A blog by Phil Kreindler
I have talked about the importance of a Sales Process for several years now and a good Sales Process is essential. You can improve its effectiveness significantly by designing your Sales Process around customer expectations of professional salespeople. But that’s not enough. A good Sales Process alone won’t win you the sale. Really significant improvements in your chances of winning require Game Changers.
What do I mean by a Game Changer? Firstly it is something you do in a sales opportunity that radically disrupts the way the customer views you, your solution or the competition. The emphasis is on the word “radically”. Secondly it has to be something that can be easily replicated and used again and by other sales team members. Finally it has to be something that fits into a Sales Process stage.
Let me give you some examples. This first one is about changing the way the customer views you – or in this case views us – as it relates to a sale Infoteam recently made to a world-leading provider of equipment and solutions for technical education.
We had worked with the parent company previously and I was asked to make a presentation at their European Sales Meeting where I was approached by the person who was managing their Sales Transformation project. She was one of their star sales people. She showed me the internal project paper, which had many valuable elements, but revealed her lack of in depth knowledge about how to make transformation happen. We worked with her to improve the document using her company templates and with her name on it. When she was happy with it, she used it to present the project to her board.
We didn’t try and get access to senior decision makers and pitch to them. We made sure everything was expressed from her organisation’s perspective and we let her shine. The document radically changed the vendor selection process in our favour.
Engineer your strengths into the customer’s needs
Let me share another example, again from our own experience of selling Sales Transformation programs. This Game Changer radically disrupted the way the customer viewed our solution versus the competition.
We found ourselves up against a strong competitor pitching for a very large project with a global communications company. We knew the competitor’s solution well and knew that their sales methodology was often perceived as too complex and difficult to implement. The objective of our competitive strategy was to introduce our strengths into the customer’s needs. We positioned interviews with key decision makers as a way to better understand the customer’s requirements but the real objective was to implement our competitive strategy. In the interviews we covered several aspects of their needs but in addition we asked a number of questions about the importance of a pragmatic, easy to implement solution. By the time it came to the vendor solution presentations the importance of user acceptance was front of mind with the key people and we won the business.
Where do game changing ideas come from?
I have observed many groups of sales people striving to come up with game changing ideas and it is always just one or two people who come up with the best ideas. This is no surprise. Psychologists like Belbin long ago identified that in any group there will be a few people who are good at coming up with creative ideas. Game Changers are likely to come from your best sales people – the ones who are good at expressing what they do intuitively in a way that can be effectively communicated throughout the sales team and be used by all of them.
We are currently working with a large software organisation on Sales Transformation and shortly we are running a workshop with 400 sales people at their global sales conference. We will run 40 Opportunity Pit Stops, all working on live opportunities that need game changing ideas. At the end of all the sessions we will collate all the game changers and present them back to the 400 participants so they can take away a set of examples that have been developed to meet real challenges that arise when selling their own solutions in different customer segments.
You may not have a 400 strong team but you are almost certain to have some creative thinkers in your team whose best game changing ideas need to be shared among the whole team. Your objective is to have a set of Game Changers for every stage in the sales process. Using them effectively will mean every Opportunity Pit Stop is a chance to define game changers that will radically improve your chances of winning the sale.
- Is your sales process just a box ticking exercise?
- Do your Opportunity Pit Stops give people genuine game changing ideas?
- Are you effectively sharing Game Changers across your team?
Slimming cure for your sales funnel
Here I would like to share the experience I had with a potential customer a few months ago.
Shortly after starting my own business, I received an inquiry for a sales training for a large global biotech and life science company in the Basel area. Let’s call it “Life Sciences AG“. A person from the human resources department wanted to know the price of one of our modules and sent us an e-mail. Our sales approach is based on always getting to know the customer’s needs and the Buying Center before the actual offer. For this reason, I replied to the person:
“Dear XY, thank you very much for your inquiry and interest in our services. My name is Roberto Maugeri-de Graaff and I am your consultant in charge of this inquiry and the next steps. Before we come to an offer, I would like to know something about the motivation, the sales goals and the challenges of Life Sciences AG to tailor our offer to Life Sciences AG.
I would like to contact you by phone next Friday either at 09:00h or 15:00h if that is okay with you. Do you agree with this procedure and does one of the two proposed times suit you? Thank you very much for a short feedback.
“Dear Mr. Maugeri, thank you very much for your mail. What we would like to know at this moment is how much the above-mentioned workshop will cost and when it will take place. I am currently very difficult to reach by telephone, so I would be very grateful if you could inform me by mail. Thank you very much.”
Keep your spirits up
I then sent a longer e-mail with a link to our questionnaire and the questions I needed to find out about what Life Sciences AG needs. Afterwards, there was radio silence and, on the phone, I was held up by the reception for several weeks. As a “start-up company” my nervousness increased and finally I got carried away to communicate a price. And behold, the next day I already had the answer and an order for 1 employee who had just started in sales Well, since we only do tailor-made, in-house workshops with the whole sales department, I could not confirm the order. A telephone call with the person from the human resources department also showed that there were no clear goals and no agreement with our services. So, we politely declined and offered to be available for an in-depth, serious analysis of the sale of Life Sciences AG.
What did I learn from this?
“Stick to your principles,” I told myself. This case was a “lesson” for me to be able to say “no” once in a while. Not to bet on “dead horses” has a greater effect than commonly assumed:
– It mentally opens up space for new opportunities.
– A polite refusal, which leaves the door open for further chances, often strengthens the reputation.
– Internal resources are freed up to focus on the really important customers
Therefore, it helps to have a clear customer profile, guidelines for Go/No-Go decisions and clear ideas about how your own sales process should look like. Because the customer’s purchasing process is not a good sales process for us, or as my business partner Phil Kreindler says: “Only doing what the customer asks for is not a good sales process”.
An unusual experiment. Try putting your finger just above the collarbone and below the Adam’s apple as far as possible until it hurts. I think you can already get quite far in there. But, can you imagine doing the same exercise with a rusty, 10mm thick rebar or reinforcing steel? Neither can I, and yet it worked.
The video here: YouTube
Thanks, Marc Gassert for this experience! (www.marcgassert.de)
A blog post by Roberto Maugeri-de Graaff, a B2B sales process architect.
In marketing and sales, there are often talks about B2B and B2C. The “B” stands for “business”, meaning companies, and “C” stands for “consumer”, the “2” stands for “to”, meaning “to”. B2B is thus broken down into business-to-business and B2C is business-to-consumer, i.e. all of us.
6 dimensions are described below, which allow a fundamental distinction to be made between the two areas of business relations, B2B and B2C:
Dimension 1: The emotions
B2C: When we buy something privately, it is usually something we need in our household, something we want for our hobby, we give something away or we buy it simply because we like it or because it is fun. The last argument is not limited to small expenses. Many people buy an expensive sports car or a holiday home simply because they like it and not because they need it. We often also replace items because they no longer look good or because we have “seen” the item.
B2B: When a company buys something, it is almost always a business investment. The purchased goods should bring the company a financial added value, i.e. a financial profit. They try to leave emotions completely out of the equation. Many companies change the buyer for a certain supplier every year and let the various buyers “rotate” among the suppliers. This is intended to prevent an emotional bond or relationship.
Dimension 2: The time
B2C: Who does not know the impulse purchase? A friend or acquaintance told us about a great product and we thought: “Well, I could actually afford to do that. After Christmas, I’ll take a look at it”. But then after a short time, you walk past a shop where this very product is in the shop window as a “special offer” and you are in a good mood and buy the product not only because of the nice salesperson.
B2B: Completely different from a procurement decision in companies. These are well-coordinated and, among other things, are provided with a plan for profitability and implementation.
Dimension 3: The Buyer
B2B: A very large difference is the professional buyers in B2B. They are trained in dealing with purchasing processes and are often not alone. At Infoteam we distinguish between 5 different roles: the approver, the decision-maker, the auditor, the user and the coach. Often the B2B salesperson is opposed by two, three or a dozen people in the company who influence the purchasing decision (the Buying Center). It is very complex to consider all these people with their wishes and ideas, to know the business and personal goals and to incorporate the criteria leading to the decision into our offer. Interestingly, many personnel departments still first check the professional and technical skills of the prospective sales employee and also weight them strongly. This, however, is material for a future blog post.
B2C: The private “buyer”, on the other hand, has at best been well or very well informed. But it is not his main occupation.
Dimension 4: Legal and voluntary guidelines
B2C: There are legal regulations if we as private persons want to buy a weapon or an exotic animal. Of course, we also impose voluntary criteria such as fairly produced clothes or we compensate for the CO2 emitted by our flight. But if we are invited to the theatre by the car dealer, we gladly accept this without further ado. For the vast majority of B2C purchases, however, legal requirements are irrelevant.
B2B: Different in the corporate environment in B2B. Here I have already experienced it, that my customer insisted on paying for his lunch himself in the in-house canteen. In many companies, lunch or even small gifts like a bottle of wine are forbidden. This presents the B2B salesperson with ever greater problems in establishing a relationship of trust with this customer and establishing a relationship based on which a trusting and efficient transaction can take place.
Dimension 5: Marketing
B2C: Since we cannot personally look after all “consumers” in B2C, we have to spend a lot of money in Marketing.We have to invest in large-scale marketing campaigns. Not just because the margins in B2C are often in the lower, single-digit percentage range. We need at least hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers to run a business profitably.
B2B: In B2B, on the other hand, the revenue per customer is usually higher and therefore we need fewer customers. How much less depends on the industry and business. In general, however, it is often the case that companies generate the major part of their sales and predominant part of their turnover with only a handful of customers. For this reason key account managers in larger companies only have a few customers.
Dimension 6: Level of professionalism
B2C: As a B2C salesperson at a department store or in the grocery store around the corner, our customers do not expect a high level of professionalism. Of course, it is a pleasure to have a noticeably trained salesperson on the other side. But I would say that friendliness and helpfulness are more important. A salesperson in a clothing store does not need a university degree in materials science.
B2B: But we expect more from a B2B salesperson for hydroelectric power plants. By this, I do not so much mean professional and technical skills, but rather business management knowledge and organizational skills. The B2B salesperson must know the challenges and processes of the customer, he must know when to call in an internal expert on a topic and he must also be able to manage the sales process internally (specifications, prices, resources and involvement of other departments and functions). Infoteam’s study has shown that 45% of the customers surveyed expect more professionalism, but only 25% of suppliers feel that more needs to be done.
It is becoming more and more important for the B2B salesperson to gain the trust of their customers already during the sales process. Phil Kreindler has summarized this in his book “Customerized Selling” in the following 5 points:
- Reaction speed
- Team spirit
- Living company values (not just talking about them)
A professional and well-implemented sales process supports the implementation of these principles and makes the sales process more successful.
Many thanks to Janine Brüssing of Cleantechnology Consulting for the editorial support of this article. The picture is by Gili Benita from Unsplash.