Over the years, I have worked with many clients whose customers were other businesses – i.e. “business to business marketing”, aka B2B in marketing lingo! The unique thing about this variety of marketing is that a great deal of the success of the marketing strategy will rest on tenacious and skillful direct selling.
Now, you might say, “But marketers are supposed to generate leads for me so I don’t have to sell.” There is some truth to that; your marketing program can and should generate leads that you can follow-up, unless of course your product or service is so new and so unique that no one is even searching for it. Regardless of whether you start with a lead, or have to cold-call that lead yourself, there will still be selling involved. Why? Because when you’re selling to a business, that business is no doubt integrating your product or service into their processes somehow. Their reputation rides, at least in part, in you doing what you say you’re going to do, and there is often potential for ongoing or repeat business. So, prospects will generally see themselves as important customers for you and will expect you to take the time to get to know their needs and give them exactly what they want.
This is where face to face (or at least a really good teleconference – but honestly, these are never quite the same!) selling usually becomes necessary. Without doing this part well, a B2B client will not successfully gain clients, and thus, look at their marketing program as a failure.
At Tenato, we provide customized sales process development and training for this very reason. We see it as mandatory when clients are in a B2B market, but we do know that every company will need their own tailored approach – tailored to their target markets, their selling message, the questions they should ask, etc. But recently, this was taken to a whole new level with a client I’m working with now in the construction sector; it’s given me the opportunity to take a fresh look at the process, which has been most enjoyable and enriching.
The scenario I’m in involves drawing some of the sales techniques from senior salespeople in the company – infusing them into Tenato’s basic sales structure – and then using the tailored technique to train new salespeople. You might ask, “Why not just get the senior sales people to train the new ones?” The answer simply is – senior salespeople can be quite spontaneous and seemingly random about their techniques, and so with a lot of creative questioning about “What would you do if…?” it is indeed possible to see the patterns and create a logical step-by-step structure around what they do. We can then build a trainable program and sales handbook, tailored right to the job at hand.
It might be helpful to point out that the basic steps of Tenato’s recommended sales process are as follows:
- Research the Prospect
- Initial Phone Call
- Present Proposal (or quote of some kind)
- Follow Up / Addressing Objections
- Follow up / Relationship Building
So how do we change our process to tailor it more to our client in the construction industry? I’ll give you a few examples.
Looking at just step one, researching the prospect, it was eye-popping to see how resourceful a good salesperson can (and should) be, especially when that person really knows the inner workings of their own industry. While my initial research step typically recommends things like visiting a company’s website, looking at LinkedIn, or asking other people in the company what they might already know about Prospect X, our senior salespeople had a few other tricks I would not have considered:
- Driving around construction sites, popping in to see the crews working in the trailers (possibly with coffee and donuts!), and asking them questions.
- Asking other sales reps in the industry for names of contact people within prospect companies, and find out what they know about them – Who’s the decisionmaker? Do they pay their bills on time?
- Checking with suppliers to see what past projects Prospect X had worked on, and visiting the sites.
Needless to say, I was very impressed at this kind of digging.
Phone Call Techniques
The senior salesperson emphasized how critical is was to mention names of mutual connections, so as to establish credibility as an industry veteran. He also used the research to offer comments, critiques or compliments on Prospect X’s projects, mentioning things Prospect X would likely not have noticed or appreciated. In some cases, he might also offer to fix a problem another vendor left unfinished at no charge.
That’s a great way to start a rapport and get a meeting.
The senior salesperson also had some great insight on meeting techniques. In certain situations, he enjoyed taking prospects to lunch. Once again, his priority was to establish his credibility using others around him; he always made sure to visit a restaurant where he knew the owner, so that when he walked in, he would be personally greeted, and welcomed. This also helped to establish him as a non fly-by-nighter, and ensured special treatment for him and his guest.
Conclusion: Document your Sales Process!
Remember, if you sell, and especially if you’ve been doing so for many years, you’ll have techniques that you’ve used that work really well for your business. These techniques should always be captured as a documented sales process; that way if you’re training new sales staff, or if you’re even selling your business, you’ll set the next generation up for accelerated success, instead of making them learn the entire process from scratch. Having a documented sales process builds consistency in your sales performance and value in your company. What’s more, as more and more salespeople use the process over the years, it can be continually tailored to capture more and more of these wonderful techniques from a multitude of talented sales staff.
Give us a call if you’re looking to further develop your company’s selling processes; we’re here to help!