This past quarter I have had some fabulous guest on Scale Your Sales Podcast all sharing relevant insights on selling value. You may not have had the opportunity to listen to or watch YouTube all 81 episodes. So, I want to capture some of the answers to questions collated before the recordings.
For some, the pandemic has meant adaption, here is what the guest had to say:
Kia Puhm said the pandemic affected companies in 5 key areas – Customer Engagement, Commercials, Employees, Customer Success Team, and Revenue. Specifically, the pandemic forced organisations to engage better with customers, demonstrate their commitment to partner with customers for mutual commercial benefit. To “see” employees holistically, drive more effective cross-functional collaboration and customer success, and use data to identify better solutions for customers and protect revenue for themselves. Last year, said Kia, it was glaringly obvious which companies were already customer-centric and which had to adapt very rapidly to protect their business.
Because so much of sales and business development is accomplished virtually, the pandemic opened new opportunities for companies to expand their client base, said Amy Franko. At the same time, it has underscored the need for a solid and productive sales culture. When your professionals are equipped to sell, you create more client opportunities, you generate stronger revenues and profits, and you are in a better position to diversify your services.
Lenwood Ross recognised the trend toward virtual everything before the pandemic hit. We see the primary research and advisory firms advising their clients that our approach to social media and virtual training is the way to go. So, we have just adapted by redoubling our efforts to get the product in the market as quickly as possible.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Malcolm McDonald captured most of his knowledge and skills in online workshops and formed the Malcolm McDonald Academy.
Tripp Braden said, one of my clients has invested significant time learning new areas of his clients’ organisations during this pandemic. It has allowed this organisation to provide more holistic solutions to their clients.
We made a concerted effort to get closer to current clients, said Larry Long Jr, building stronger relationships and ensuring they clearly understood their clients changing needs during the pandemic to serve them best.
Although the sales industry is changing has it shifted enough to be buyer and customer-centric?
Kia Puhm said she did not think the industry has shifted enough. Sellers are still thinking from a product-centric point of view. Although, trying to help customers leverage their technology. What is not working is creating discussions and plans around product use. However, what is working is aligning to the overarching objectives of the customer’s business. It sets the stage for more strategic conversations and the opportunity to add more value.
B2B sales have not shifted enough because sales are often not involved in the conversation until way too late in the game, says Tripp Braden. It is critical to align internal resources with customer demands and align compensation programs, so everyone wins when the customer wins.
Malcolm McDonald says most companies “make” things, then try to sell them, which is not customer-centric. Most B2B companies send identical messages across all media touchpoints to all their customers irrespective of the different stages of the buying process.
Nikki Rausch has strong views on fear-based selling. Nikki said buyer/customer-centric selling is the most effective way to sell. What works is asking strategic questions to understand the customer need/want and then deliver your proposal back to them, touching on how your solution will address their want/need.
Collaboration is where the evolution of sales is taking us, says Fred Copestake. There is a real benefit for those that can make the shift as customers use buying experience to make decisions.
George Brontén believes that there is still much to be done when it comes to aligning with customer’s business problems and aspirations. Too may still jump to “pitching” too quickly.
Based on research sources and his observations, Simon Hazeldine said very few B2B sellers demonstrate sufficient levels of client centricity.
Blaire G Hervey said, being customer-obsessed helps us to add value and solve customer problems. What does not work is telling the client all about you without learning more about them and their needs.
Relentless focus on the prospect or client and their priorities are essential, said Lisa Magnuson. All solutions must have an immediate impact, be simple and carry little to no risk.
The pandemic has reset expectations, says Sonia Dumas. Nothing will ruin a company faster than tech glitches and limited support. The patience of customers waiting for a solution is down to hours from days and weeks. Every down moment is lost revenue.
Being client-centric is the lifeblood of a business; a business that is not, says Peri Shawn, now faces the challenge of becoming obsolete.
The expert offered practical strategies to enabled buyers to buy.
Malcolm McDonald said, today, all products are excellent; it is customer relationships that matter. The cornerstone of this is financially quantified value propositions. Unless a supplier can prove that dealing with them will create an advantage for the customer, customers will buy on price only. Having written a book on this, I have written a book on this crucial topic; only 3% of UK companies have financially quantified value propositions.
Identify the top 20% of your customers and implement a plan to ensure you cultivate loyalty within that base. Loyal clients see you as a proactive and strategic advisor because you are reaching out to them with ideas and insights for their business, said Amy Franko.
Honesty and authenticity work. It takes courage to tell a client what they do not want to hear in challenging times like today. Tripp Braden said, always look to keep building genuine relationships with your customers and clients, so they are not surprised when the honest answer is not what they want to hear!
Dan Pfister says, consistently deliver value and treat everyone like a valued customer, even if they are a prospect or a past customer.
Fred Copestake said, have a partnering mindset – whether a formal alliance or not.
Set up a cadence for follow-up with current clients. Periodically stay in touch and intentionally identify one individual to reach out to each day, to creatively ‘surprise & delight’, said Larry Long Jr.
The easiest and most avoided but highly effective strategy is to educate, said Sonia Dumas. Your buyers need education about your service. Yes, they can search the entire internet, but who has time for that? We all want our questions answered so that we can take the next step. In business, the company that can educate the best wins.
While the sales industry is in a state of modernisation and renewal the experts share their view on diversity:
At a point early in her career, her chain of leadership included three women. Amy Franko said her story is a bit of an anomaly. “It benefited me to have these women role models and see them succeed in leadership positions. Being exposed to gender diversity encouraged me to explore greater career possibilities”.
In contrast, Malcolm McDonald said in his long career and experience, female managers, and senior female academics all thoroughly deserved their success without the need for social engineering.
Although there have been some strides made, there is a long, LONG way to go for true diversity, equality, and inclusion in B2B sales. Larry Long Jr recalls an experience around non-person of colour team member pushing back on reporting to or being led by Larry simply due to my being a person of colour! The need to ‘put the mask on’ to make it is still real.
A recent experience, when Kia Puhm had breakfast with two former colleagues, one male and female, the male colleague said, “just between us gals”. It sounded so funny; we have all been saying “us guys” for so long; why not “us gals”. Our minds must be open to our differences and celebrate them; to eradicate biases and discrimination. We should not be afraid to talk about diversity and the benefits of inclusion, said, Kia.
Nikki Rausch recalls her professional sales experience was selling into a male-dominated industry. In the last ten years of her career, she said, “I only ever had one other female on the sales team with me doe one year; the rest were all men. In addition, there was no diversity of race on the sales team either, all white men”.
Tripp Braden said diversity in B2B must be more than just the sales team; we need more diverse executives throughout the ecosystem. Too many organisations have limited career paths for diverse team members. It is critical to open a broader range of opportunities.
George Brontén says remote work has made this easier. We have people on many continents working from home.
Peri Shawn: Create strategic systems, most notably a referral strategy.
Malcolm McDonald: Develop financially quantified value propositions.
Lenwood Ross: Be a student of digital strategy.
Amy Franko: Build loyalty within your current customers.
Larry Levine: Integrate selling from the Heart.
Lisa Magnuson: Pre-call planning.
Kia Puhm: Help the company knows what repeatable success looks like.
Simon Hazeldine: Land and expand.
George Brontén: Codify your way of selling.
Tripp Braden: Know your best customers.
Dan Pfister: Sell to your past customers.
Fred Copestake: Understand DMU/buying committees better.
Nikki Rausch: Move a client through a discovery process.
Larry Long Jr: Prepare for in advance, asking better/stronger questions.
Sonia Dumas: Offer ongoing value rather than one-off events.
Blaire G Hervey: Tell the truth.
Please do connect with the experts and influencers.
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