January 2017 – “Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.” – Tommy Lasorda

ABC, Always Be Closing. Closing? As the old saying goes, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” It’s always struck me as odd how we teach our salespeople to close. There’s something about it that makes my blood boil. Sharp Angle Close, Assumptive Close, Direct Close, and so on.

No doubt, some buying systems can be influenced by applying various techniques during different stages of the buying cycle, but what are we really doing? Is it better to teach our salespeople techniques or a process of learning and communication that builds a shared idea of the future with the buyer and seller building value together? I’m guessing you know my bias.

Etched in my brain, I believe that selling success has much more to do with process than it does technique – it’s the design and implementation of a process that proactively and rhythmically communicates your value propositions to strategic targets while building trusting relationships that enable you to learn about buying systems and a prospect’s motivation to buy.

Proactive – It has become increasingly easy and often popular to push a button, or buy a word, hoping someone will search and click us to riches. Although this can be useful, it is not sufficient by my way of thinking. I like to work with our clients to help them determine who it is they want to do business with and develop a proactive approach to building a relationship with them.

Rhythm – In B2B sales, timing is one of the biggest obstacles to growth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made my pitch to a buying influence, only to have them tell me that they wished I’d visited weeks before when they chose another solution. Or, sometimes nearly as disappointing, they’ll tell me that they are six months or more away from making a decision. A quality sales process features a regular rhythm of interaction with each prospect. We target 10-12 interactions (calls, direct mail, email, newsletters, etc.) per year, per prospect, closing the gap of buyer forgetfulness and maintaining top-of-mind position and brand awareness.

Value Propositions – FAB, Features, Advantages and Benefits. This is how we thought for years. In today’s noisy, hyper-competitive business environment, I suggest deeper thought here. Once you’ve listed the benefits you bring to the market, take it to another level. Can you quantify it? Can you make a simple benefit statement an overt benefit? Work to build your benefits into value propositions that make a case for the dramatic difference you make in the market. Examples:

  • We ship 92% of all orders same day.
  • Our average service team response time is 2 hours, 12 minutes.
  • Our average cost of completion is 97.8% of budget.

Strategic Targets – With today’s technology, I see a proliferation of target list size. Email marketing has made it easier for us to expand our lists to epic proportions – 2,000, 10,000, even 20,000 targets. This strategy is bogging down our relationship management systems. Yes, we have analytics, we can promote the responding few, but the larger the list, the less strategic it becomes and the more difficult it is to build meaningful relationships. Homogenous marketing techniques, like email marketing, don’t do much to make targets care about you or your organization. Be sure your target lists are manageable and be sure that every target on your list has the potential to be a high-value customer. Work harder to define your ideal customer profile and find those that fit that profile. Typically, we can be memorable and build meaningful relationships with 500-1,000 high-value targets. Once you strategically narrow your list, your optics will improve and sales speed will increase.

Trusting Relationships – We know buyers don’t buy until they trust you and your organization. We also know the only way to build trusting relationships is by creating quality interaction. Quality interaction, not just interaction. Be sure that your sales and marketing systems are bringing value, working to understand the markets they work in and bringing product/service expertise to the strategic targets. Competence delivered with a regular frequency is key. Over time, trust begins to build around your brand.

Learn About Buying Systems and a Prospect’s Motivation to Buy – Your prospecting systems should be built to gather, organize, analyze and leverage what is learned from the market. The faster you can know something new and apply it to your delivery system, the greater your competitive advantage becomes. Build a deep understanding of the buying influences in a system, their power (ability to influence the decision to buy), and support for your solution. Learn why the buying system is considering this transaction. Are they growing? Is there trouble with a supplier? Be sure that you have systems in place, like customer relationship management software that capture and organize this data. The more unique information you collect, the better prepared you are to produce a proposal and solution that tightly fits the application, changing the rules of competition.

With a process solution to business growth in place, you don’t need to apply pressure or feel it. You need to build performance management elements around that process, with a focus on continuous improvement. Better is always good.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com