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B2B Sales and Campaign Management: What Does it Actually Take to Win?

Image Credit: Financial Times

Leadership Contests are also Big Sales Campaigns

You may have noticed that there is a certain sales campaign going on right now, which will result in the UK having a new Prime Minister at the end of summer.

Politics aside, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at this kind of process and break it down into its component parts, so let’s look at what’s really going on and how each competitor can influence their chances of winning - or losing.

This type of campaign is relevant to those of us in sales or with our own businesses is because we are engaged in sales campaigns every single day, whether we realise it or not; it’s what we do.

This particular type of sales campaign is known as a “head-to-head”.

Head-to-head campaigns should only be used when you have an obvious and unarguable advantage over your competition

Head to heads are Ali versus Foreman, England versus Germany, Truss v Sunak.

They are notoriously costly in terms of resourcing and bruising in terms of outcome.

Anyway, back to the leadership contest. Truss and Sunak have no choice but to go head-to-head with each other.

So this article breaks down the process and identifies the “levers” they could pull to increase their chances of winning…or losing!

Component parts of a Campaign Strategy:

The Message:

The prospective candidates’ sales “message” can be likened in this situation to a value proposition or solution for the customer.

Suppose they have listened carefully to the customer or target audience wants to buy. In that case, they will have identified pain points and concerns, so their campaigns are directed at persuading those stakeholders that theirs is the right solution; theirs is the right sales message to win the contest.

What Message does your target market want or need to hear from you?

You can only really understand your target audience by engaging with or listening to them. By listening to your audience, you encourage them to discuss their individual pains, their needs and to tell you what they really think about your messages.

You build Trust; Trust is the bedrock of all human relationships.

Target Audience

It is essential to recognise that the target audience could change as the process continues and that means your sales campaign messages may also need to change in order to land effectively with the new target audience.

Your message should also take account of variables over which you have no control – e.g., new information comes to light which changes the facts on the ground or there is a change in market dynamics or sentiment

If so, your sales campaign message may need to change accordingly, in order that your team continues to demonstrate how your solution or message still the new needs of your target audience.

This is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate leadership and insight, which can help differentiate your campaigns from your competitor’s.

For example, at the start of the Truss/Sunak campaign, messages were for the target audience - the 365 Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs).

However, as the campaign has moved on to a new part of the selection process, there is a new target audience to sell to - the 165,000 or so party faithful.

This new audience will have a wider variety of opinions, just like the audiences in your sales campaigns. Your financial audience will have one set of needs and your IT audience will have a different set of needs and so on.

Your campaign needs to persuade all stakeholders that yours is the winning message by explaining how your strategy, your solution meets the differing needs of your target audience.

You need to land the right message at the right time with the right stakeholder group

Stakeholder Groups

In this instance, your stakeholders are:

  • Your campaign team, which includes sales and company executives who are supporting YOU, as the salesperson of record

  • Subject Matter Experts to give your solution credibility

  • Influential contacts who support your message (“champions”)

  • Target Audience - the people you're selling to

Stakeholder groups have to be managed and communicated with at the right time with the right message if they are going to help you win!

Threats to Your Campaign:

We always have to think about the potential threats, blockers or detractors to our campaign

Think: “What could cause us to lose?”

These could include the changing needs of the customer over time, the changing dynamics of the market we operate in or indeed, an emerging or as yet unseen threat.

An object lesson here is to never underestimate how much a competitor can threaten your campaign and so your strategy should inoculate you against specific threats or messages that your competitor may claim.

For example, just as we protected ourselves from the coronavirus by taking a vaccine, we can also protect our campaigns from competitor strategies and inoculate ourselves ahead of time, before they happen.

What does Inoculate Mean in Practice?

Well, it could be that your competitor will try to nullify your sales message. For instance, they could assert that your approach to fighting inflation (sic) is wrong for any number of reasons.

You could inoculate yourself against this message by pre-empting it in advance, explaining why your solution is credible and will work. Even better, you could reference credible, independent research on the matter which supports your strategy.

You have inoculated yourself against your competitor’s counterclaims or opinions.

Changing Market Conditions

You must understand at each moment what battle you are fighting and who your competitor is.

The rules of the game could change over the course of a campaign, in which case your message may also have to change to address the new market dynamics.

Does the Customer Trust You?

At the end of the day, you can have complete mastery of all of the above component parts of your strategy but if the customer doesn't trust you, then you're toast before you've even started.

As Warren Buffett once said:

Trust takes a lifetime to build and 5-minutes to destroy


  • Head-to-Head strategy is resource intensive; Ideally, you should only use it when you have a commanding, undoubted advantage

  • Listen to your Target Audience

  • Manage Your Stakeholder Groups

  • Campaign dynamics – when facts change, the message also has to

  • Does the Customer Trust You?

What do you think?

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