When I first started selling, I had no idea how much my actions and behaviors influenced buying decisions. As the years clicked off, I could see some evidence I was affecting decisions, but I predominantly felt my success was linked to the product/service I was hawking. “I just need to go get a job over there, then I’ll be a hot seller.” I actually believed that.
After years of harsh lessons from smart buyers, I now chuckle at my primordial opinions on what it meant to be a successful seller.
This nerve was recently hit with my reading of a great book, “The Biggest Bluff”…it’s the story of writer/psychologist Maria Konnikova’s pursuit of learning and mastering poker because it’s the purist game to best understand probability and chance vs. skill. Her compelling story is a cool way to examine what skill, control, and influence mean to B2B sellers.
I’m halfway through the book and already Konnikova has helped me advance my theories about the existential “seller question”: How much difference does a seller make? How much can sellers control during the “sales dance”?
I know what you’re thinking: are we ever going to hear a buyer tell us that we impacted 54.2% of their decision about buying our services? No. But consider it is our obligation as a professional seller to “crawl inside the margins” (as Konnikova does) to analyze and increase our chances at being effective. This is why the book is so interesting for those dedicated to sales and those who think about how much we control – or not – in life.
Challenging yourself with the question of how much difference a seller makes is buried under the burden of the job itself: B2B/enterprise sales jobs are highly complex with endless amounts of minute details requiring real-time response and action. Sorry to report, there are no silver bullets, but there are four things you can do make sure your actions are focused….and that’s a big part of the game itself!
1. Determine the one thing your customers want most from you…and talk only about that!
Your buyers are buying probably because of one thing you do really well so don’t get bogged-down with all the static around other things that buyers don’t care about. Focusing on your one value prop will not only make your selling conversations easier, it’ll focus your prospecting efforts. Sounds simple, but consider most sellers equate successful selling with dealing a barrage of info and stats and data and blah blah when it’s just one thing your customers want from you.
2. Qualify individual buyers at all times.
Buyers change their opinions more frequently than you think….understanding how they feel and think (again… FEEL AND THINK) about your offering is crucial to help you focus on what one thing hot button to hit. Also understand that no two buyers on a team share the same opinions. Be a qualifying demon!
3. Understand all of the sources where your client can buy the one thing you provide for them.
Know those competitors inside and out and understand your competitive differences. Sellers who know all about the competition are those in the best position to engage in high-value conversations with buyers. When buyers observe that you know the market, they are able to perceive you as a consultant, and not just a product-pushing vendor. Your chances of influencing decisions increase dramatically when you can speak with your clients intelligently about the entire market, not just your product.
4. Develop an objection handling strategy supporting your competitive differentiators.
Only when you identify what the client really wants and who in the market offers compelling alternatives can you develop a plan for objection and obstacle responses. Mastering 1, 2, and 3 above does not imply you won’t have to fight for the business so put time into understanding how to handle objections – it’s a cornerstone to having influence on the outcome.
For those of you saying “I do all this stuff already…I’m already expert at all this….” well….uh… ….cool…fantastic….good for you.
But just in case you reflect on a few recent client interactions and admit you doubled a 20-minute meeting into a 40-minute drag-a-thon hitting 21 features about your service that yielded glazed zoom-eyes….well then it’s time to appraise your approach and focus on the above recommendations.
Read more about the author Advantary Advisor, Michael Hess.