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Sunday, September 29, 2013

5 Must Haves For Superior B2B Selling

As entrepreneurs, all of us are deeply involved in the sales process. Many successful entrepreneurs believe that selling is the key skill to master. Whether it is convincing investors, or clients or internal staff, we are always selling the dream and the potential of our business. So what is required to sell well in a B2B environment? I have it distilled my 13 years experience to a few key points below :

1) Belief in your company and goal - I have an unshakable conviction that what my company offers works and that clients should buy it. This allows me to be authentic when pitching. Whether it is to investors, staff, cofounders or clients. And people can smell authenticity and confidence from a mile away. It helps tremendously with credibility building.

2) Belief in value i personally offer. I believe i add value to the people i interact with. This may sound very egoistical, but what it means is that i genuinely feel that their time is well spent on interacting with me. For a client, it is because i know my product and my industry well enough to add value to their business. For staff, it is because i can help them do their job better. And i realize that because of this belief, i am genuine when dealing with people and i do not come across as just trying to sell them something.

Another way to see this is that i try to always make win win partnerships. Since i add value, then it makes sense that everyone should spend time and work with me since it is to their benefit too.

3)  Persistence. Ask any sales guy and they will tell you this matters a whole lot. Sometimes, it just takes that 1 more knock or call to get a client interested in a meeting. When do i give up? Only when there is a lower lying fruit to go after. If not, i dont give up. And even then, I will pass the lead on to someone else or work on it again some time later. Of course, i don't mean to blindly keep bugging people when i say this. Use your common sense.

4) Being intellectual. Who says sales jobs are for non-academically inclined people? We need to apply intellectual rigor to the sales process. Understand what the client needs are, what their industry is about, current issues and approach from that angle. This is especially important the higher up the corporate ladder we sell.

Better yet, don't just apply needs based consultative selling.  Apply genuine insights from what we learned and use it to add value to the client. A good example is the difference between a super real estate agent and an average one. The former asks all the right profiling questions, knows all about the condo/market in question and applies it to find suitable buyers for the client. Even better, the former is able to recommend correct pricing and timing of sale due to insight on the market. We always hear about owners willing to pay more to get the right agent representing them. Why do you think this is so?

5) Selling as a Company. Sales is not just a sales person's job. It is the entire company's job. A client engages with not just our sales staff but also our finance, operations and customer service people. Sometimes, they interact with our marketing staff and even our tech people. So we need to make sure that all our staff have the right client centric mentally when providing service. And we can go further than that. Why not get non-sales staff to attend sales meetings with clients. Not only do they give an added dimension to the company, they also pique the clients interest and help us walk the talk that our company is client centric.

Many companies are already doing this. It is common for magazine publishers to have their editorial staff join in sales meetings to better understand advertiser need. Or for tech consultants to join sales on pre-sales client meetings to answer more technical questions and to understand what clients are looking for.

The spinoff benefits are many. Better sales/ops relationships, quicker product improvements, better client understanding, multiple touchpoints/relationships with clients etc.

Notice i did not talk about negotiation skills. I believe if we apply the above points well, clients will pay us what we want. Feel free to share your experiences in selling!

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