When most people think of a sales person, they think of the staff in their local retail store or the door-to-door salesman who tried to convince them to switch their energy supplier last week. For these sales people, the sales process is relatively short and not a huge amount of planning is usually required.
But when it comes to B2B selling, success is determined by the sales reps who are out on the road selling products and services to other firms. For these sales people, the sales process tends to be a much more lengthy affair and – if not planned properly – it can result in little success.
By proactively targeting the right businesses that need your solution and approaching the right people in your target organisation, however, you can significantly reduce the length of the B2B sales process.
When delivering our sales training and development programmes, we teach the following five actions which will help you maximise your sales performance and significantly speed up the B2B sales process.
1. Find the right businesses to target
Target businesses which have the greatest need for your solution before seeking other prospects to approach. This might seem obvious, but if you know that your prospect has a great need or desire for your solution, you will save yourself a lot of time over the duration of the sales process.
Consider firms that already use your product and identify the common characteristics that tie them together to expand your list of potential customers. If, for example, all of your clients need their orders to be delivered after-hours because they are sole traders and busy during the working day, then you should proactively target and approach similar sole traders who might need your solution. Look out for these kinds of trends and patterns of behaviour.
You should also consider approaching companies which need products that complement your solution. If you sell tyres to fleet managers, for instance, you should consider also approaching maintenance service providers and even going straight to automobile manufacturers. By thinking outside of the box, you will draw up a much bigger list of potential clients that you had never previously thought of, thus increasing your chances of success later on in the sales process.
2. Ensure that your targets have the right budget
To save yourself more time and further enhance your chances of success, you should then make sure that your targets have a sufficient budget for your solution. This can be achieved by doing your homework on your potential clients’ finances and operations.
Collect information about their turnover, their current investments in similar solutions, their number of outlets, their dealings with any competitors, any future expansion plans which might constrain their budget, and any other information about them which you believe will assist you later on down the sales process. This information can usually be gathered from their corporate websites (typically in documents and financial reports located under their ‘Investor Relations’ section of their website if they are a publically listed company).
But, to dig deeper, you should ideally contact your clients directly and request for any necessary additional information. In doing so, you will gain the extra benefit of striking up a relationship with your prospect before the sales process has even properly commenced. You should also maintain and nurture relationships with people who are outside of your target organisation, but know a lot about the client anyway – the target’s ex-employees or business partners, for example.
Building external relationships and networking is a critical selling skill for any B2B sales professional to acquire if they want to learn more about their target organisations. B2B sales professionals can maximise their sales and reduce the sales process if they do their research and guarantee that their prospects have a big enough budget to begin with. If they fail to do so and later realise that their prospect has not got the budget to close the sale, they will have wasted a lot of time and effort for nothing.
3. Sell more to existing clients
In today’s world of B2B selling, too many sales people fail to determine the full range of their client’s needs when closing a sale. This can easily be avoided – selling another product to an existing customer is one of the easiest sales out there! This is because you should have already forged and nurtured a good relationship with them. Consequently, the existing client’s resistance to your proposals and sensitivity to pricing should be much lower.
Again, the sales process can be reduced and sales can be maximised through research into your clients. Great B2B sales people determine the full range of their existing clients’ needs and plan carefully which solutions they might be able to offer them before chasing new customers. This is because closing sales with existing clients is a far easier and more natural process than constantly ‘hunting’ for new business.
4. Develop a relationship with senior decision makers
To further maximise your chances of success, you must make every effort to talk to the key decision maker in your target organisation. Again, you should research the company before approaching them to find out exactly who the decision maker is and do your best to set up a sales meeting with him or her right from the start.
If you can achieve this, the sales process as a whole will be far shorter than if you meet with less senior individuals who have no real decision-making authority. If your efforts prove unsuccessful here, you should find somebody as high up the organisational chain as possible to ‘champion’ your solution. Get their support and ask them to set up a meeting with somebody more senior. Warning: it is important that they do not make contact with the decision maker themselves because they might not sell your solution properly. They might, for example, explain how easy your solution is to implement, which will not have the desired effect upon a senior decision maker who only cares about seeing a return on their investment.
Too many B2B sales professionals spend too much time with clients who are too low down the chain under the false assumption that this will make the sales process easier. This is a huge mistake and, if anything, will prolong the sales process. By doing your research and setting up a meeting directly with the senior decision maker in your target organisation, you will significantly cut the sales process and enhance your chances of a successful close.
5. Use consultative selling techniques
If sales people want to win more business, they need to sell more proactively and at a more senior level (as discussed over the course of the previous four action points). But senior decision makers don’t want to be sold products in today’s marketplace. They want a proactive consultative sale that delivers real business value, return on investment and quick payback in terms of cash flow. For these reasons, Feature, Advantage, Benefit (FAB) selling is dead and no longer works.
Traditional sales people need to evolve their sales techniques to a more consultative approach if they are to shorten the sales process while still maximising their sales. Consultative selling is the only way forward, even for small businesses. Instead of pushing the features, advantages and benefits of a solution, B2B sales people need to understand and take advantage of the external pressures facing their clients before aligning their solutions with their pains and desires.
This can be achieved through signposting and powerful questions that create needs and desires in the mind of your prospect. Rather than selling by starting with the FABs, sales people need to start with the client’s world instead. This is a sure route to enhancing their sales performance, earnings, and substantially reducing the length of their sales process.
To summarise, B2B sales professionals need to do as much research as they can if they are to maximise their sales and cut the B2B sales process. As Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”
B2B sales people need to:
- Find businesses with a need for their product
- Ensure that these prospects have an adequate budget
- Sell more to their existing clients
- Approach the right people (ideally the most senior decision makers) in their target organisations
- Take a consultative approach to selling their solutions
If you can achieve all of this, it is guaranteed that you will enhance your sales performance and earnings considerably as a result of having significantly reduced the sales process.
Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase