As a Cleveland native, one of the things I’m looking forward to most this spring is cheering on my hometown team, the Cleveland Indians. Even though we just celebrated opening day,
the Indians are favored to win their 3rd straight division title this year.
As a fan, I’ve certainly enjoyed celebrating the success of the Tribe over the past three seasons, especially after the very long championship drought we Cleveland loyal have had to endure.
And as someone who has made his career in B2B lead generation and sales, I can’t help but uncover some meaningful B2B sales lessons we can learn from this winning organization.
1. Success Built on Strategy
The Indians’ franchise began their recent successful tenure by developing a long-term strategy that went beyond a single season’s comeback.
By strategically leveraging their farm system to ensure a solid foundation of strong players who could deliver over the long haul, the team wisely invested in their future. So now, even after three winning seasons, a close look at their roster indicates a championship caliber line-up in place for years to come.
The same strategy can (and should) be applied to ensure a healthy sales pipeline. It’s natural for a sales team to focus on the short-term wins and solid deals that are approaching a close, by putting only your high-value clients in the hands of top-performing salespeople.
But in order to keep your sales team in the game season after season, there should always be a continuous effort to drive top-of-funnel sales with a high-level group dedicated to slugging it out, making the calls and qualifying prospects.
Without this kind of long-term strategy, you may find yourself in a revenue slump with a long rebuilding period.
It’s tempting to focus only on your big revenue players, the ones making the headlines and bringing in the immediate runs – but in doing so, you risk a “senior year” team that needs to be completely rebuilt after the big sales are closed.
Avoid this outcome by nurturing the big players, and letting your seasoned closers handle them – but also keep investing in top-of-funnel efforts that will continue to deliver qualified prospects to feed your long-term plan for growth and success.
If your internal sales team doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the “scouting” necessary to qualify prospects, consider outsourcing to seasoned professionals who can dedicate 100% of their time to making calls and finding new opportunities.
2. A Small Market Doesn’t Have to Mean Small Wins
With a population of around 385,000, Cleveland is a relatively small city in the U.S. Even if you take in the metropolitan area with about 2.5M, it is still a small market city compared to juggernauts like LA, NYC, Chicago and other major league markets.
The Cleveland Indians are also, comparatively, a small payroll team. In 2016 they landed the 24th spot on the MLB payroll list. 2017 saw them rise to number 17 but they are still far from competing for the top spot with the bigger franchises.
How does this small market team with a modest payroll compete against the big players?
Having a long-term strategy ensures a continuous line-up of quality new talent, but the Tribe’s success also comes from getting their “at bats” in front of the big players.
If the formula for a winning team was just about budgets and payroll then we would see the same teams rise to the top year after year making for a predictable postseason.
Once both teams are on the field, the size of the franchise becomes insignificant and it’s about the talent and dedication of the players.
Regardless of size or level of competition, getting your “at bat,” your chance to get in front of the right audience and tell your story, is more important than your budget or name recognition.
Success in B2B sales is about getting in front of the right audience, the key decision makers, and creating a meaningful interaction that will make you stand out from the crowd.
If you rely solely on content and digital marketing to get the word out, you are competing against the world for ad space and a subject line in overcrowded email inboxes. Don’t limit yourself.
If you have the right solution, product or service for a prospect or industry, make the effort to get in front of them by picking up the phone and talking with them.
When you do have your chance at the plate, it’s imperative to have the right players with the talent and experience needed for B2B sales.
Invest in a line-up of executive callers who can speak on a peer-to-peer level with C-suite decision makers, and you will have the right players in front of the right audience telling your story. It’s all about getting those good “at bats”.