A few things I learned in B2B Sales
After completing PGDM I have never been far away from the B2B sales scene. As the need of the organization changed, I have played different roles but I have never strayed far from this career path.[Day 24 of my “One Day One Blog” ]
At XIM Bhubaneswar, we had an amazing Professor called Dr Joydeep Mukherjee who taught us Sales & Marketing. In his introductory class, he spent a little time ensuring that we understood what life is like for someone who embarks on a career in sales; especially in a B2B space.
In the early days of his career, Prof Mukherjee handled sales in the Eastern part of India for Blow Plast. Some of you may know them as the manufacturers of VIP Luggages. In his narration, our Prof mentioned the kind of relationship he had to develop with the distributors. He would tell us the names of the grandchildren of the distributor of the region and how he used to be invited for each and every function in their family.
During my stint with Pilkington ( a glass manufacturer where my customers were the Processing industry and the Fabricators) and later on at Fourth Ambit, I have come to realize that “Relationship” is indeed the key to be successful in B2B Sales.
I will walk you through the Sales cycle of a B2B Deal closure focusing on my learning at each point.
The Lead Generation
If you are a new salesperson in an established business, you may be fortunate enough to get a few leads and recommendations before you start the job. But what if yours is a new business?
You will proceed to “cold-calling”. Often, the conversion rate on such efforts are negligible. This is because in most cases, you will look on the company website or Linkedin and pick up the name of the purchase manager and make a cold call.
You will be lucky the if the person on the other end agrees to meet you even.
But if you have no other choice and this is the route you must go through, ensure that you map the following:
The gatekeeper: This is the person who will allow you entry to the right people.
The Influencer: While he/she may not be the decision maker, this person needs to be in your corner.
The decision maker: The guy who signs the check
For B2B deals, the value of transactions will be very high. Sometimes running into crores. In such cases, no one person will be responsible for taking a decision. A study published in Harvard Business Review says that the average number of decision makers have gone from 4 to 6 in the last 2 years alone. It is safe to say that larger the value, larger the number of decision makers.
As a B2B Marketer, you need to understand the pain points of each of the key people and talk the language they understand.
One of the big mistakes I have done in the earlier days ( and now I sometimes catch newbies in the team doing so) is telling the customers what they want.
Stop thinking of yourself as someone who is there to take their money. Go there to listen to them. They may go round and round the same route before letting you get two words in. But in between all the ranting, they would have also given you clues on what their problem is and what kind of solution they are looking for. If you are not the kind who can listen patiently, then let me assure you that you are in the wrong job.
Key Factor: We tend to assume that the buyer knows quite a bit about the solution they are looking for. This may not be true. They will be trying to make a decision with the limited information they have. And if the decision is wrong, their head is on the line. They will be stressed. You need to win their trust by educating them; not adding onto their stress.
The Journey till Sign-off
In B2B sales, there may never be a one-size-fits-all solution. You will need to customize your proposal to the client’s needs. It is very critical that you understand the client’s needs before you put forth a proposal. It is also equally critical that the client understands what you are proposing.
I do not subscribe to the belief that you agree to anything the client demands so as to close the deal. Accounts won that way will either be a huge drain on your resources OR you will not be able to fulfill the demands and end up with an irate customer. Either way, you lose.
A better option is to have transparent discussions on what is possible and what is not. Most of the times, you will manage to win the client. They may crib and cry and throw tantrums like a 5 year old but in the long term they will value your honesty.
Key Factor: While it is important to educate the customer, do not confuse them with deluge of information. Your product may be able to build ships and make pizzas at the same time. But if the customer is only looking for a Pizza-maker, stick to that part of the solution.
Post the Sign-off
The nature of B2B business is that it takes an incredibly long time to close. But once they become your customer, they will stay yours unless you botch up real bad! And the B2B customers are also great for referrals.
So don’t even think for a moment that you have seen the last of the customer after the deal is signed (Yet another reason not to make random promises in your sale pitch)
Your company can have the best after sales service. But for B2B customer you are the be-all and end-all of your company. So don’t be surprised if you get a call 6 am saying that the truck delivery is delayed,etc
On that note….
I started with the anecdote about Prof Mukherjee and his distributor. I have now been in the B2B space for over a decade. If you ask me what is the ONE secret to be successful in B2B Sales, I will tell you that it is the strength of your relationship with your customers.
When they buy your product, they are putting money on your integrity. As long as that holds true, you have nothing to worry in this line of work.
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Friends, this is the Day 24 of my odyssey to write one blog EVERY DAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog”
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