to guide successful sellers before the pandemic, and continue to be true even in a severely disrupted world.

Here are five elements successful sales teams have tried and tested across the history of selling:

Focus on what matters

The pandemic has certainly forced all of us to re-examine existing assumptions and traditional ways of working, but some of the golden rules remain the same: in order to keep closing deals, you must know your customer and strengthen your partnership with them. Salespeople know better than anyone the magnitude of how many deals have been paused, disrupted, or outright cancelled as a result – but was it just an effect of the pandemic, or were buyers themselves re-examining what they need, and what brings them true value? Granted, companies are spending more conservatively than ever and drastic changes have taken place in buyer’ behaviour, strained budgets, and internal factors such as redundancies and restructuring. On top of this, the sales funnel itself has become almost unrecognisable, with customers now entering and exiting the funnel at unexpected intervals. Knowing the intent of various customers, be that end users or businesses (in a B2B landscape) is paramount. Finding the right intent data can be a chore all on its own. However, it matters. In this age of changed sales funnels knowing a buyers intent is more important than ever before.

The selling landscape has been redrawn, which means that sellers must zero in on what truly matters: giving true business value to buyers, helping them attain successful outcomes, and reducing complexity across the process. Thus, sellers will create great buyer experiences and ensure that customers keep coming back.

Sell to the right person

The ‘new normal’ has resulted in mass organisational restructuring due to factors such as the furlough scheme, redundancies, and shifts in a company’s strategic direction. The previous go-to contacts for sales teams may no longer be the right point of contact anymore, causing an expanding gap in the flow of information between these teams and their prospective customers.

Given this state of flux, is your contact still the most influential person within the organisation for this sale? Research has proven that salespeople who gain access to key players and influencers increase their quota attainment by 30%. The quicker your sales team can identify who holds purchasing power within a customer’s organisation, the faster the process can be tailored and individualised, boosting the prospect of success.

However, locating the correct person to target can be a challenge. A good solution for this is to use relationship mapping technology which is designed to reduce the complexity of selling and increase win rates by helping sales teams build relationships with the right people. Having the automated capability to locate key decision-makers and visualise the relationships which are ultimately influencing the deal provides sales teams with clarity over who their supporters are, who they should be spending their time with, and who will need dedicated focus in order to close the deal.

Select the right time to target your prospect

Though it is a fundamental starting point in improving any sales strategy, it is no longer enough to just know who your customer is. In order to stay ahead of your competition, you must create and maintain close relationships with your existing and prospective customers. The reason for this is to not only know what tools these customers are looking for, but also the business outcomes that they want to achieve with them, and the timelines they manage for purchasing and deployment of the tools they need. With this information, sales teams have a more holistic view of the customer’s individual needs set against a realistic timeframe determined by the customer’s own needs and are better equipped to provide them with a tailored solution at the right time.

Diversify your sales team

Diversity is an often-overlooked element when looking at sales success, but the statistics speak for themselves. Having a team that is as diverse as your customer base is not only right, but it pays off in the short and long term. Research has found that a staggering 90% of buyers believe that a company’s diversity policy impacts their overall performance, with 38% of buyers actively considering diversity when making a purchase.

While hiring with diversity and inclusion in mind is key to fostering innovation, diversity is also crucial in terms of skillsets: a salesperson who is well-versed in the technology space is ideal to liaise with customers and prospects in the same space, while someone with past experience in the services industry can better understand and speak to targets’ interests in the same industry.

The fact is, the more diverse your sales team is, the more likely you will have the accumulated knowledge and experience necessary to truly relate to and understand your customer. The selling process is rarely, if ever, linear and demands creativity and focus. Having a diverse sales team ensures that different voices and opinions contribute to the process, ultimately fostering innovation and helping forge a stronger strategy.

Love your existing customers – do not neglect them in any way

Your existing customers already know what your company offers, the quality of these services and the benefits these bring to their organisations’ performance. It is therefore business-critical to realise the value of these customers, and to recognize organisations will be more open to buying further solutions from a business partner they know, while prospective customers who have had no previous exposure to your company will need a longer time to be convinced.

The potential to cross-sell and up-sell can be great, as long as you do not neglect the relationship you have with customers. It comes down to understanding not just your own portfolio, but more importantly, through understanding the needs of the customer. The best way to do this is through fostering great relationships across the board, knowing who holds the buying power and the types of solutions they may be looking for to continue growing. Do the extra things that create appreciation with your customers every day. They are what will separate you from just being just another vendor they do business with. You can achieve this easily by using a sales enablement tool.

In today’s new normal, closing a deal is harder than ever. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, especially for sales teams that are flexible enough to adapt, without forgetting the golden rules of selling.