ADAPTS: Varies selling style, tactics and approach to make the most of the sales situation
“Yes, this is a real big moment” said Kapil, National Head of Sales for Wipeswipe Sanitations “Our anti bacterial wipes have hit a sweet spot on the back of rising concerns on office sanitation. As more companies open up, we did expect an uptick in sales. But this deal Jagdish has managed to sew up has been beyond all expectations. One deal, to a software major across some 100 locations pan India. And it’s a contract for 2 years”
A wave of applause rippled through the group on the call. A dozen Congrats messages choked the conversation window
“But before we get into celebration mode” said Kapil I want to pause for a couple of minutes and ask Jagdish to share with us some of his learnings on what he did well to get this scoop. Floor is all your Jags”
“I followed the standard 7 lever institutional sales process, that we always do” said Jagdish “Engage with decision makers, gain access to those who matter, understand what they want to accomplish, identify value for them, articulate value, gain credibility and secure commitment. That helped of course. But surprisingly, what won us this deal had more to do with what we managed to avoid”
“Hold on Jags” said Kapil, “What are you saying?”
“I will explain” said Kapil “For every deal enabler there are several deal-killer mistakes we need to watch out for. I will quickly share the top 7 mistakes my team and I consciously avoid falling into.
One, I probe for how the buyer group perceives me. I don’t want them to see me as one more seller or suppler. Nor do I like them consult anyone else on what anti bacterial wipes can do for office sanitation.
Two, I assess the strength of the C Level connect I’ve created. I will not go into the deal with a weak connect. I will look to shore it up first.
Three, I don’t want my buyers to think they are buying just another wipe. I want them to see how our wipes can contribute to a safe office by significantly lowering anxieties on the viral threat.
Four, I am very particular that I don’t come across as self centered and as someone keen only on getting the deal. So, I choose to focus entirely on their interests first.
Five, I don’t try to rush them to close.
Six, I take care not to ignore their possible worries on purchase risk, particularly the anxieties that the purchase team usually has about putting their internal reputation in the line by choosing to go with us.
Lastly, my personal chemistry with the key decision makers shouldn’t get lowered at any point”
“Great” said Kapil, “I think you should document this for all of us to use as a quick checklist against which we can run all our deals”
To master selling, you should know why people buy
Isn’t that what you’ve always believed? Wait. A Harvard Business Review article of breaks that mold. Drawing on research by Steve Martin of University of Southern California, the article turns the spot light on an exciting new insight - Why people don’t buy in B2B sales conditions.
Citing Steve Martin’s study, the article points out that buyers rate only 12% of the salespeople as Excellent. 23% are felt to be Good, 38% are perceived as Average and a sizable 28% are rated Poor.
What’s even more disquieting is that the “under-performing salespeople lack self-awareness to know that buyers don’t value them, nor do they understand why”. Lessons of why a deal fell through or a client switched off in a virtual call are never learnt.
Based on interviews with buyers, the study pinpoints the top 7 mistakes that many B2B salespeople make. These mistakes, according to the study, result in loss of business.
Those are the potholes resilient sales professionals steer clear of, on their road to sales success. And from that listing it’s easy to deduce what needs to be done to avoid them
7 Mistakes B2B Salespeople should never ever make and how to avoid them
(1) Unable to earn trust and respect - The question to ask is: How does the Customer see the Salesperson? One more Seller/Supplier with whom they do business (or) Strategic partner important to their business (or) Trusted advisor whose counsel can be counted upon. Tragically, buyers surveyed rated a mere 18% of the salespeople they met as trusted advisors
How the resilient avoid this: They figure out where they are on the value chain with their Customers at any given moment and then make conscious efforts to move up and become a trusted advisor
(2) Poor at conversing with C level decision makers - It is conversations with C level decision makers that make or break deals. Lower rated salespeople are out of depth in understanding C level thought process
How the resilient avoid this: They go beyond the comfort zone of meeting only lower and mid-level people and seek out opportunities to interact with senior leadership to gain an insight into how buying decisions are made
(3) Fail to clearly articulate their solution’s strategic value to Customer’s business - Buyers within Customer companies look for reasons in favour of a specific purchase that they can provide to their senior management. Strategic value of a buying decision includes things like higher revenues, lower costs, competitive advantage secured and lowered risk through standardizing operations that just about 50% of salespeople clearly explain
How the resilient avoid this: They raptly listen to the buyer’s concerns carefully and carry out in-depth research into how their product or solution solves problems and opens up opportunities for their Customer
(4) Are seen as self-centered – Close to 70% of the surveyed buyers nursed misgivings like “Salespeople serve only their own agenda” or “All salespeople care about is making their sale”
How the resilient avoid this: Instead of solely focusing on revenue, they help buyers accomplish their goals
(5) Poor closing strategies – Trying to hustle through close is perceived as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ mindset in the seller. It gets an instant refusal from buyers. On the other hand buyers rated softer close techniques offering fresh benefits for additional investments most effective
How the resilient avoid this: They adopt soft close approaches that empower buyers and give them a feeling of ownership of the buying decision
(6) Not assuaging purchase risk concerns of typical B2B buyers – B2B buyers are typically answerable to multiple stakeholders within their organisations, which makes them obsessed with purchase risk. This explains the iterative RFPs, intricate evaluation spreadsheets and elaborate proof of concept requirements for every single product feature. Not assuaging this risk concern is a sure recipe for deal failure
How the resilient avoid this: They take effort to understand risk concerns and internal dynamics unique to their Customers and take pains to assuage specific buying risk anxieties the Customers may be experiencing
(7) Inadequate personal connect with the buyer – Personal chemistry counts for a lot in sales activity. Even B2B buyers are seen to prefer to working with salespeople who develop a rapport with them as opposed to salespeople who don’t
How the resilient avoid this: They speak the buyer’s language (industry, technical, and job function) in order to convert a skeptic into a believer
What does it all add up to?
The markers for credibility in inter-personal relationships such as appreciation for empathy, aversion to intrusion and fear of risk, apply to all categories of selling. So does the avoidance of potholes that trip up sales efforts. Steering clear of such potholes is yet another positive sales resilience behaviour that’s eminently learnable
Mercuri Insight: Helping Customers make better sense of their own needs, and the ways they think they can resolve them, demands ‘Consultative Value Selling Skills’ of the highest order. Acquiring these higher order skills isn’t so tough as it looks. All it takes is painstaking practice under the watchful eyes of an expert, to try once or twice in a no risk class room situation and then repeat in the real world until internalized.
Pause to reflect: ” Under-performing salespeople lack self-awareness to know that buyers don’t value them, nor do they understand why. And those are the potholes resilient sales professionals steer clear of, on their road to sales success
Action Question: How many of these potholes do you spot in your sales technique? How can you 'avoid' them?
Related Readings: Mercuri In Essence Document on 6 Surprising Buyer Insights that can tip closure odds in your favour
Takeaway Quote: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” -John Powell
About the series: This is the 90th in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.