For a sales person, the biggest consumable she has is time. If it’s gone or wasted on worthless prospects or prospects who are only out there to take “gyan” or knowledge then your income reduces by that much.
For most people who work for someone else, they sell their time for money. With sales people the advantage is that they can get incentives which can really multiply their earnings. So there is a lot of leverage on their time. And the more leverage that they can build, the more they can get rich.
So one is clearly identifying the accounts you want to work with. Sometimes the company would decide this and you have little options. Sometimes the company that you work for may also limit the products/services that you are allowed to sell. That makes life a little more challenging.
In that case the other big leverage that you can get is by using referrals. If you can create happy customers and they can refer other customers to you, then you can get an amazing amount of leverage on your time. Happy customers are always the best source of new business because then there are less hurdles to cross even with the company you are referred to.
Most sales people however feel scared to ask for referrals because they think the customer is doing them a favour. I also used to feel the same way and used to ask it in a very apologetic manner. However, has a friend asked you for help identifying a good “Chinese” restaurant. You have felt happy to recommend a restaurant, if you have had a good experience. This thought was brought out to me by Dean Jackson and Jay Abraham and since then I keep thinking about various ways to be in front of my customer when they are having a conversation where I can be of help. Think from this angle.
Everyone has a time constrain, but for sales folks it has direct impact on their earning capability so choose your customers well and figure out ways that you will create happy customers and then create ways to get a steady state of referrals.
Till next time then.
When I was younger and people would ask me what I did for a living – my typical answer would be – I get out of the house on my rounds and sell whatever I have been asked to sell that day – some times its potato chips, sometimes its computers. That was in a lighter vein but over the years I have been involved in selling so many different products and services that I don’t actually see too many differences.
I fundamentally believe that selling is selling. Irrespective of what you are selling and to whom you are selling. Whether you are selling a product or a service, at the end of the day, the customer is buying a result that the purchase will give her/him. So you need to figure out the result that the customer is looking for and how you can get them the result. However there’s a lot of academic discussions which talk about why they are different.
My two cents on this topic are as follow
- Every thing that you sell has a nuance to it. Even within products – different products would have different kind of audiences , different price points, different results, same would be the case with different kinds of services
- The orientation of the consumer sale would be different from the business sale, in terms of the complexity involved in the business to business sale (i.e. number of people and steps) and the time involved.
- The way you showcase the result could be different – in consumer products you use advertising, while in B2B you might use a direct sales team.
- The way you solicit the business may vary – but some consumer products are also sold to businesses and what was once considered a business product (like computers) could soon become a consumer product.
Inspite of all the above points – one distinct difference is that , generally, products have well defined boundaries while it is tougher to put boundaries on what is constituted as a service because humans are involved in the delivery. So standardisation is much tougher.
In most cases today, the product and service get intertwined – do you go to a restaurant because the food is good or because the ambience and service is excellent or all of them.
Till next time then – it doesn’t matter what you are selling as long as you know the result you get for the customer – rest of the things can be managed.
So in my last 2 posts I wrote about couple of areas, on how as a product manager, I would get my forecasts wrong.
In this one, we will talk about competition. Whenever there’s a good market, you will have competition come in, sooner rather than later. The more the competition, the more the challenges because you have to estimate in advance how competition would react to your offering.
The advantage of the B2B market is that generally, the competition is defined. Until a rank outsider comes in with a revolutionary product, generally the B2B space is defined and the products/services are also known.
In the market – perception is the reality. So if your competition creates a perception of a superior product/service or a cheaper service or a more flexible service, then all your forecasts can go haywire, if the market believes that your product is inferior in any way / more expensive / less flexible.
When you are working with a specific software tool or you are a partner for only a specific kind of equipment, then your options for differentiation decrease. It limits you to primarily two things – experience that you have and the kind of technical expertise that you have created.
If its your own product/service you can leverage on other things like the kind of packaging that you do, or the software code that you have built.
From a competition perspective the other thing that you need to note is the number of sales people in the market from your competitors versus yourself. If you have 3 sales people while you have competition with 7 sales people each, then its not practical for your team to outrun the competition. Your competition will always have more people covering more accounts. Which means your chance of losing a deal is always higher. Planning without this aspect clearly articulated in your assumptions is a grave mistake.
But marketing – especially in B2 is very interesting because of these factors.
Till next time then.
This is the last part of the series of posts on this topic. We started with how to identify the various stake holders and then figuring out the players who are in competition. I shared possible conversations which you can mould to your sales situation. You can read some very good books on B2B sales like The Challenger Sale, or Strategic Selling by Miller, Hiemann etc. which you can use to direct your effort better.
While these are tactics, I shared, on how to become a more mature and professional sales person, you will not adapt these till you resolve the root cause of why you are afraid to ask these questions inspite of the fact you know them. While I am preaching this too you, I too was in the same boat. I read a lot of books to figure out better methods for sales but I could not solve the core problem.2B
The root cause is the fact that you don’t have enough options in terms of prospects. Since you don’t know if you will have another prospect, if you lose this one, you are scared of losing this. Professional buyers can actually sense this. They deal with sellers all day long.
If they realise that you don’t have other prospects on whom you can bank for sales they will keep negotiating with you till “they can’t wring the towel anymore” and then still not give you the order.
If you are in a hyper competitive industry like IT , where the barriers to entry are non-existent, then I can’t blame you because the targets for you and your competitors are very high and there are only so many deals happening.
But within these industries, intelligent sales people figure out ways to prioritise the accounts where they see a better match. Whether it’s their personal branding or the way they understand their prospect’s pain better, these folks can outrun the competition. Most of the times, it’s about asking better questions to the prospect and challenging her thinking and be willing to walk out if there’s no match instead of wasting time.
As I have mentioned earlier – for the sales guy, time is her rarest asset. If she can invest that time well she can earn massive returns.
Till next time then.