[GUEST BLOG] How sales hasn't changed and the rules of thumb that can help you close

Many say the world of selling has changed. But in reality it’s not selling that has changed but the buyer and in the world of selling there are some rules that you can use to help you seal the deal.

Many say the world of selling has changed. But in reality it’s not selling that has changed but the buyer and in the world of selling there are some rules that you can use to help you seal the deal.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 36 seconds

Today the Business Development (BD) Executive can choose from a plethora of data rich customer management systems to engage effectively and efficiently with prospects and clients. This trend has been rolling through market-focused organisations since the late 70s, and in my 40 plus years in this space I’ve witnessed massive innovation and change.

For example, in the late 70s one company I ran had 72 heavily commissioned Sales Consultants scouring every street in South Africa and my colleague in India managed thousands of Sales Representatives – most on bicycles. Today these companies have far fewer Account Executives and lots of technology.

So how has the Business Development role in the B2B space changed and what are the key drivers of client acquisition and retention?

It is my view that B2B Business Development has not changed its primary role. To quote from Unilever’s 1985 Professional Skills Directory, a key competency for a BD Executive was:

“Living the Market: The development of an in-depth customer intimacy (understanding) which enables the company to add highly differentiated value to our customers businesses, by…”  

I don’t think anything has changed here nor with many of the other items in this old spec.

What’s changed is that we can now get “super precise” in our targeting, timing, tracking, and metrics and we can deliver services in a multitude of different ways with the new technologies available through the Internet of Things (IoT).

Marketing has also moved with the times towards a more individualised approach (Buyer Personas for example) vs the Brand Key’s (a tool for getting to the brand’s essence) and the spray and pray approach of yesteryear.  

As Lord Leverhume said many years ago, “I know that only half of my advertising spend works for me, I just don’t know which half”.

I wonder what he would say about Inbound Marketing today.

Today’s clients buy differently and are well informed, meaning that content or function is less important than timing and attractiveness of the proposal.

This is all great stuff that can add volumes of value to our engagement with the client, but is it sufficient to drive new and existing client revenue growth? My answer in most sectors is “No”. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition to compete today.

Your competitors can access the same stuff and therefore without it you are at a significant disadvantage. But, you need another ingredient which is less tangible.

I do a lot of Business Process Mapping and it is interesting to track the point at which the online engagement tools are no longer able to convert the prospect. Obviously, in simple product categories this point is often never reached or is not seen (e.g. word-of-mouth referral). However, with high value, more complex purchase decisions it is a lot shorter – the need to eye-ball the prospect is crucial to build trust, certainty, and the momentum to buy.

With today’s more informed buyers, the differentiators are crisply focused on value rather than content.

So how do you deliver “differentiated value” after you’ve got all the marketing mechanics right?

As we all know, trust is built up over time by exceeding expectations every time – so managing expectations is critical. The big question is: “How do you accelerate trust, certainty, and momentum where the client has limited experience of you, your product/service, or organisation?”

Obviously, your marketing collateral provides some support for the certainty that your organisation can deliver what it promises, and that starts with them trusting you.

So, let’s peel back this onion of trust and certainty.

Objective: To establish a solid foundation of trust in one meeting

There is a substantial body of research and experience which confirms that HOW you communicate (body posture, voice tone, and so on) is extremely important to the message you convey and can actually change the intended meaning of WHAT you say.

So, mastery of these other signals is a must for anybody in the persuasion game. Understanding the role of your LEGS, HANDS, TORSO, FACE, and VOICE in communicating trust and certainty and inspiring action is critical – I’ll leave you the pleasure of googling these body language tips!

The basic rules of thumb are:

  • Always be at a higher positive energy level than your prospect – RELAXED CONFIDENCE is what you want to communicate – so learn how to prep yourself before the session, even if it’s a telephonic session.
  • Get your elevator pitch on message with a firm posture – the first impression is crucial – even on the phone.
  • Switch your problem-solving engine off. You are there to build a relationship of trust – so focus on what your client is saying/ not saying.
  • Build on their story, not yours. Read our blog Mindfulness in the workplace and going offline for some more insights.
  • Explore, explore, and explore until you find stuff that maps to what you can do. Don’t ever assume that the reason for the meeting is only what the client agreed to. Your role is to build a relationship.
  • Look for objections and enjoy dealing with them – there are plenty of resources online to help with this, to start we recommend this one from HubSpot.
  • When you have handled all objections it’s time to build the momentum for closure. Paraphrase the main issues and visualise the solutions you will bring. One at a time and no more than three.
  • “Presenting something in a way that is acceptable to the person” = Selling. Each personality type has their idea of “acceptable”: the highly dominant type wants it short and sharp with two alternatives so that they can make the decision, the steady type want a roadmap to limit disruption and risk and so on. : There is an app that can help you with this preparation: Approach (its free).
  • Then “putt beyond the hole” – visualise the world once you’ve done your job. People think in images so using visualisation mobilises emotions and momentum. Now it’s just a question of signing all the boring stuff.

actionable tip sales

We await with bated breath to see if the new AI initiatives coming down the track will be able to make the many judgement calls that the BD person makes every hour.

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