Conquering the three big fears in enterprise sales


I can’t believe that 2018 is nearly over ! I have been checking in one folks that I mentor for the last couple of weeks to see how well everyone is doing before we all head for vacation time. Those with a sales quota that hasn’t been retired generally are on an overdrive of emotions in December – positive or negative.

Even for experienced sellers – occasionally, fear of not retiring their quota becomes a paralyzing issue . For inexperienced ones – I have noticed it to be fairly routine. I thought I will share my thoughts on this topic here

There are three big fears to overcome in enterpise sales

1. Fear of inertia

This has two flavors to this – external and internal .

Most customers hate change unless they are sitting on a burning platform. It’s not enough that you think there is value in what you are selling – you need to validate (and sometimes repeatedly) with the customer first hand that they see the value in moving to your solution.

The internal flavor can cause just as much anxiety – especially in larger companies with complex and rigid approval workflows . I have fallen victim to this when I started out – I was more afraid of our internal finance and ops reviews than about negotiating with actual client. That fear went away thanks to a mentor showing me that no reviewer knows my deal as well as I do and that if I can confidently explain it , the inspection session can be turned into a coaching session . As I gained experience – it also helped me challenge some processes and get them changed

2. Fear of competition

From my own experience as a young seller many years ago, and then later as a leader of sellers – I have data to prove that the biggest threat to your proposal not getting ink on paper is customer inaction, and not competition . Ergo – the lack of thoughtfulness in crafting your value prop , and lack of customer relationship are way more serious threats to your success than your competition . Those are both within your control to get better at !

There is one thing I insist with my team all the time – ALWAYS respect your competition , but NEVER fear them . If you don’t respect them – you just are increasing your blind spots and you won’t know what hit you. If you fear them – you will focus more on their strengths and weaknesses and not yours .

Price is a big reason why people worry about competition. A larger competitor might be able to offer a lower price than you could . Even the client might tell you that they are just looking for the lowest price . However – that doesn’t mean you will win if you have the lowest price ! There are always more parameters to differentiate and it’s your loss if you become one dimensional and fight the price war and race to the bottom. The one who wins is the one who understands the customer the most , not the one who understands competition the most !

3. Fear of the clock

Especially in December – this is the primary fear for most sellers . Will I be able to close this deal before end of the year ? Even if customer sees value and has recognized that you have a better proposal than others – they still may not choose to buy immediately.

This happens commonly when your value prop doesn’t account for the time dimension at all. If you only realize this late – you can still get a deal done by creating incentives like discounts , or asking for a favor with the relationships you have hopefully built . But those are all suboptimal in general for you and the customer . The better way to do it is to understand what is the most logical time for the customer to do the deal and then consciously (without time pressure) determine a good way to accelerate the deal closure .

Conquering the three fears

It’s absolutely possible to overcome these fears . I suggest the following as a starting point

1. Spend your energy qualifying your deals every step of the way from the moment you identify them .

2. Invest in understanding your client, your competition and your internal organization – in that order

3. Remember it’s a team sport ! Your manager and a lot of other people have a vested interest in your success – the sooner you make use of help available, the better your odds of success . Heroics should be a last resort , not your leading card

4. Never lose perspective of business cycles and luck . If 80% of deals work as planned – you should be happy

5. Never burn bridges – enterprise is a small market and you will see the same people again . The most difficult CXO I ever sold to bought from me at three different companies – and I was within an inch of yelling at him for what he did the first time I met him 🙂

6. Never lose your moral compass. There is more to life than any one deal !

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