When I got out of school, my first full-time job, which was a large custom/commercial photo lab, came with this job description: “Just do whatever it takes to bring work in the door.” I thought I would be doing a lot of creative marketing. But because “the work” was to come from customers who resided within businesses (e.g. marketing managers, etc), my job turned out to be about 90% direct selling.
Over the years, I have worked with many clients whose customers were other businesses – i.e. “business to business marketing”, also known as “B2B marketing” 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 upon having a tenacious and skillful direct sales effort.
Now, you might say, “But marketers are supposed to generate leads for me so I don’t have to sell.” Well, 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.
But 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, on your 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 to you, and they will therefore 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 experience – but honestly, these are never quite the same!) selling usually becomes necessary. Without doing this part well, a B2B business will not successfully gain customers, and thus, look at their entire 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 messages, the questions they should ask, etc.
Recently, we were able to take the tailoring of the sales process to a whole new level. Specifically, with a client I am working with now in the construction sector. This client has given me the opportunity to take a fresh look at how we develop and train people on how to sell effectively. The experience has been most enjoyable and enriching.
The process we use to develop sales training generally involves drawing some of the sales techniques from our clients’ senior salespeople – 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. But with a general structure already determined, plus a lot of creative questioning about “What would you do if…?” it is indeed possible to create a logical step-by-step structure around what they do.
Then, 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 selling process are as follows:
- Research the Prospect
- Initial Phone Call
- Meet with the Prospect
- Present a Proposal or Quotation
- Follow Up / Address Objections
- Close the Sale
- Follow up / Relationship Building
This basic outline applies to most B2B selling endeavours. But we then take specific steps to get it to a process that is perfectly tailored to the client’s business. This involves 5 main steps:
1. Uncover Business-Specific Research Techniques
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 decision maker? 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.
2. Uncover Good Phone Call Techniques
The senior salesperson emphasized how critical it 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. He showed off his industry knowledge by asking things like “Did they use X or Y technique to prep the foundation” for example. These kinds of questions positioned him as an expert.
In some cases, he might also offer to fix a problem another vendor left unfinished, at no charge. This is another great way to differentiate from the competition, and a great way to start a rapport and get a meeting.
3. Uncover Best Meeting Techniques
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.
4. 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.
5. Set Goals with the Management
Ensure the management team’s expectations are integrated into the training. Do they expect two meetings per day, or eight? Do they expect to see all interactions entered in to a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System every day, or is it okay to hit the highlights? What are the sales quotas and expected closing ratios? What are guidelines around expenses? All of these things will help you set the tone for the sale manual and ensure all sales team members have clear job descriptions.
Bottom line is, the better you lay out a sales process, the more accountability your sales team will have. This will lead to better results, and clearer ways to identify when performance is not meeting expectations.
It sure beats “Just do whatever it takes to bring work in the door” for setting your people up for success!
Give us a call if you’re looking to further develop your company’s selling processes; we’re here to help!