Lessons from the Frontlines: How to Sell When No-One’s Buying

Apr 26, 2021
Author: Julia Nimchynska

Speaking your customer’s language has always been an essential to successful sales. Customers want to know that you understand their problems – and know how to solve them. As Justin Michaels and Tony J. Hughes outline in their book, personalized conversation is the ultimate amplifier for conversions. 

Unfortunately, many businesses aren’t as attuned to their customer’s language as they’d think. Though virtually every company in the current landscape believes in the power of relevant, customized selling, only 31% of consumers feel that marketers are approaching personalization in the right way.  

It’s time to learn a new language – and fast. We conducted research with hundreds of B2B sales leaders to figure out what it’s going to take to speak your customer’s language in the new age of sales.

Language to Win in an Age of Uncertainty

Throughout 2020, the world has moved rapidly into a new state of digital buying and selling. This means that our sales teams can no longer rely on things like body language and eye contact to get their point across. 

Although we can convey some meaning through video conferencing, it’s not the same as being face-to-face in a room with your audience. Whether reps realize it or not, this in-person non-verbal communication is a huge part of strengthening the connections between brands and consumers. Around 93% of all communication is non-verbal. 

The limitations that 2020  imposed on modern communications appear in the outcomes of today’s sales efforts. Our research shows that win rates are dropping drastically – by around 10%. 

All the while, consumers are spending more of their time online, averaging a 12% increase in site traffic for B2B SaaS companies. Email open rates are up, WhatsApp and other messaging services are becoming mainstream. The question is, how do you adjust your sales language to suit this new landscape?

Replacing Body Language with Clear Messages

Lower win rates and reduced spending power among today’s companies are putting sales rep into panic mode. Normally, we’d double down on presentations and demos – but that’s not possible in the current landscape. When body language and face-to-face interactions aren’t an option, we need to find other ways to make valuable, emotional connections with consumers

On the one hand, digital transformation in the sales landscape is problematic. It means that we’re spending less time on the genuine face-to-face interactions that strengthen consumer and brand relationships. On the other hand, this evolution also means that we’re constantly connected to our customers. 

The move into the digital landscape means that consumers are less interested in getting a song and dance from the companies they work with. People don’t have time for a complicated sales process – they want something that’s tailored to their needs – and they want it now.  

One of the trends we discovered in our research, was that you can connect with your customers on a deeper level, and speed up the conversation by adding SMS to the playbook. In our studies we discovered that the average number of touchpoints in a sales conversation after COVID increased to 26. However, adding SMS to the playbook reduced the number of touchpoints required by 19%.

Business Language

Creating an Empathetic Sales Journey

There’s a lot of conversation right now about empathy in the sales process. People want to know that the companies they’re buying from care about them. Unfortunately, a lot of the empathy that organizations show comes across as flat, empty, and stale.

Consider how most companies deal with global emergencies. It’s common to send out piles of emails to clients, letting them know you’re “in this together”. But most of these messages aren’t clear and specific enough to hit the right chord.

In simple terms, showing empathy isn’t just about making meaningful statements – you need to find the words that really matter to your target audience. Using the analytics available from your sales enablement and CRM tools, you can adjust your messaging to be: 

  • Concise: People don’t have time to scroll through the same messages they get from every company about unity and support. They want to know the facts. What are you going to do for your audience right now? 
  • Relevant: As Founder of Marketing Think, Gerry Moran suggests, your sales messages should always put the other person first. Step into your customer’s shoes and figure out what they need from you.  
  • Clear: Don’t make your audience work to understand the benefits of your proposition. Make it clear what you can deliver immediately. Highlight the results you can offer and focus on the needs of your customer first.  

You’ll also need to ensure that you’re delivering empathy through the right selection of platforms. Around 70% of sales teams are now embracing the digital landscape according to LinkedIn. Additionally, more sales journeys are starting with digital platforms, like LinkedIn.

The most successful sales journeys in our research went from LinkedIn to SMS, then email. Sales teams that connected with customers on LinkedIn before the demo were also 18% more likely to progress to the next stage of the buyer journey.

The Quest for Genuine Empathy

Getting language right in your sales strategies has always been a complex process.

We know that 95% of buyer decisions come from emotion, not logic. That means that if you want to connect with your target audience, you need to find a way to resonate with them on an emotional level. This ties back to the current trend of “empathy”. 

Showing your consumers that you not only recognize their pains, but empathize with them, is a great way to strengthen your emotional connection. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to approach empathy from the right angle. Too much talk and not enough action can make sales pitches seem inauthentic.

For instance, telling your audience that you understand that they’re struggling to maintain their bottom line is fine. However, it’s not very empathetic if you can’t offer any suitable ways to help your customers with this problem. There’s a big difference between nodding along when someone tells you about their revenue losses, and giving that same client a payment holiday, or new payment structure to help them survive this difficult time.  

In our research into the current sales landscape, we found that businesses got a 15% higher open rate for sales messages that demonstrate growth and cost benefits for a new investment. These teams showed their customers that they understood their financial issues and proved that they could solve those problems.  

Be honest from day one about the costs and benefits that you can offer to your clients.

Notably, our most recent research indicates that discounts aren’t the only way to reach your audience. While companies offering discounts achieved around 22% more deals per month, companies offering extended trials increased their won deals per month by 56%. This suggests that companies are more likely to stick with your brand if they have more time to test your solutions themselves.

home office

It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Adjusting your sales language to be direct and personal means figuring out how to change your language to suit your customers. However, in this new landscape, it’s also important to think about how and where you’re approaching conversations with each client.   

Since face-to-face interactions are no longer an option, you’ll need to consider what kind of communication methods are most comfortable and appealing for your target audience. Can you open up a new channel on WhatsApp where your clients can message you if they don’t want to rely on email? 

If your consumers aren’t available in their usual office environment to answer a call, can you set up a group meeting over the web instead? You may find that video and screen sharing makes it easier for you to demonstrate information in a context where visual cues are crucial.  

All the while, adapting these new solutions will mean ensuring that your Work-from-home sales team is properly equipped to handle the challenges of new communication standards. Do teams have access to the right video and audio equipment from their home office? Can you provide access to a secure connection to a VPN, and deliver software over the cloud? 

In a world where the standard sales playbook is evolving, team leaders and managers will need to reconsider how they train and support their employees. The strategies you relied on in the past may not be suitable today. Companies may need to invest in more exercises to equip their employees for the virtual landscape.  Artificial intelligence is becoming an increasingly valuable tool in this landscape. 

The Gartner Future of Sales report for 2025 believes that 60% of organizations will transition to data-based selling going forward. Our own research found that implementing AI-based suggestions and guided selling into the sales journey led to a 30% increased chance of winning deals.


Changing Value Propositions with the Situation

Speaking of the sales playbook, this documentation can be a powerful starting point for a sales team adapting to a new landscape. However, business leaders need to remember what playbooks really are – guidelines.  

To truly personalize the language of a sale to the customer in question, you can’t stick to the same script for everyone. Instead, agents need to have the freedom to adjust their message according to the problems that customers are genuinely facing. Remember, it’s not about what you’re selling, it’s about what your customer is buying.

Having access to a complete customer profile whenever an interaction begins will be crucial for today’s sales team. These agents won’t have time to hop between messages on LinkedIn, and Email, then cross-reference that data with the CRM entry for a customer. Companies will have to get used to combining all of the right info into a full user profile. 

Your sales engagement and optimization tools will help you to keep a closer eye on customer data so that each agent can step into the shoes of a customer and position their offer as essential. It’s also worth ensuring that you equip your playbooks with plenty of case studies and examples to reference.  

Hard examples of the benefits that you can deliver are essential in this environment. Companies can’t afford to take chances with tools and solutions they’re not sure of. McKinsey predicts that spending is going to fall by around 50% in the years ahead. With your customers facing issues like lost sales and furloughed employees too – you need your solution to appear as a sure thing.


Leading the Business to Ongoing Revenue

Relationships between companies and their customers have always been at the heart of sales success. Moving into the world following 2020’s unexpected events, these relationships will be more essential than ever. Remember, it costs up to five times more to attract new customers than it does to keep one. 

Leading your sales team towards predictable and ongoing revenue means showing them how to adapt their language and their conversational styles to suit your target audience. However, as the world is in a state of constant transition right now, it’s crucial to remember that your new language will always be evolving too. 

Companies will need to stay one step ahead of the requirements and expectations that their customers have. The right information makes it easier for businesses to maintain relationships with existing customers. At the same time, feedback and insights from current customers often make it easier to appeal to new clients too. 

A closed-loop environment where you can ask your clients for frequent insights into their sales experience will help you to develop new opportunities for the future. You’ll even be able to get feedback from your sales team and measure which of your employees are getting the best results.  

For most companies, the key to ongoing success in this new environment will be the right combination of critical information and constant analytics.  

Sales leaders should also be investing in automated solutions that can help them to save time on coaching and back-and-forth conversations. We found that adjusting the tech stack with a new concentration on guided selling reduced the amount of time managers had to spend on repetitive sales calls by 25%, and allowed for more streamlined selling.

Discover the New Language of Sales

Language is at the heart of everything we do as sales professionals. If you want to reach your audience, then you need to make sure that you’re speaking in terms that they understand. Right now, in a time of confusion and overwhelming panic, having the right resonance with your consumers has never been more critical. 

The good news for today’s sales teams is that although the path to the future will be tricky, we do have the tools available to help us achieve our goals. Access to sales enablement software, CRM technology, and endless systems for analytics will give your company the power to grow.  

Don’t just make assumptions about what your audience wants to hear.


About the Author:

Julia Nimchynska

Julia loves all things innovation, productivity, and tech. Currently, she’s helping companies increase their ROE (Return on Customer Engagement) at revenuegrid.com

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