There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Basically, in the context of the conversation here today, this means that if you want success and growth in the future, the best time to act is now.
What does that mean for you as a sales professional?
I would like to share a story with you here. A few days ago, I had a conversation with the manager of a company in the B2B sector. 3 years ago, this company was overrun with orders. So the company decided to stop sales in order to guarantee a high-quality delivery and execution for their existing customers.
Now the orders have decreased, and the company has lost part of its ability to sell and has to rebuild this ability. As a result, a lot of time and market presence is lost.
So, even in good times, there should always be sales operations as otherwise valuable time and good opportunities are lost. There are always ways to sell, even if the execution of the projects takes a lot of time and resources.
I am sure you already know about the Buying Centre, maybe you call it the Buying Group or Decision Making Unit and you may use different terminology to identify the people in it, but the principle remains the same. In a B2B sale there are several people, or groups of people, involved in making a purchase decision and you have to identify and communicate with them all. Note I said communicate, not talk to them.
That is a one common pitfall to the Buying Centre, but first let me clarify what we are talking about.
Identifying all Roles in the Buying Centre
Every Sales Methodology has its own terminology. These are the Roles that Infoteam uses in every complex B2B sale. The Roles are specific to the sales opportunity.
This is the most senior person in the customer organisation who is involved in the decision, maybe even the CEO. It can also be a committee. A yes from the Endorser is required before the organisation commits to the investment.
This is the first place some Sales People make a big mistake. If you insist on talking directly to the Endorser you are likely to alienate your supporters. It is much better to create a powerful business case along with communication tools that help your contacts sell internally to the Endorser.
This is the person, again it might be a team, who decides which solution is submitted to the Endorser for approval. The Decider is responsible for project success. You must have a good relationship with the Decider but always keep in mind they have to get their choice endorsed so you will need to give them the tools to sell internally.
There is always a risk that your solution will not be endorsed, not because it isn’t the best solution but because other projects are given priority. A good business case will be the best thing you can give your Decider in this scenario.
Often ignored until it is too late, Users can help you to understand what is really needed and make a better case for your solution, or adapt your solution to deliver a better return. They definitely need to be on-board when you come to implement your solution. I have often seen organisations struggle to implement Sales Management Software that the Sales Team didn’t like only to abandon it a few months later because of poor uptake.
These tend to be experts inside or outside the customer organisation who are consulted about a particular aspect of your solution. They are important because they can say no and may well make recommendations if they like what they see, but this is where the second big pitfall lies.
Assessors cannot say ‘yes’ on their own. So don’t spend all your energy on them, even if they are very positive towards you. They are often the easiest people to get to speak to in the first place but often inflate their degree of influence. The longer you focus on them the more difficult it becomes to access the other roles.
One of my clients fell into the trap of focusing all efforts on an Assessor without understanding the rest of the Buying Centre. They were asked last May to pitch for part of a $1.4 billion dam construction project at short notice. In June they were told: “Great of you to meet us today, look forward to a long and profitable relationship”. In July, having submitted a proposal, they were told everything was fine and just awaiting approval, in August they had to tell the customer the resources required for the job had to be redeployed but they didn’t hear until October that the contract had been awarded to a competitor. If they had effectively covered the Buying Centre they might of won the business and they certainly would not have had valuable resources on hold while they waited for a response.
The key to the Buying Centre – The Coach
This is the closest thing there is to a ‘secret of success’ in B2B selling. Identifying and developing a suitable Coach quickly.
Often the Coach is quite simply the difference between winning and losing. Sometimes It takes a matter of weeks to earn her or his trust – and trust is the key.
So what can a Coach do for you? They are your guide around an organisation, someone who knows the real relationships between individuals and departments. They can help you gain access to the Buying Centre and perhaps give you insights into what the competition are up to. Also, they can be invaluable as a sounding board when you are mapping out the Buying Centre.
Recruiting and developing a Coach
You have to be astute in selecting your Coach and use all your skills to grow them into a really useful asset. Don’t be misled by friendly people who cannot or don’t want to give you the information you need – that is pitfall #3.
A relationship of mutual respect and trust is what you need. All your personal skills will be required but here are a few pointers to help you earn that trust. Start by finding out as much as you can about the organisation and the industry they work in. Then you can ask questions based on existing knowledge to fully understand and, if necessary, challenge their needs.
Then you have to prove you are worthy of trust. That means always being responsive, reliable, respectful and honest. Which includes saying no if you cannot fulfil a need. To further build trust, always summarise meetings and contacts and feed back to them to show you have understood what they have said.
Coaches usually have a dual-role in the Buying Centre but they could be someone who is not involved in the decision but with whom you have a strong track record. An external consultant who typically plays the role of an Assessor can also be a Coach.
One of the things you are giving the Coach in exchange for their help is the chance to shine in their organisation. So let them talk about themselves, make them feel important and give them anything you can help them in their role. It is best if their role as Coach is not too obvious within their organisation.
Covering the Buying Centre professionally
To sum up, you start with an initial contact, demonstrate that you are worthy of trust and if suitable develop them into a Coach. Use the Coach to help you map the Buying Centre and get feedback on how best to deal with them. Give all the people in the Buying Centre what they need either directly or by giving your contacts the tools they need to effectively sell internally.
Do you map out all Buying Center roles in complex sales?
Do you have the skills to develop Coaches quickly?
Which roles did you not cover in a recently lost sale?
Source: Phil Kreindler, Infoteam Sales Process Consulting AG
When I ask a salesman what percentage of talking the customer should have, the answer is usually 70 %. But in reality,salespersons often talk so much themselves. First, they start with a boring company presentation and talk about solutions and their advantages before they understand the customer’s needs.
In my opinion, there are three reasons for this: insufficient time for preparation, too little control throughout the conversation and wrong questions.
What distinguishes a good first appointment?
The first goal is to create trust. Only then is the customer willing to answer your questions. Secondly, you get all the relevant information before you talk about solutions. And finally, you arrange access to other members of the Buying Center to get to know their needs before making an offer.
You won’t achieve such results by having a high proportion of your own talking and lots of power points.
The Appointment One Pager
To build trust and increase the outcome of a conversation, we recommend the Appointment One-Pager tool. It enables you to deepen your understanding of the customer and ask questions before you talk about solutions. You demonstrate your professional preparation and control the progress of the conversation.
Let me first talk about the structure of an Appointment One-Pager:
Validate your perception about the customer and potential needs
Solution approaches and benefits with a case study
Questions and answers
Here is an Info team example to illustrate this. This is a first appointment with the sales manager of a supplier in the mining industry.
Questions to validate and understand customer needs
The most important part of the conversation is asking good questions about potential challenges. To minimize the time and effort involved, we recommend that you create a database of good questions that only need to be adapted to a specific customer.
Potential challenges of this function
Typical causes for each challenge
Questions to deepen your understanding
Description of your approach
Benefit for the customer (illustrated by an example)
Below is an example of a database entry for Infoteam:
1) Function: sales manager
2) Potential challenges: Large, expected deals are not realized
3) Typical cause: lack of relationship with the real decision-makers
4) Questions to deepen your understanding:
How often do you lose business because you lack access to key decision-makers?
How does this affect the reliability of your forecasts?
How many sales are lost in this way?
If you could reduce this problem by 25%, by how much would your sales increase?
How would this affect net profit?
5) Solution approach: Opportunity Roadmap and Deal Pit-Stops
6) Benefits: Considerable profit increase!
Other potential challenges for a sales manager are avoiding ‘dead horses’ and reducing mistakes in the recruitment of new employees. Of course, the entries in our question database for other roles, e.g. personnel manager, look different. The challenges of a sales manager in the IT industry are different from those in the food industry. Therefore, your database should be developed function- and branch-specific.
The development of a database of good questions is a valuable investment. It considerably shortens the preparation of good sales talks. Also, in the conversation itself, the customer takes a much higher share of the conversation.
Questions you should ask yourself
Do you plan enough time for the preparation of customer meetings?
Do you often get into your car with the feeling that you have talked too much?
Would well-prepared questions help you to do your sales job better?
Not only schools are turning to the possibility to reach their students and conversation partners online.
This may also be a good time for sales staff to start online meetings.
I myself have organized and led hundreds of hours of online meetings. Online meetings are not only useful for initiating conversations and getting to know each other for the first time, but you can also use them to close sales.
In this blog, I would like to share my experience with you regarding the technique and structure of an online meeting. So, it is not a comparison or a blog to help you choose the right technique and products.
THE CONCLUSION AHEAD
There are several free products on the market
Better headset than microphone and speaker
No bright light in the background
Agenda and discussion discipline help enormously
Test everything first and connect 5 minutes before
SOFTWARE OR PLATFORM
I work with ZOOM. In 99 out of 100 cases, my conversation partner successfully joins the online meeting. The person I invite does not need to log in to Zoom and the installation works even without administrator rights.
In addition, Zoom also offers the possibility to join the online meeting via a telephone number. But this option does not allow video. Other free platforms are: Google Hangouts, UberConference, TrueConf Online, Skype, FreeConference, Appear.in, Slack Video Calls, Facebook Live or YouTube Live.
THE CAMERA AND THE MICROPHONE
I always use the camera on my iMac. But the sound is more important than the images. Even long-time “video conferencers” still often work without a headset. This is usually quite uncomfortable for the other person (my feeling). Much better sound is produced when using a headset (headphones with a microphone). My recommendation: Always use a headset.
Cameras have great difficulty with a bright background. The person in the foreground then becomes very dark. So, if a window in the background cannot be avoided, then at least lower the shutters. A white wall is better. Some programs can even show a very realistic background in their own video. For home offices, make sure that no personal things are visible in the background.
A video meeting is definitely different from a physical meeting, that’s for sure. However, it also means that some discipline must be maintained when speaking and commenting.
A clear agenda in advance helps to maintain this discipline. While someone is speaking, it is best to be quiet or even switch off the microphone temporarily, especially at larger conferences.
Always dial in 5 minutes before. If you are not yet an experienced “video-conferencer”, make sure you have a ” final rehearsal” with a colleague to make sure you can hear and be heard as well.
Not only schools are turning to the possibility of reaching their students and conversation partners online.
This may also be a good time for sales staff to start online meetings.
Personally, I have organized and led hundreds of hours of online meetings. Online meetings are not only useful for initiating conversations and getting to know each other for the first time, but you can also use them to close sales.
In this blog, I would like to share my experience on how to appear in front of the camera. I published a post about the technique and structure of an online meeting last week (Part 1).
SEE AND HEAR YOURSELF
Most of us do not like to see or hear each other. This is a big hurdle to appear natural. I’ve heard this happens even to seasoned actors. So don’t worry about it. This is not getting any better.
What helps is to make friends with your own picture but most of all with the camera. “Befriend” can be taken quite literally. Imagine that behind the little black lens there is a friend who listens to you. In this way, you will get a different, more natural appearance.
It also helps to produce a 1-minute video every day, just for yourself and for practice.
THE DISTANCE AND THE PERSPECTIVE
The camera increases the magnification of objects in the foreground and reduces objects in the background.
Make sure that you keep a suitable distance from the camera:
– A small strip remains free above the head
– The torso is visible
– Do not move your hands into the camera (high magnification)
– Sit up straight and lean forward slightly
If you take these points to heart, you will have better visibility in front of the camera.
THE DRESS CODE
Whether online or onsite. It’s a customer meeting. So choose the clothes as if you would visit the customer on-site. Wear clothes that are appropriate for your industry on the visible part of your body.
You can of course “save” your underwear online. So you could also leave your pyjama bottoms on if you have a business shirt on top (if the business shirt is common in your industry). However, I do not recommend this, because it is usually detrimental to your inner posture. I also recommend that you ” get dressed” for your home office in the morning to “polish” yourself for work”.
The energy level tends to be lower in home offices. However, the energy level is crucial for a convincing appearance in front of the camera. So, do exercises before the video meeting which increase your energy. Also, do exercises for your voice. Your voice may be “rusty” if you have not spoken for a few hours.
I always do a “7 minutes power up” of Julie Hansen, consultant, speaker, author and former actress.
Write to me and I will be happy to send you a PDF with the “7 Minutes Power Up”.
Yesterday, I had a presentation of an offer at a global manufacturer of electrical appliances based in Bern (Switzerland). At the table, I had the CEO and the sales manager. When I got to the topic “Negotiations in B2B”, the CEO asked me what I would do with a “super aggressive buyer” of a retail chain who wants an unrealistic discount under all circumstances, which would bring my sales price to him below my production costs. I would go for it. “The buyer,” the CEO said metaphorically, “takes out the hammer and hits me (the salesman) over the head with it. What do you do with a buyer like that, Mr. Maugeri?”
I started with “win-win” and preparation for negotiations. “The salesperson has to prepare and set goals and try to find out the motives for the buyer’s behaviour and has to try to stay on the factual level”, I said, ” making tough fronts won’t get us anywhere”. “The last resort is of course also available: To break off the negotiation in a friendly and reasonable manner and leave the meeting”, I said.
He found that much too “soft”.
“Returning to the same level, a verbal fist in the face”, the CEO told me, “is the only thing that helps in such a case”.
From my point of view, emotions should be left out of a business negotiation, which of course never succeeds 100%, and one should always try to stay on the factual level. This can be achieved through good preparation and the ability to put yourself in the position of the other party.
Increasing the chances of success in current sales projects
Winning Complex Sales™ optimizes the sales process for companies with complex sales procedures. In small groups, participants practice the methodology based on their own sales transactions and create an “opportunity roadmap”, which includes a strategy and an action plan leading to success. The practice-oriented, easy-to-use methodology and tools ensure that the participants can quickly apply what they have learned in their daily business. This leads to a short and long-term increase in sales effectiveness and efficiency.
Who should participate?
The workshop is aimed at all employees involved in sales. To achieve optimal results, complete account teams should participate i.e. account and sales managers, pre-sales specialists and consultants.
Increase sales – by improving the action plans in current sales projects
Increase the closing rate – by identifying and eliminating deficits in the sales process
Promotion of teamwork – through a common language in sales
More accurate forecasts – by linking the chance of success to key activities
Increasing effectiveness – through better qualification and focus
Sustainable impact – by quickly integrating the concepts into daily business
Understanding the difference between the selling and buying process
Establishing unhindered access to the customer’s “buying centre
Improve communication within the sales team
Develop individual benefit arguments and make them tangible for the customer
Gain trust through a sales team that is coordinated with the buying center
Securing the purchase decision through a cost/benefit calculation
Develop and implement an effective competitive strategy
Creating an activity plan with the customer to control the process
Help the customer in his internal sales process
Working with the purchasing department
Focus on the right projects and make Go / No-Go decisions
Learning from successes and failures
Time management in sales to achieve short, medium and long-term goals
Applying what you have learned in your daily business
The two-day workshop starts at 8:30 am on both days, ends at 7:00 pm on the first day and at 5:00 pm on the second day. An optional implementation control takes place 3 months after the workshop.
Preparation of the participants
To maximize the benefit of the workshop, participants will analyze their own won and lost projects and describe the current situation in one or two important sales projects. Participants apply what they learn in the workshop directly to selected sales projects.
Millán Elduayen Urcola is the managing director of Häfele HerrajesEspaña, s.l.
– Millán, what were the challenges you faced for your sales team?
The lack of structures and processes that allow for greater efficiency in management and sales, the insufficient information from the visit reports and the absence of a uniform method in sales are the main problems we have to face. The challenge is to develop a methodology for the sales process that leads to greater efficiency and increased sales.
– How did the methodology practised in the workshop help you to master the challenge?
The method represents a structured approach that enables us to create a consistent and efficient sales process, optimize resources and focus on the right customers and selling complex projects. It also helps us to systematically structure the required sales strategies and action plans. The method can be easily adapted and scaled depending on the company and target market we want to address.
– When would you recommend other sales managers to work with Roberto?
My team finds the workshop one of the most practical and best-structured workshops they ever attended during their career at Häfele (author’s note: some of the employees have been with Häfele for over 20 years). I would recommend working with Roberto to all companies that want to expand their network and integrate it professionally. In contrast to traditional training, working with Roberto is much more dynamic and he always takes the sales staff into account when designing the sales process and picks them up where they are. Roberto is always attentive to the specific needs of the company and his advice has helped us in our development.
For further information, please contact Roberto Maugeri-de Graaff at www.maugeri-degraaff.com.
“WIN NEW KEY CUSTOMERS” shows how the needs of potential or existing key customers and their own offers (products and services) can be visually matched. Sometimes new ideas and approaches for a specific customer group are developed during the workshop.
During this exciting and interactive day, you will learn about the customer-focused approach by means of your own current sales projects. The approach, which is focused on business customer sales, is inspired by Design Thinking, Business Model – and Value Proposition Design. It is about iterative approaching the needs of the customer and his customers (the customers of our potential customer) and about getting to know and applying new approaches and ways of thinking.
BENEFITS OF THE WORKSHOP
Intensive discussion with the potential or existing key customer
The practical application of “the customer is our focus”.
Reflection of your own approach to sales
Developing new ideas and ways of thinking to differentiate yourself with your own sales process
Creation of new motivation for the daily sales routine
Persons of all functions who work in sales or in sales-related functions. Especially executives from the areas of management, sales, product and service development and marketing are addressed. The workshop is aimed at all companies with business customers (B2B Sales).
COMMENTS ON THE WORKSHOP
“It was great to think about our key customers in such a structured way”, Jan Bietenholz, Head of Sales & Marketing
“The best part was the questioning technique for the Buying Center”, Patric Kirchner, Head of Sales
“The workshop was exciting, diversified with a lot of self-deepening work”, Marco Krieg, Sales Field Service
CONTENT OF THE WORKSHOP
What is the market system and the environment of the key customer?
How does the key customer work with his customers and suppliers?
Why is our key customer successful in the market?
A mixture of short presentations and active application of the different methods makes the workshop varied and anchors what has been learned. The participants are actively accompanied during the workshop.
09:00 to 17:00
For company-specific workshops, you determine where you want to hold the workshop. We consider it a good opportunity to combine the workshop with a dinner together with your team or to schedule the workshop adjacent to another important internal team event.
I am Roberto Maugeri-de Graaff and I am a recognized expert in national and international business customer sales, with almost 25 years of experience in this field. Among other things, I was head of the Sales & Marketing working group for the sale of railway technology for the Gotthard base tunnel. The contract for the railway technology for the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the largest order in Swiss economic history with a volume of 1.7 billion Swiss francs. Of course, I am not saying this without pride. But I have also worked in smaller companies where I sold products and services for a few thousand Swiss francs and was able to perfect my skills on the phone, for example.
Today I pass on my knowledge and experience to interested companies in all sectors. Companies from the following industries have already booked my workshops: Software Development, Crowd-Sourced Photography, Trade and Commerce, Facility Management, Building Services Engineering, Geoinformation and Payment Systems.