If you know how to sell apples …. can you also sell oranges

Customer Delight, Sales

I pride myself on the idea of being able to sell different things. I have sold things from industrial automation items to computers, to embedded devices which get into cars, all the way into selling different kinds of services.

The fundamental principle behind my confidence was the fact that if I know how to sell, then I can sell anything. Which brings us to the topic – when I am looking for someone for a specific role, to hire from outside, then why do I forget this principle. When I am looking for people to join our company from outside then I always ask for specific domain knowledge in selling. So my HR had this question, why do I discriminate.

When I am doing an internal transfer of resources, I don’t mind experimenting and letting people move from selling apples to selling oranges. That’s because, I know the capabilities of the person since they have worked in my team and I know that they will be able to adapt and learn about the new environment. Here there’s only one variable which I am addressing – the ability of the person to learn things about oranges and identifying people to sell oranges. I have had people whom I have moved from HR into Marketing because they had the drive to learn new things and explore.

When I am taking someone from outside, the person is completely unknown to me. Therefore I prefer to know, that in the domain that I want, that person has sold things. There are other variables about the new person which I don’t know. Like will the person be able to adjust to our culture, is she really in a position to deliver whatever she has written in the resume etc. Managing so many variables, including trying to give them new domain expertise is extremely time consuming. So to ensure that people become productive in the least amount of time, I would like to get people with domain expertise, when I am recruiting someone.

Coming back to where we started, if you know the psychology of selling, you can sell any product. You may take time to learn how the new product has to be positioned , what are the pain points that need to be identified etc. But once you know those, you can easily move from selling apples to selling oranges. The key aspect is knowing the psychology of helping a customer identify the problem, helping them solve the problem and delighting them.

There are other dynamics like selling cycles that you need to adapt to, but I have known people who were selling bicycle tyres to retailers get into successfully sell computers to corporates and some one selling sugar, get into selling computers.

So good sales people can sell what you give them to sell – apples or oranges.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

How to handle – the B2B sales person’s dilemma – 3

B2B, education, education, Marketing, Sales

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.

Carpe Diem!!!

How to handle – the B2B sales person’s dilemma – 2

B2B, Sales

In yesterday’s post I had written about how some of the dialogues you can use to identify other stake holders involved in a B2B sale. Just to reiterate – no B2B sale (until its a relatively low value item) can happen with a team of people taking a decision together. The sooner you can figure that out the lesser time you will waste on the wrong accounts.

Since a sales person’s income is based on the amount of income she can generate through incentives, if she wastes time on the accounts where the chance of making a sale are low, she will not be able to get incentives.

Now coming to the other issue of identifying the competition.

The reason I took, identifying people as the first step, is because, the more people you can pick information from, the more is the chance that you will have a clearer picture of both the challenges in the account as well as the competition.

Once you have mapped the people the most simple way to find out competition is to ask ” your compliance process may not allow you to only look at my solution -what other options are you considering”. By asking a question in this fashion the prospect has little room to wriggle out. If they say they don’t have to bother about compliances, you have a red flag – any public listed or venture capital / private equity backed company will have to have strong compliances in place. So they will have to tell you if they have already identified the competition or they are still looking for someone, but you will be able to get info. Now based on your experience you can position your relative strengths.

Its also important to know if they are considering other ways to solve the problem – consider Porter’s competing forces framework – you could buy printers to take printouts or you could take a service without spending capital in buying printers and get the same printouts. Only the method of procuring changes from one time to ongoing, the outcome is the same for the customer, but if you are selling printers then you lose this order.

The last item which I would definitely advice all sales people is to not be a “know it all”. Be hungry to pick up inputs from all your prospects. They can train you more than, all you internal trainings , on what the competition is offering in the market. Being willing to listen is a very big advantage in sales.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

The B2B sales person’s dilemma

B2B, Fear, Sales, Uncategorized

Over the years while directly being involved in sales myself or leading a sales team, I have realized,  it’s always difficult for the sales guy to ask who else is in competition in the account where he’sselling.

Most weak sales people live in this LA LA Land . I still get sales people telling me that the “customer is only talking to me”. It’s actually a dilemma because the earlier you realize that you may not get the order you are scared because you don’t know what you will put in your prospect sheet.

When I was in my early years in sales, I did not have a large enough prospect base most of the time. Now because of that I  always had the feeling that I did not have the luxury to lose an order. Due to this I would try to please the customer in every which way hoping that he will not call my competitors to discuss the requirements.

Some of the smart prospects actually used to give me the assurance that they would not discuss with any other company.  But when we were called for negotiations,  I would realize there were so many players and I  didn’t stand a chance.

These failures taught me a few lessons- the first being – never believe that only one person’s decision will be important in a B2B sale. There will Always Always be multiple people involved in a B2B sale.

The second fact is that, there can never be only one company with whom they are discussing for the solution.  Due to the success of your marketing you may be the first people they call for a discussion,  but be sure they will call others, if only to get you to bring your price down.

The only time when the above may not strictly hold true is when you are building something for them at your cost…..which may be rare because of compliance issues.

Which then means that you should make it a point in every meeting to check out who else is in competition.  There are various ways to do it and we can have a separate post on that.

Its better to be clear about your competition in advance and plan your sales accordingly,  rather being thrown a curve ball, at the order you had committed was 100% probable and blaming the prospect for underhand dealings or sudden relative of the CFO appearing.

Sales is a very methodical process and you can’t wing it. The people on the other side of the table are seasoned buyers who deal with sales people all day. They also appreciate a professional preparation.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!