Many of us grew up in a time when sales was considered a numbers game. Make more dials, get more sales, right? Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint – that is just not true anymore. In the search for increased sales, profitability, and market differentiation, vendors are scrambling to become solution-oriented. This results in more expensive offerings and a need for sellers to do things differently. Here are 5 keys that I’ve found contribute to success in winning big accounts.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen R. Covey had it right in his “Seven Habits” series. One of the principles that has stuck with me is begin with the end in mind. Forrest Gump said it differently: “If you don’t know where you are going, then you probably won’t end up there.”

To improve your sales rates, give your clients a road map to success. They need guidance and expert advice; that’s why they’re talking to you in the first place, right? This gentle nudging in the right direction should start from the first call and stay consistent throughout the sales process. Think of it like archery. It’s pretty tough to change the direction of the arrow after you’ve let it fly.

How often do professional sellers engage a prospect for the first time and invite the customer to dictate the terms? These are the things I hear all the time when listening to calls:

  • “So, what is your timeline?”
  • “How many [widgets] do you need?”
  • “How much can you spend?”

Sellers then spend the rest of the sales cycle try to get them to move away from the answers we asked them for in the first place! If you want a specific outcome from your client engagement, it will take some planning and prescribing.

Block off time on your calendar to understand the client’s current position and formulate a strategy to get them to happily follow you to a new place. This means you need to have a solid understanding of the challenges they’re facing – not just the ones they’re talking with you about, but also the ones they don’t even know they have yet.

2. Teach Your Prospects About the Challenges They Don’t Know They Have

If you are one of the millions of solution sellers, you can probably write the script of the discovery call in advance, right? You are so familiar with the challenges your clients will tell you about, it makes that first call mostly a formality. Believe me – it feels like it for the prospect, too.

If you want to make an impact and increase your sales, acknowledge the problems your prospect knows they have, and then illustrate the ones they haven’t even thought of yet. This takes an understanding of their business that comes from experience in solving the same issues for dozens of other clients.

A few years ago I was training to run in a Tough Mudder race here in Southern California. While training I hurt my lower back, then started experiencing some pretty bad sciatica. Multiple trips to the chiropractor did nothing for me.

I then went to a deep tissue specialist who completely ignored my back, but instead showed me that the problem was really in my over-tight hamstrings. He took the time to teach me about a problem I didn’t even know I had. The fee was twice what my chiropractor charged, but he got 100% of my business from then on, because he re-framed my problem and sold me on a solution that addressed my real issue.

3. Take Your Client into the Blue Ocean

Many sellers operate in very competitive spaces, so blending in is a very big risk. They look for unique selling techniques to differentiate themselves, but prospects often have difficulty telling the difference between vendor offerings because sellers don’t do a good enough job differentiating their products. The result is predictable – it becomes a battle fought on price. In this kind of selling environment, it’s better to be thrown out of the building than to be forgotten. Creating a blue ocean for prospects to swim in with sellers is key to this.

In order to take prospects out of the blood-red waters of whatever market they’re positioned in, sellers need real support from their organizations. They need data to back up their bold claims, and they need the confidence to puff out their chest a bit and boldly state what makes their solution 1 of 1 with confidence.

Key to this approach is having the right content to share with the right prospects at the right time. The thing is, there’s a huge gap between marketing and sales. Sellers often struggle to find content, and often resort to using old, outdated pieces, or creating their own. Neither approach is effective. A good sales and marketing enablement platform bridges this gap and makes sellers more effective at their job.

Creating a Blue Ocean selling environment, backed up by timely powerful content, allows sellers to set yourself apart from the crowd and make the competition irrelevant. The results is more closed deals at or near list price.

4. Use Archimedes’ Lever

Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” What levers are at your disposal? Is it strong sales engineering staff, professional services leaders, sales management, or maybe executive management? Plan to leverage (see what I did there) all the resources at your disposal to broaden your contact base, build champions, and accelerate time frames. It’s key to get your various teammates involved early – C-Level executives are not wizards, and they can’t wave a magic wand to turn around a deal that’s already gone sideways.

Again, one of the resources that shouldn’t be overlooked is sales and marketing content. Great sellers know when to use which piece, and don’t waste hours on end customizing the content. The best sellers use smart, predictive, personalized content to engage with their prospects. Seismic allows sellers to customize collateral for their prospects in minutes – even using live data inputs from CRM or other applications to truly differentiate themselves.

One of my mentors has a saying that I love, “Winners consistently use more than their fair share of resources”. Sellers need to be better about using all the tools at their disposal.

5. Be Grateful

Don’t be afraid to share your gratitude with everyone involved with your transaction, including your client. Sellers that focus on recognizing their teammates’ efforts always have stronger relationships. Recognition could range from a simple hand-written thank you note to a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn, but thanks are in order.

Record-breaking deals are always the result of teamwork. Don’t be afraid to be generous in your recognition. Give your team incentive to work hard for you again and again. You’ll all rise together.

That’s it for my quick list. What other things do you consistently use to ensure success and increase sales?