Lessons in B2B Sales Excellence from Mischief Night

We got TP’d. Or toilet papered. Or rolled. Or whatever you call it, it happened. Turns out Mischief Night is a thing here in New Jersey. On Oct 30th, teenagers head out at night and do just what the name implies, get up to mischief. With a teenager and pre-teen in the house, it was inevitable that we’d become the target of some good natured fun.

Around 8:30 that evening, I heard some voices outside when my nine-year-old shouted “Dad, come look!” Sure enough, there was a group of 4 or 5 teenagers out throwing toilet paper rolls up into our trees as well as streaking it through our bushes. I got a good laugh out of it, especially as I could hear them outside excitedly giggling away as they carried out their not-so-sinister deeds. Not exactly the most stealth operation, but not everyone can be a professional. They may have even been so bold as to call my daughter afterwards and invite her to join them in going to the next house…a daughter who may or may not have gleefully agreed only to return hours later with stories of other not-so-sinister deeds. 

I let their artwork stay up for a few days before I figured the neighbours were tired of looking at my trees decorated as mummies. As I was attempting to clean it up, I found myself complaining about a few things. Not the fact that I had to clean it up, but rather that it turned out to take more skill than I anticipated. As a learning professional, and a reflector by nature, often does when completing mindless tasks, I reflected on the lessons I was needing to learn in order to get the job done. I quickly realized, as silly as this sounds, there were some things that the sales professionals I work with could take away from my experience. So here are the top 5 things I learned while trying to clean up toilet paper: 

1. Know your audience

It turns out I know those normally-well-behaved hooligans well. And they know me. They knew I would find it funny and wouldn’t take offense. 

In a sales context, every prospect’s needs are different. Therefore you need to do your homework and put in the work to understand those needs before you ever make a pitch. If you’re pitching a product that will potentially will both increase up-time on a piece of equipment and reduce service costs, but the person making the decision’s bonus is only based on cost reduction, focus on that in your pitch more than up-time.

2. Use the right tools

As I was trying to get the toilet paper out of the high branches, I found myself having to return to my shed repeatedly to get different tools. And in the end, I didn’t quite have the right ones so there may still be a few strands of TP on branches outside of my reach. Ladders were needed, extension poles, and blowers were all used to clean up the mess. 

B2B sales often boils down to one’s ability to make meaningful connections with people.  But having the opportunity to make those connections is dependent on having the right tools. Use your CRM to track your activities, manage your calendar, and set up reminders for followup. Have a generic pitch deck that can be quickly customised to the needs of your prospects (see above) to save time. Or have portfolios, case studies, white papers, or anything else that can be quickly shared with a prospect when they “don’t have time right now.” 

3. Use the right tactics

I quickly learned there is an art to removing toilet paper from a pine tree. And simply pulling on it only ends up making your job harder when the strand inevitably breaks over and over again. I found myself using both ends of a broom to gently lift and guide the TP out of the branches. Or using an extension pole to carefully wrap the TP around the end like a fork in a bowl of spaghetti.

In sales, different tactics work for different industries. At some level sales is a numbers game. The more outreach you make, the more chances you’ll have of finding someone looking for your services. In some cases a high number of cold outreaches will yield a low but acceptable level of response. In other cases you need to be more methodical and focused. Some sales are more transactional, some take years to cultivate. Learn the tactics that work best for your industry, then work to master them. 

4. Have a team

My yard didn’t end up looking like a tornado hit a bed-sheet factory simply due to the efforts of 1 person. It was a team effort. 4 or 5 teenagers were able to accomplish the task in minutes. And they were there to egg each other on, even when a few of them had doubts as to whether they should do it. (Yes, we could make a tangent about peer pressure here, but we’ll keep it positive). 

In sales, nobody succeeds alone. Most B2B sales are team efforts by nature, but not everyone views themselves as part of the sales team. Or some sellers don’t see the value in having others on the team. Learn how to make the most of your internal resources, whether it’s the sales engineering team, the sales enablement teams, the operations teams, or maybe the fulfilment team. Tapping into their expertise and showing as a united front to clients is a powerful combination. And it always helps to have others to “egg-you-on” when you’re having second thoughts about reaching out to a high profile client. 

5. Be patient and persistent

It took those boys less than 5 minutes to accomplish their task (and that’s only because I turned the light on halfway through to scare them). It took me over an hour to remove the evidence, and even then I still didn’t get it all out of the trees. Yes it was a minor annoyance, but it did make me reflect on the value of patience and persistence in doing sometimes menial but necessary tasks. 

In B2B sales, play the long game. When you’re first getting started, this can be really hard. You want to deliver results, and your organisation expects you deliver results. But to build a sustainable and meaningful book of business, there is no substitute for time and effort. Take the time to cultivate those important relationships. Send the extra emails. Make one more phone call. Do this day in and day out, and the results will follow. 

Bonus Lessons (not necessarily sales related, but good lessons none-the-less): 

What goes around comes around

As I was picking up toilet paper, you better believe I reflected on all the people who had to pick up toilet paper from their yards as a result of my teenage-level nefarious antics from my youth. It was probably fitting that I had to clean up my yard. 

Have fun

Work can be hard, life can be hard, sales IS hard, so do what you can to have a little fun along the way. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it needs to be a hardship. Find ways to infuse a bit of levity into what you do, and you’ll find a bit of unexpected energy injected into other areas of your life.