If you are a B2B sales leader, or sales trainer you will have seen a significant change in customer behavior over the past decade.  Consequently, the way a sales rep needs to earn a client’s trust and confidence has changed. Selling based on traditional features, functions and price is no longer feasible. Prospective clients have such a wealth of information at their fingertips to educate themselves on your products, they often are savvier about your products and services than your top sales reps. What you need is a new approach to sales - a new sales process.

Other sales tactics which have gone from tried and true, to tired and rude include:

  • End of month, quarter, or fiscal year discounting
  • Making derogatory or aggressive remarks about your competitors
  • Insincere sales pitches where there is no thought leadership, just schmaltzy sales jibber jabber

Consultative selling, and relationship based selling is becoming the most compelling way to move a client from suspect, to prospect and finally to close.

The good news is about the modern B2B client is – by the time a prospect connects with a sale they are as much as seventy percent of the way through their buying process. They don’t require a lot of the hand holding and educating about your product set.

The bad news, (or could be), the client is as much as seventy percent of their way through their buying process, and unless you can find a way to articulate the business benefits of your products, services, and or solutions, you may not earn your way to the VITO. (Very Important Top Officer) or decision maker.

If your sales team is still using the old fashioned sales tactics, like asking “What keeps you up at night?” or “What business initiatives do you have going on right now that“ (implied) “can help me sell my product?” then they need to go back to the drawing board. B2B sales people need to demonstrate they are willing to put in some sweat equity on research, and find out what a client’s key business drivers are them self. This is especially true in the case of proactive, outbound selling. Finding a reason to call a customer and asking for their valuable time.

The benefits of social media, blogging and other digital marketing efforts like videos are to demonstrate that you understand your clients’ business pains, and have offerings which can address their needs. When your marketing team writes blogs, whitepapers, and sales presentations, they should involve the sales team to find out the sorts of problems customers are dealing with.  Then, have them build messaging to give to sales on how to address the quantifiable business value that your offerings address, which is in line with what clients are looking for. That’s table stakes!

Have your sales management team brainstorm on questions like:

  • What problems do our products and services solve?
  • What is it about our company, our people and/or our “stuff” that gives us an edge over our competitors? (Without actually naming and/or shaming them)
  • Are there any metrics in terms of business impact (top line profitability, bottom line cost containment, time savings) which your reps can leverage when describing the business value of your products or services?
  • Why did our existing customers choose to buy from us? Why did prospects choose to go with another vendor? What were the results of each?

Getting your sales people comfortable with finding out this sort of information from clients and prospects is a good way to help them build a rapport with customers. Asking these questions to prospects who didn’t buy from you can even help you win back their business, if your competitor has dropped the ball on providing them the expected business outcomes.

Have your account executives ask your existing clients the benefits they have realized since they acquired your solution. See if they will go through a “post mortem” with you as it pertains to SPIN selling:

Situation

What was their business environment like before they decided to contact you about doing business together?

Problem

What is/are the specific challenge(s) your clients in their business, which were a compelling reasons to act?

Implication

What would have happened if they did nothing about their challenges? What did they see as the conditions which required your solution? (What were the pains that needed your “Aspirin”)

Need

What were the values or benefits your clients were hoping would be realized as a direct result of their buying your products, or contracting for your services? In other words, what was the payoff, or desired payoff? (What was the “Candy?” they wanted)

If you can find ways to improve your sales team’s consultative selling skills, you will help them achieve:

  • A higher rate of closed deals
  • A relationship with clients built on trust, where they won’t have to discount your products and services as often as the customer will see the value of your offerings.
  • Higher customer satisfaction ratings, as your reps will be more engaged with them through the sales process as a strategic advisor, not just a transactional salesperson

Helping your sales team become trusted advisors to their clients can help your company get invited to more sales opportunities, and increase the confidence clients have that you can deliver.

What sorts of consultative selling training tactics has your team tried?

Image Credit: United States Mission Geneva

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