Secrets of Great Salespeople: 50 Ways to Sell Business-To-Business

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We are delighted to announce that friend of Openside, Jeremy Raymond, has launched his new book: “Secrets of Great Salespeople: 50 Ways to Sell Business-To-Business.

Jeremy Raymond has worked with William Johnson, Managing Director of Openside, since the early 1990s and having been interviewed for the book, William is listed as a contributor.

The book promotes many of the philosophies and ideas we advocate in our own business development training programmes for professional services firms (and non-traditional service firms who wish to learn from the best practices used within professional services).

As the title suggests, the book condenses the essentials of business development in a B2B context into 50 short lessons, each with 3 strategies that can be put into practice immediately. Whether you want to build lasting and profitable customer relationships, hunt down new clients, or are just beginning to work in a business development role, the book provides some tools and techniques that will immediately help you develop business more effectively.

We have kindly been given permission by Jeremy and the publishers to reproduce extracts of the book and have chosen four lessons (chapters) that we believe most closely match the learning, modelling, explanation and coaching we offer in our “Business development behaviours” programmes. Simply click on the title below to read the full chapter from the book (downloadable PDF).

We have also included sections from the introduction of the book below which give a further flavour of the content of the book. Should you have any questions about any aspects of the content of the book, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Alongside the book, Jeremy has just completed a significant new case study for Openside that is now being used in many of our business development, consulting and leadership programmes.

Chapter 1: Enquiry before advocacy

Questions open up and close down areas of enquiry, but they are more use in relationship-building terms than statements. Although each solution needs a set of questions with which to ascertain the client’s potential needs, these may not always be useful in the first meeting.

Chapter 18: The brand is you 

Brand is important because it creates expectations and interest and can be a substitute for client experience. Because information about your performance as a company is more readily available, a well-known brand now guarantees less in terms of an easier time in the sales funnel than it did. ‘You are really only as good as your last job’, as one salesperson suggested, paraphrasing the Hollywood cliché. That being said, if you profile yourself carefully as a specialist and develop a point of view about how your solutions best deliver value, your clients may expect to pay a bit more for your service than for your competitors’.

Chapter 21: First meetings test your status 

Being aware of the difference in status between you as the salesperson and your client is one thing. Using this difference is a skill. Great salespeople are continuously experimenting with the relative status between them and their clients to ensure a positive outcome from the meeting. This is not because what you say doesn’t matter. It is in addition to having good questions and clear messages to communicate. You mustn’t either threaten your client’s status or be too subordinate to her. The aim is to gradually match your status so that by the end they see you as an equal they can do business with.

Chapter 35: Spontaneity takes practice

The ability to be spontaneous takes practice because it takes confidence to go in a creative direction and to feel that you can create a sensible narrative with your client. They say that pre-prepared jokes are the death of real improvisation, but sometimes prepared elements – the equivalent of props – are useful. The salesperson who leaps up and says, ‘Can I just draw something on your white board?’ and then produces a neat piece of her company’s intellectual property made relevant to the clients in the room is always more impressive than the same idea on a PowerPoint slide. ‘Did she think about doing this before? Does she always do this in client meetings?’ is what runs through clients’ heads.

But actually it doesn’t matter. The spontaneous offer of a new way of looking at the issues illuminates and the client, improvising in turn, will build on the gift. ‘Yes… and…’ Isn’t that what you want to happen.

Business Services versus Products

“Business services are different from products. Services – at the point of sale – are promises. Simple services can be tried in advance of purchase, but there is no real guarantee of reliable quality under exceptional circumstances. These promises are not about features; they are about outcomes. These outcomes have benefits, which have to be seen as commensurate with the price charged: a clean office, a well-serviced, reliable fleet of delivery trucks, a performance-enhancing training course. It is difficult sometimes to put a price on such things, as their value is both subjective and objective. The more complex the service, the higher is the risk to the buyer of the outcomes promised and the value not being delivered. At the highest-value end of the service food chain – professional or advisory services like legal, medical, consulting and accountancy – the outcome has to be taken on trust. When the delivery of the service may be a unique, one-off event and where the person buying will be materially involved in delivering the outcome with their professional – representation in court, say – there can be no ‘try before you buy’. You have to take your in-house counsel’s recommendation of the barrister on trust.

‘Solutions’ – the usual term to describe a tailored bundle of services and products – are no different from services in terms of the risk to customers. Clients can see the software works and play with the hardware involved – this is like buying a product. But the maintenance, the training and the consulting elements are just service promises. When the client signs, she is often putting her own reputation on the line. ‘Will the parts of the solution work together – and with what we currently have?’ is the first question. Then it’s ‘Will it deliver the outcomes we need?, then ‘Will these outcomes be as valuable as we have been led to believe?’, then ‘What’s the cost – in terms of loss of productivity to introduce, time to train, time to buy, etc.?’ The customer needs to have a lot of trust in the vendor and its representatives before they sign.”

The Challenges of Selling B2B

“In B2B selling, the ability to build trust is therefore critical. Solutions have to be tailored to client needs at some point, even if they have been designed for specific market sectors. This is because they have to integrate with other solutions working in the business – the legacy of previous buying decisions. As a twenty-first-century B2B salesperson, you had better be good at managing your customer’s risks.

Other selling challenges relate to managing the process of client decision-making. When goods and services get packaged up into solutions, they often interfere with the way a business operates. A business school professor might say they ‘re-engineer the value chain’; a consultant might describe this disruption as ‘innovation’ but local line managers might be more sceptical. So the decision to buy involves actively accepting this disruption in return for a later benefit – productivity improvement, perhaps, or reduced time to market.

Such decisions are generally too risky for one senior manager to make alone. Procurement functions are part of the risk-management process for senior clients; they slow things down (frustrating) but they analyse the risks and benefits of options (reassuring). For the salesperson it means that there are multiple clients involved with different views of their need, the solution, the sort of company they want to work with, the price they want to pay, and so on.

The third challenge is about the calculus between what you, the seller, propose and what each of these stakeholders will use and value. The old model of buying solutions meant that each stakeholder accepted some degree of compromise in the interest of one solution ‘sort of’ fitting all. All-things-to-all-people solutions are extremely complex and costly. Think of how many of the functions of your computer software you never use (but pay for). Unwanted features and complexity are an irritation in B2B buying, too, an opportunity cost we don’t want to pay for. If we can customise our phone, we want to customise our order- processing solution.

We don’t want to pay an upfront fixed charge for the system, with all the associated depreciation in the value of the asset. If we can pay per use for different vehicles in a city-wide car pool, why shouldn’t we pay for our personal usage (heavy or light) of the functions of the solution? The Cloud means that the provider can easily track which functions individuals are using and when, so this is possible to do.

Of course, the information about usage is valuable, not just in terms of billing but also for the client who uses the solution. To know which functions and features people use most, to measure the impact of the outcomes achieved, to be able to modify your business processes on a regular basis to maximise the return – lean processes and lean services – this is a kind of holy grail of management information. Cloud-based solutions have this potential. And the provider, monitoring this information across multiple clients, becomes more intelligent about, say, order processing – to the point where they can really advise their clients about how to do things better, based on real data. The information helps them modify and improve the solution design and may create new revenue streams. The information might be as valuable in some situations as the original solution itself.”

The Five Keys to Success

Given this changing environment with increasing customer expectations about convenience and value, what is happening to the selling process? From interviews with successful salespeople, it is clear that new challenges call for some new and some not-so- new responses:

1. You really have to understand your client’s business.

2. You have to understand the decision-makers and how they will take a decision to disrupt their business (with your solution).

3. You will need to inspire the organization with your vision.

4. You need to build authentic relationships with senior people who will help you meet your quota for years to come.

5. Finally – and more invisibly to the client – you will need to have the same sort of relationships internally in your company.

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