Selling to businesses is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of ideas, techniques and co-operations that can enhance or destroy careers in a very short time period.
If we are still selling in the same way we did last year, we are out-of-date and run the risk if being fodder to those companies advancing in the sales world.
Your B2B sales strategies need to be constantly updated if you are to even maintain your position in the market place, never mind enhancing it. Here are some techniques that will help you stay relevant in your industry:
1) Be aware that companies don’t buy your products or services
In today’s B2B world, we need to see that our products won’t do the selling job for us. Gone are the days when our customers couldn’t get products like ours only from us.
Instead, customers today have more choice than ever, so the products you sell are only the conduits to a bigger picture.
People buy the results your products will bring for them and their businesses. Therefore, the first B2B sales technique you need to employ is to sell the short, medium and long-term results your customers will get from using you.
2) Recognise the impact social media has on image, brand and confidence
Like it or loathe it, it has a massive impact on how people will make decisions, either through looking at product reviews or picking up the vibes of peers who have experienced your services before them.
You need to embrace the concepts of how people seek solutions these days, so have your ear to the ground, build your reputation through the social world and accept that today’s B2B sales world is driven by us being social animals.
3) Become an influencer on LinkedIn
With over 600 million people on the professional, personalised website, your approach to LinkedIn can enhance your chances of building your reputation in your market or leave it stone-cold dead in the water.
Being an influencer entails showing people your value upfront, encouraging people to approach you instead of vice-versa and building your reputation for quality and knowledge in your industry and your world. B2B sales techniques today can only be enhanced by having a strong LinkedIn presence.
Become the kind of person prospects would want to link up with, and your whole sales world will be revolutionised
4) Know more about your competition than your prospects do
Not much is worse than a customer of yours saying they are leaving you for a competitor, and you never saw it coming.
There are many ways to keep up with the competition these days and no excuses not to. B2B sales skills involves being aware of what is new in your market, counteracting their advancements with ideas of your own and helping prospects see how they would be better off with your solutions.
5) Be professional in your researching
If you think you’ve done all the research on a company by simply looking at their website, think again.
B2B sales techniques these days involve deep-diving into the companies you are looking to partner with, analysing their goals, their vision, their ideologies, their pains, their strengths and their future directions. It is possible today to find out everything you need to know about a company and the buyers there by deep research.
Enhance your B2B sales skills by doing the necessary leg work before contacting them, and you’ll be able to give them many more reasons to talk to you, other than you having a quality product.
The best B2B salespeople today think less of trying to sell their products and more about enhancing the long-term relationship with their customers. This involves looking at the long-term results your customers will enjoy by using your products and services, and concentrating on selling those results instead of highlighting your products.
In conversations with salespeople, we sometimes ask if they know the differences between prospects’ needs and prospects’ wants.
It may sound pedantic, but it can make a real difference in presenting solutions.
Oftentimes, prospects will confuse their wants with their needs and vice versa.
Their needs often revolve around the business; their wants often revolve around their personal gains. So, it’s important to identify needs and wants when it comes to deciding on which direction you will go with the prospect.
For example, they may say that they want a bigger discount from you.
You need to determine the reason for this. Just because your competitor is offering a higher discount, or is cheaper than you’re offering, is not a valid reason, or a need.
You need to be absolutely clear on what the rationale is they are using to request this. You must identify if this is a customer need or want.
It could be they are simply being greedy. Or they have to justify the price they are paying to your boss.
Or (and this could be the main need) they have to make more revenue and think that getting a bigger discount from you will help them achieve that.
This is why it’s necessary to understand the difference between need and wants.
Basically, a need is something that solves a real or imagined problem. A want is simply something that would be nice to have. So, here you have recognised that the real need is to increase revenue, and they want you to increase discounts in order to achieve that end goal, or need. Understanding the customer’s need is not the same as understanding the want.
It may be possible, then, for them to increase their revenue by selling more of your products, and identifying how their business operations can be adjusted to accom-plish this could be a way forward.
It entails being a consultant to their business, rather than a salesperson of goods and services.
But it offers a level of service that other competitors may not have offered before.
A need, then, outweighs a want in its achieving of business goals. Can you see why it’s necessary to differentiate and understand need and wants?
Determining how you can uncover those needs creates a closer relationship and identifies a stronger force in the decision-making process.
Some people have fears about what will happen in their business if they don’t achieve their goals.
By helping them move away from those situations, you lessen the fears and help them build confidence.
Others have opportunities to achieve goals and they need help to move towards them.
This is a chance for you to discuss the gains they would get from your products and services.
Either way, by uncovering a real need, the door starts to open toward making a de-cision that will ultimately help them attain their needs and their wants.
That will help them improve their businesses and they’ll thank you for supporting them in that achievement.
While setting appointments on the telephone seems to be becoming increasingly difficult, the need and importance of being able to pick up the phone and set quality appointments remains high. Yes, there are now many alternative prospecting ave-nues available to the astute sales person. However, in most sales processes, cold or warm, you still have to make a call.
How can you set appointments over the phone? What can you do to achieve this goal while still being professional?
Here are three very powerful, yet extremely simple tips to keep in mind when you pick up that phone to set an appointment.
#1. Do Not Sell Your Product or Service
I know it seems obvious that when you call to set an appointment, you are not call-ing to try to make the sale over the telephone. However, most sales people fall into the trap of selling the product or service in the process.
Remember, you are selling the appointment, not the product.
While attempting to set an appointment, the prospect objects. The problem is that usually the objection is a “buying” objection. The prospect says something like, “I can’t afford your product or service right now…,” or “I am happy with my current supplier…” or something of that sort. Those are objections to making a purchase, and the normal response is to answer and try to overcome such objections.
When this happens, the prospect is objecting to BUYING and the sales person is trying to CLOSE. Think about that. Why on earth are you trying to close the sale at this stage of the sales process? You are trying to sell the appointment.
Neither you nor the prospect should even be thinking about making a buying deci-sion at this point! Be careful not to fall into that trap. Instead, help the prospect un-derstand that you are not asking for a buying decision; you are not asking for their business. All you want is a meeting and focus on that.
Remember; you are setting the appointment, not the sale.
#2. Build the Value of the Appointment Itself
When setting appointments over the phone, you should be focusing on just setting the appointment only. In other words, you need to SELL the appointment ONLY.
That is, sell the value of the meeting on its own merits. When setting an appoint-ment on the phone, often the prospect feels that to meet with you will be a waste of their time if they do not believe they will buy; and since they have not yet seen your sales presentation, that is only natural.
Therefore, you need to help the prospect understand that they receive VALUE, they get some return on their investment of time, just to meet with you, regardless of if they choose to buy what you are selling or not. Figure out the reasons how the pro-spect benefits just by talking to you, and sell those benefits. The selling of the ap-pointment on the phone can achieve this.
#3. Alternate of Choice
Finally, in setting the appointment on the phone, use a strong ‘alternate of choice’ close. Give the prospect two choices and narrow down the parameters.
“So Sarah, are mornings good for you to talk for a few minutes, or are the after-noons more convenient?”
“Paul, I can meet with you next Thursday sometime, or would a Monday be better?”
“Sean, we can get together Friday at 4:00 pm, or would Monday morning be easier with your schedule?”
Don’t try to sell the product or service, just sell the appointment. On the phone, the appointment is the product they are buying. Build the value of that appointment on its own merits
Use the old, but reliable alternate of choice close and you will set more appoint-ments!
Making appointments over the phone can be difficult enough these days. By follow-ing the above ideas, you increase your chances, but only if you remember exactly what you are selling on the phone; the appointment!
We all know that sales are based mostly on emotion and the decision is backed up with logic.
That’s the law of the salesperson! So, do we often come up with emotional selling points in our proposals? Do we develop our emotional selling propositions as well as our unique selling propositions?
You’ve heard of a USP right? i.e Unique Selling Proposition – well, these are the benefits that your prospects and clients can look forward to receiving when they purchase your wares.
They could be called “THE LOGICAL BENEFITS” of doing business with you.
Your Sales Manager and Sales Director will most likely ram USP’s down your throat so you can discuss them with your prospects.
But based upon what we said earlier, your prospects will make their buying decisions based upon emotion and will back that decision up with logic and not just logic alone via your USPs. Are USP’s really USP’s any longer? Everyone seems to have the same USP’s!
Therefore, you need to work out what your ESP is! So your emotional selling points can often take centre-stage for your prospects. Now we’ve mentioned emotional selling propositions a number of times, so let’s ask the question:
What is an Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP)?
Of course, your USP will provide logic and reasoning as to why someone should select you, but their primary reason will be an emotional one.
Here’s an emotional selling proposition definition: Your ESP’s are your products/service/companies’ emotional levers that help the prospect to buy. They are the “beneath the service” triggers to creates emotion.
So, think about the feelings and the emotions that you want to stir up with your prospects and clients and use this in your sales. Can your product/service make the prospect:
* Feel important
* Feel valued
* Feel part of a unique group or select band of people
* Feel whole
* Feel remembered
* Feel attractive
* Feel trendy
* Feel hip
* Feel safe
* Feel accepted
One way you can generate emotional feelings in your buyer is to ask different types of questions. You could divide them into positive and negative ones. A positive question would be like ‘How do you see your sales improving in the next three years?’ or ‘What benefits do your customers achieve from your services?’
Negative questions can also drive your emotional selling proposition, but in a different direction. Something like ‘What’s your biggest concern in your market place right now?’ or ‘How long has your business had these problems?’ point the emotional direction in a negative direction.
You emotional selling proposition drives the customer into thinking about how they feel about the situation they are in. Think of them as your emotional selling points and highlight them whenever you are asking your prospect to make a decision to move forward.
So, next time you are revisiting your USP’s make sure you take just as long if not longer on your emotional selling proposition too.
What exactly is ‘active listening’ and why can it be so difficult at times?
As the term suggests, active listening skills can be developed, as it is a skill. Like any skill, it can improve with practice. But we have to see the benefits of active listening in order for us to take it seriously.
Active listening can be defined as ‘the concept of listening that keeps you engaged in a conversation in a positive way’.
That positivity is important, because as soon as the conversation becomes even slightly negative, we tend to have the habit of withdrawing or counteracting the concepts the other person has with ideas of our own.
What does active listening look like?
Active listening has common features, including:
Asking for clarification
Summarising the essence of a conversation
Why is it so important to display this skill, especially in a sales setting?
Well, it embodies the whole professionalism of a sales consultant, in that it shows how important you consider the views, ideas and concepts of the prospect or customer.
When we are listened to, we feel valued, important and have an increased self-esteem. Our internal ego is stroked, and we view the listener as a ‘good communicator’ even though they might not actually say very much.
What are the results and benefits of active listening?
We earn the trust of the other person
We understand the meaning behind the other person’s intent
We can offer support and empathy to the speaker
We dig deeper into the needs and wants of the speaker
We show respect for the speaker
We validate the speaker’s opinions
We can ask questions that clarify issues for us
How to practice active listening?
What active listening exercises can we carry out?
Here are just a few ideas:
Keep eye contact with the other person. This send a positive message to the speaker that what they are saying is important and you are interested
Don’t interrupt. Nothing shouts louder that you’re not listening and are only interested in your own views than interrupting the other person
Don’t offer uninvited opinions or advice. This shows your listening mode is off and your self-mode is well and truly switched on!
Watch non-verbal behavioural cues. These are the gestures and subliminal messages the other person gives off in addition to what they actually say. It can give big clues as to how the person is really feeling
Slow down or stop your own self-talk. This is the voice inside your head which can drown out what the speaker is saying. It’s your unconscious biases, your subliminal judgements that interfere with your ability to listen actively
Ask questions for clarification. If there’s something you don’t quite get, ask for clarity, don’t just guess
Listen for meaning, not just facts. What could be the meaning behind what the person says? This deeper meaning will open up more opportunities for you when it’s your turn to share
Watch interviews on TV to see who and who doesn’t practice active listening. By watching people in panel shows or interview sessions, you pick up signals that show if they are or aren’t showing active listening skills. This will give evidence that you can become familiar with, and practice yourself
Active listening can be practiced in social settings to give you the confidence and motivation to apply it in more formal meeting situations. If you find active listening difficult, look at what social anxieties you may experience or any problems you have with inattention.
Being self-aware could be the first step in improving your active listening skills. There are many books on interpersonal skills that you may benefit from. By improving your active listening skills, you improve your overall value as a great communicator.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it’s essential that when you are selling your promises of a better future to your prospects, you are able to keep manageable records for those sales.
What are the benefits of a CRM system?
The benefits of CRM systems are manifold, and here we list some of them so you can be assured you’re going in the right direction for the long-term relationship you’re building for your company and your customers.
1) It helps you manage the overall customer experience
The customer doesn’t need to know very much about your company, its set-up, operations procedures, organisational hierarchy, investments and suchlike.
It’s vital, though, that you build your knowledge and awareness of those details, and more, of the businesses you deal with.
The overall experience the customer enjoys using your services will make or break future business opportunities, and the experience can be built around your record-keeping and use of knowledge through your CRM system.
What about some other benefits of a CRM system for you?
2) It gives you better information about their organisation
Customer knowledge is vital if you are to give a great support experience to your customers. A CRM system enables you to keep all relevant information about every department within their business.
The real benefits of a CRM system occur when you’re able to categorise the information you glean about a business into one integral tool that allows anyone in your company to access sup-to-date information at the touch of a button.
If the CRM system you use allows others to see information in the cloud, you don’t need to keep written records that can be easily mislaid or kept in just one salesperson’s file.
The value of the data you amass will obviously become valuable as time progresses.
3) It improves your communication processes across the board
As discussed above, the benefits of a CRM tool bring valuable information into one place. One clear advantage of this is the ability to expand the communication networks around your company and the customer’s.
Imagine if your main contact left the customer’s company. A CRM tool allows you to maintain the relationship with any new person who joins so you don’t have to start again, building relationships.
Everyone who ahs to deal with the company has easy access to information immediately, so communication within your own business becomes easy to monitor and address.
4) It reduces the impact of silos within your company
Silos exist in companies mainly because of the lack of or poorly executed communication between teams. The benefit of a CRM system is that it reduces the impact of that poor communication because teams are able to share the same information and hence aim towards a clear overall experience that they want the customer to enjoy.
All departments, including production, sales, admin, marketing and others, can have easy access to the information that will allow them to manage the sales process, right from pipeline management through to follow-up processes.
The benefits of CRM become clear when many departments are able to synergise their services to match and exceed the needs and desires of the customer’s business.
5) It enables a seamless customer service experience
Imagine the customer experiences a problem that needs to be solved urgently.
Instead of going through multiple hoops with your company, being passed from department to department, with information needing to be asked at every touchpoint, a CRM system that can be accessed by reception and one department will provide a seamless experience for the customer, as they see their query behind handled in a professional and data-driven way.
The main benefits of a CRM system become evident when its information is being utilised by just one department for every enquiry. This builds confidence in your company by the customer, as they enjoy the results of your company working together and providing the quality of service that enhances loyalty, even if things do go wrong.
The overall benefits of a robust CRM system can’t be overstated. Loyal customers are the lifeblood of your business and a quality system will allow you to provide people in your company with all the valued information they require, like organised data systems, streamlined communication and experiences that drive that loyalty.
When you see the value of a CRM system and its benefits, you will want to use it at every conceivable opportunity to enable you to provide excellent service at every touchpoint you have with customers.
By different types of sales, we’re referring to the styles that salespeople will adopt when they are with prospects and customers. Either face-to-face or online.
Over the years the styles have changed because buyers’ needs have changed.
If we were to sell in the same way as the snake-oil salespeople of the Wild West in 19th century America, we would be very quickly out of a job.
So, what are we referring to when we talk about different types? Here are our thoughts on different selling types:
1) transactional selling
Using this type of sales technique, the intention of the salesperson is to overtly sell their product. There doesn’t appear to be much of a sales process. Any process that is in place normally follows the adage of ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’. This type of selling is reserved for the one-off sale where there isn’t much chance of repeat business.
2) product-oriented selling
As you can imagine, this is where the salesperson just talks about the product and very little else. Salespeople often get roped into this type of sale when a prospect says to them ‘what do you do and why are you selling this to me?’
It revolves around the features and benefits of the product and tries to blind the prospect with science Demonstrations and examples of the product in action are the normal way of proceeding with this particular type.
3) needs-oriented selling
Using this type of sales technique, a salesperson will identify and figure out the needs of a customer through different questions and then present a solution to those needs as is required by the customer. This creates a discourse between the salesperson and prospect but doesn’t go so far as to solve specific problems that the customer may have.
4) consultative selling
This type of sale requires an element of trust and relationship between the salesperson and the prospect.
The whole purpose of this type is not to focus on just the product but to focus really on the relationship and how that is going to be established between the salesperson’s company and the prospect’s company.
This requires a constant review of how the prospect’s business can be helped by the salesperson and turns the salesperson into a form of consultant to their business.
5) insight selling
Lots of research has proved that salespeople who have this specific type of salesmanship do different things to the norm.
It’s based on a simple 3 level model that brings on successful results:
Level one is to connect, where salespeople connect the customer needs and their company solutions to the issues that the buyers have.
Level two is the convince stage, where salespeople convince their prospects they can achieve maximum returns with lower risk and that they are the most effective company to deal with if you want the results that have been promised.
Level 3 of insight selling is known as the collaboration stage, where salespeople bring new ideas to the table and have insights as to the future operations of the company they will be working with.
It’s important to recognise that each of these types of sales has their place. If you understand the type of sale that’s absolutely right for your customer, then you will be in a strong position to use the specific type in the right way at the right time to bring the right results for both you and your customer.
Here, we look at the 5 stages of the negotiation process, and identify and explain them all:
The Negotiation Process
Different negotiations will require different preparation strategies. But if you include these elements, it will help you build a firm foundation on which to build:
Understand what the customer values most in the negotiation
Identify the interests, not just the positions, of the customer
Identify the facts, rather than just opinions
Prepare for the possible options and scenarios that the customer may bring up
With this preparation, you have the ability to adapt your presentation even if the discussions go in a different direction than first thought.
Exchange of facts and information
At this stage, you discuss the facts openly and honestly. This means being clear (from your planning stage) of what your interests are and inviting the customer to share their interests.
The facts you have considered in the first stage helps you build your information base, and as you communicate during the negotiation, you give yourself the chance to build a clear picture of the journey that you and your prospect will be going on.
This will help you to build rapport and trust with the other party too.
The bargaining stage
This is when you get to the point where you are looking at the overall value that you can offer to the customer.
You need to put most attention on the interests of the client and decide where you can and can’t manage any concessions in the negotiation. While you’re bargaining, you can determine what is most valuable to the client.
If you feel that there are demands from the prospect that you don’t feel comfortable agreeing to, then your planning and the exchange of information in the previous stage will have brought those out.
During this fourth stage you’re in a position where you’re able to determine what is the most valuable position that you can take for the prospect’s interests and also your own.
When you’re in a position to confirm that everything has been agreed, you can start gaining commitment with the client and ask them what they see as the next stage in the development of the relationship with you as a company.
This stage of the negotiating process for some sales people is fear- inspiring. You need to have laid down the foundation very firmly with the previous stages in order for this stage to be a success.
At this point in the negotiating process you will have identified and explained exactly what you have agreed and what will happen next.
The actions taken will solidify the relationship you expect to have and help them to see exactly what actions will be next in line.
You need to ensure at this point that the prospect understands which direction you will go, what paperwork needs to be signed and, if necessary, what agreements still need to be ratified.
You have to ensure that you’ve expanded the value of the negotiation in the prospect’s mind and that you have understood, agreed and developed their interests as well as their positions.
All this should enable you to strengthen the relationship with the client when you negotiate next time. In fact, you will have set a precedent for your negotiating process the next time you are in this position with this customer.
Follow these five stages and you will see that it makes negotiating to a conclusion a much more straight forward affair.
When you think of a salesperson, what immediately springs to mind?
Is it the old ‘snake-oil’ salesperson of old who put their foot in the door, or never stops talking, or puts undue pressure on you to ‘sign today’?
Hopefully, that age-old metaphor is long dead. But there are still people for whom the very notion of being ‘sold-to’ strikes the fear of God into them, and they would run away from such an encounter.
However, selling today is far different from those old days when the customer could only find out about a company’s products or services by being presented to by a slick salesperson, with a toothy grin and sharp intakes of breath!
Today’s salesmanship is identified by a professional approach, highly intelligent about their products, their market, their customers and their industry, and a keen desire to find out about their prospects’ business before presenting solutions.
So, how should you sell a product to a customer today?
One simple answer is ‘don’t try to sell’!
Yes, that seems contrary to everything we learned in sales, doesn’t it? Well, most salespeople still sell as if buyers were needing to know information. But most people will do a lot of research before contacting a salesperson to finalise their decision.
In fact, many surveys show that the buyer is more than 70% along the buying process before they contact a company. What does this mean for a salesperson? How should we sell our product today, to a well-researched and highly-knowledgeable prospect?
Here are some tips:
Approach the sale with an attitude of curiosity
Instead of approaching a prospect with the thought of telling them everything they need to know about your product, see it as a ‘knowledge-extraction’ process.
You need to sell your products by not selling them first!
Imagine you’re a doctor. What would the doctor say to you when you went into his surgery? Would he just give you prescription straight away? No of course not. He would make enquiries as to what was wrong and ask you some deep questions to ascertain exactly which direction he should take the conversation.
See yourself as a doctor to your buyer being your patient. You need to ask a series of questions to determine the situation that your prospect is in. Only after you have gained information and built up some kind of knowledge concerning their situation can you officially say you are in a position to make some kind of recommendations.
Confirm your understanding of the prospect situation
You need to clarify your understanding so that the prospect appreciates you understand and have a clear picture of the situation that they are in. Only after you have done this have you earned the right to even contemplate what products or services might be right for their current situation current situation.
Present your solution based on exactly what will solve their concerns
People don’t buy your products. Instead they will buy whatever will solve the current situation that they are in. So, when you present your solution, make sure that you are talking about the results that they will get rather than the features and benefits of your product.
Gain commitment by ensuring your prospect knows what the product will do for them or their business
Your prospect will only make a decision to go with you when they understand the short and long- term results that your product or service will bring to their business or themselves. By doing this you make it very clear to them how they will benefit from your products. Remember that the product itself is not as important as the short, medium and long-term results that they will achieve after using your product.
So, how do you sell a product to a customer today? By discussing their needs, gaining knowledge of their business, putting yourself in their position and proving that your products and services are going to provide a better future for them than anything else they currently experience.
This is a long way from the old ‘stack-them-high-ell-them-cheap’ salesman of yesterday. But those buyers who bought then aren’t around anymore. They have changed and so must you.