What’s the Formula for Winning Quicker, Bigger Deals?

5 Jan 24

There are many ways to drive commercial productivity—one of which involves training sellers to adopt a different approach that resonates better with buyers.

When Sales isn’t bringing in the numbers you’re hoping for, what is the first potential solution that comes to mind? Increase Sales headcount? Or do you take a closer look at Sales productivity and try to figure out how to raise the overall effectiveness of each Sales rep? Option two could be more bang for your buck if it’s done right.

There are many ways to raise the productivity of your Sales reps, and this article focuses on sales velocity and its relationship with natural combinations of competencies and behaviors in salespeople—which we’ve classified into four patterns that we call “seller approaches”.

We conducted a study on this in 2023 as a follow-up to the insights from our Q1 2023 CEO Survey, where nearly 70% of respondents reported flat or declining commercial productivity—reflected by observable trends in deal size, deal velocity, and seller productivity.

What’s interesting here is that these executives said that their companies had reasonable pipelines, yet were lacking in deal velocity and conversion, which says that this is less about demand and more about the interaction between sales reps and potential customers. The desire to understand this misalignment between what sales reps are doing and what potential customers want to hear is what led us to take a closer look.

The four types of seller approaches

Our study involved assessing hundreds of salespeople on a long list of sales behaviors, from which we could derive patterns of specific behaviors that naturally co-present more often in sellers. We call these four profiles, “seller approaches”, which we describe briefly below.

  1. The Narrowing Approach (34% of sellers) involves narrowing a buyer’s set of consideration by prescribing next steps, removing potential distractions, and encouraging a quick close. The seller tries to drive urgency in buyers and work to build the buyer’s trust in them as an expert that has the buyer’s best interests in mind.
  2. The Provoking Approach (19% of sellers) involves engaging pipelines mainly through tailored outreach—sharing insights and high-quality thought leadership marketing content. The seller tries to drive reconsideration in buyers by leveraging marketing content to try and reframe how customers perceive their business issues.
  3. The Translating Approach (25% of sellers) involves taking more of a customer-centric point of view to show how the solution creates value in a very customer-specific context. The seller tries to gain buyer acceptance by first learning all they can about the buyer’s challenges and their industry so they can help the buyer envision exactly how the solution will help their company.
  4. The Anticipating Approach (22% of sellers) involves planning ahead to remove potential obstacles in the buyer’s journey and facilitate a smooth close. The seller tries to maintain deal momentum by collaborating internally to anticipate and remove potential obstacles, creating a low risk buying process. This approach also requires the seller to know their potential buyer thoroughly beforehand.

Historically, the Narrowing approach has been the one most highly advocated by sales managers—as many as 41%, according to our survey findings. However, in an era where many companies are struggling with uncertainty in their respective industries, pushing buyers for a quicker decision is backfiring, leading to a 20% extension in sales cycle time.

The Narrowing and Provoking approaches—which involve pushing the seller’s process and ideas onto the buyer—now has an opposite effect on today’s buyers, leading them to be more resistant as they become overwhelmed with information.

On the other hand, Translating and Anticipating are more empathetic to the buyer’s context and process—giving buyers the context and clarity they need to envision success on their own projects with the seller’s product. These pull-based approaches are proving to be more effective and efficient, leading to shorter sales cycles as well as larger deal sizes.

Prioritized approach Average change in sales cycle time Average change in deal size
Narrowing 20% longer 7% larger
Provoking 22% longer 9% larger
Translating 1% shorter 16% larger
Anticipating 12% shorter 11% larger

Figure 1: Productivity improvement from prioritizing different sales approaches.

However, it is interesting to note that training sellers to adopt any of these commercial disciplines will still create incremental value where deal sizes are concerned, which highlights the importance of having good coaching and enablement programs in place.

If you have yet to read the full report, “Delivering Sales Velocity in Today’s Market”, you can download it here for free. In this report, we go into more details on our research methodology, inferences on the trends mentioned, our explanation of the findings, as well as next steps to help your organization lay the foundations for increased sales velocity in the coming year.