Know Your Trigger Events for B2B Sales

by Shannon F. If you sell a B2B product or service that depends on perfect timing, you must focus on trigger events that introduce the need for whatever it is that you sell. Every purchase involves a trigger event, but only some purchases can be predicted based on that event. These two types of purchases—purchases that can be predicted based on trigger events and purchases that cannot be predicted—must be handled in two distinct ways. We’ll start with purchases that cannot be predicted. Typically, when a company needs to make a sudden purchase, the decision comes down to particular features and—detrimental to your bottom line—price. Decision-makers research options themselves, not giving you a chance to consult. By the time you arrive at the scene of the bidding war, you are essentially just a number. Unpredictable Purchases For example, someone forgot to water the bonsai tree in the lobby of XYZ Co, and the plant has sadly expired. The decision-maker at XYZ Co quickly researches local nurseries and gathers prices for various bonsais, ranging from $200 to $1000. Your company, a corporate plant service, is among the “bidders.” You may have to sell a bonsai practically at cost in order to win the deal. The benefit to you? You can check in regularly with XYZ Co to see how the bonsai is holding up and charge them to prune it, water it during holiday weekends, etc. You can also convince them that they need bonsais in other areas of the office, […]

Understanding the new buyer process

by Shannon F. As you have likely experienced, today’s business decision-makers rarely turn to salespeople first when they need to make a purchase. They rely instead on the information, guides, and product comparisons they find online. Be honest; you’d rather research a need online instead of first talking to a person who is going to try and sell you their solution. There are some positive benefits to this new level of buyer independence (buyers are savvier and better-informed, so by the time they get to you, they are ready to have a high-level conversation about your product; buyers may find you online and give you a call—that’s a lead you didn’t have to work for!) But in general, salespeople must work harder than ever to compete in this new buyer climate. Here are the cons to buyer independence: -Buyers form strong preferences and requirements in the early stages of realizing a need, defining the need, and researching options. If you are not involved in this discovery process, you will have zero chance to influence the buyer’s vision. -Forrester Research reports: vendors that are involved in the early phases of the buying process (1 through 3 in the graphic above) will get the deal 65% of the time. The problem is: many salespeople are powerless to get involved in the early stages, since buyers purposely exclude them. -By the time the buyer finds you online and contacts you, you’re reduced to a bidder. It’s too late to get in as a […]

5 Things Salespeople MUST Do to Stay Relevant

by Shannon F. As B2B sales evolve, some salespeople will be left clutching their rolodexes and wondering how they went from top performer to nonentity. It’s harsh but true: if even the best sales reps don’t keep a finger on the pulse of sales shifts and long-term trends, they’ll slowly lose touch with how today’s buyers want to be sold. Here are the 5 things you MUST do to keep from becoming irrelevant. 1. Embrace social networking as a sales tool. This is no longer optional. Use Linkedin to actively build your network, connect with influential decision-makers, and find leads. If you aren’t doing this, you are losing out on the countless potential opportunities that are only a few clicks away. Plus, nothing screams “trustworthy” to today’s business decision-makers like an active Linkedin account complete with a picture, endorsements, and recommendations. The first thing an interested prospect will do after receiving a voicemail or email from you is google your name. If they can’t find you, you are irrelevant. Why? Today’s business leaders make buying decisions by researching, comparison-shopping online, and looking for referrals/testimonials from satisfied customers. They no longer make decisions solely from a telephone conversation or even a face-to-face meeting with you. 2. Network with peers. If you are the lone wolf in the sales department, you won’t learn from your peers’ mistakes. It’s helpful to seek feedback from the rest of your sales team as you approach everything from product knowledge to strategic email content. Why? A […]

Why Nerds Make Good Salespeople

by Shannon F. The stereotype of the successful salesperson is changing. A few years ago, you may have imagined making your next B2B purchase from an avid golfer with a chiseled jaw and a firm handshake. Maybe he or she excelled at schmoozing, had a bit of an ego, and used too much cologne. But B2B sales is evolving. Gen X and Y decision-makers are savvier consumers who tend to do a ton of research before buying. They don’t care if you wined, dined, or played 18 holes with them—if you can’t offer your unique insight into their business development needs, you’re useless. That’s where nerds are coming into power. Everyone wants to be a nerd. Today’s new breed of super-nerd is nothing like the socially awkward, taped-glasses-wearing nerd of yesteryear. (We’re not going to get into the nerds vs. geeks debate—there’s just too many gray areas.) Urban Dictionary offers hundreds of definitions of this social classification, but here’s a couple. Nerd: “A person who gains pleasure from amassing large quantities of knowledge about subjects often too detailed or complicated for most other people to be bothered with.” “A person with an inventive, intelligent, and or obsessive mind that strives to learn as much as they can about a subject(s) and becomes a leader in the study of it.” “The sexiest social class of them all.” Joking aside, it has become more desirable than ever to possess the skills and attributes of a nerd. Nerds have Insight sales skills You’re […]

Sell BEFORE they go online

by Shannon F. Informal opinion polls show that the internet is not just a passing phase. Though MySpace, homemade Angelfire websites, and certain derelict forums may be ready for the digital junkyard, the World Wide Web is generally still thriving, and only a few stragglers still believe that customers will find them in the Yellowpages. The availability of products, information, reviews, and comparisons online make it difficult to compete if you’re continuing to sell the way you did ten years ago. That’s why the most adaptable salespeople, instead of fighting the inevitable, learned how to do two things early on: harness online marketing tools and, just as significantly, reach prospects before they go to the internet. Be the expert they find online. When was the last time you made a complicated or expensive purchase because a salesperson talked you into it? Chances are, you researched your options extensively before you even went to the store. If you decided in advance that you wanted a Brother MFC-8510DN Laser Multifunction Printer, it’s going to be much harder for a salesperson to convince you that the HP LaserJet Pro 400 M475DN is your best bet. You’re now an educated buyer, because you found out the pros and cons of each product online. So how can you sell your B2B products and services to today’s educated buyers? For one, you have to provide the information that prospects seek online. If you sell business telephones, for example, you should be blogging about selecting a phone […]

How Insight Sales is Like a Relationship

by Shannon F. Valentine’s Day, love it or hate it, is usually a time to reflect on your relationship status. So whether your Valentine’s Day involves an expensive, multi-course meal, a wild night out with your other single friends, a quiet evening spent at home watching a documentary on the mating habits of spider monkeys, or some strange combination of the three, relationships will probably cross your mind at some point today, February 14th. The best romantic relationships have a lot in common with the best sales relationships, and vice versa. Yesterday, we explored how Insight Sales is rapidly replacing Solution Sales as the way to go. Some pundits have said that relationship selling is out the window, but we don’t think that’s true. Insight Sales is about changing the dynamics of the relationship between prospect and salesperson so that it’s healthier and more productive. Here are some characteristics of a thriving prospect relationship based on Insight Sales principles: The best couples have insightful discussions. Solution Selling can mean some pretty boring conversations: the prospect or customer presents an existing problem, and you, the salesperson, provide a ready solution. Luckily, today’s prospects are educated consumers. They’ve done their research already, and they aren’t looking for answers to easy questions. Instead, they’re in the market for innovative ideas that could transform the way they do business. Identifying a prospect’s unmet need and helping them to revamp their business practices makes for a much livelier first date. They don’t always agree with […]

If You’re Still Selling Solutions, Read this

by Shannon F. Less than a year ago, the Harvard Business Review published this article: the End of Solution Sales. It caused a bit of a stir. After all, the way customers need to be approached and engaged is changing, and Solution Sales no longer fits the bill. Still, nobody likes to be told that the model they are currently working within is now irrelevant. More to the point, Insight* Sales (which the authors claim is rapidly replacing Solution Sales) is far tougher than what you are probably doing now. Insight Sales relies heavily on the intelligence, intuitiveness, and personal chutzpah of the individual sales rep. Instead of providing pat solutions for customers’ existing needs, Insight salespeople tell them what needs they are going to have in the future. This calls for some advanced thinking on the part of the salesperson, who must essentially serve as a consultant or coach. Let’s apply Solution Sales vs. Insight Sales to one of our customers, a Managed IT Services Company. We’ll call them Bob’s IT Solutions. In the past, Bob started off sales calls by asking prospects if they were looking for Managed IT Services or if they were happy with their current provider. If prospects said they were looking, or if they expressed discontent with their current service, Bob gave them his pitch about how Bob’s IT Solutions does things differently, provides great customer support, blah, blah, blah. That’s Solutions Selling. Bob’s prospect had a problem—they weren’t happy with their current service—and […]