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After decades in B2B sales I’m convinced the corporate sales culture is toxic. As a sales person, I’ve taken class after class on selling skills and they pretty much all use a stingy philosophy which (all sugar coating aside) pits you against the customer.
In an attempt to try to establish respect, or an even playing field, we’ve been encouraged to play a ridiculous game of “give to get”, meaning if the customer wants us to give them something, we will need to get something in return. So the customer wants a demo, that’s fine but I’ll need you to introduce me to the financial decision maker first.
Customers understandably HATE this stuff. I don’t blame them. I do too. A sales cycle is like a courtship. How many successful courtships result from coercing what you want from the other party? None. Instead the two parties in a courtship give of themselves freely based on their level of interest in one another. They WANT to give of themselves and are delighted when the other party is doing the same, and the relationship grows stronger. If one of the parties has little interest then it’s best for the other party to move on to find someone else who does. Coercing, convincing, and begging will simply drive the uninterested party away faster.
In today’s world, the model is changing rapidly resulting in a new dynamic, at least on the marketing side. We are starting to provide more and more information to our prospects with less and less being required in return. You want a demo? Just fill in this online form with your contact info and BAM, you have a demo. You want a customer reference? Just go to the reference section of our website, there are a dozen customer testimonial videos you can watch. You want a quote? All our pricing is available online.
So what do we need sales people for any more you may ask. Well, all this “generosity” of information from the marketing side often is crucial to prospects building their short list. But once completed, a deeper look begins focused exclusively on the short list of vendors. Enter the sales folks. “Ah ha!” You may be thinking, “Here is where we re-establish the power balance, and drag out our old tactics!” WRONG!
In fact here is where you ratchet up the generosity. At this point, the prospect feels any one of the vendors on his list could do the job, and is within his budget, else they wouldn’t be on the list. The prospect is now evaluating what YOU and your company are like to work with. Do you seem reputable? Are you helpful? Do you give straight answers? Are you out to help them or wrestle with them? This is where you do your best to bend over backwards to make them love you and your company. You need to prove you have THEIR best interest at heart. You need to genuinely HAVE their best interest at heart. Don’t TELL them this. SHOW them this!
It may be by going to bat for them with your support renewal team whose job it is to maximize the support revenue. Don’t ask for unreasonable concessions, but maybe make sure their existing support policies are fair and reasonable (I have seen companies where they are not). It may mean being a bit flexible with your license model and not being shy about putting it in the contract. Or it may mean setting up an executive visit, NOT to close the deal, but to genuinely allow the executives from both organizations to get to know each other and understand how best for the companies to work together.
Your goal is to be sure the prospect understands you will stand by your solution and you will stand by THEM. By now I suspect there may be sales management or VP types whose blood is boiling as they read these words. But may I propose that the amount you may have to “give away” under this kind of model will be dwarfed by the repeat business and referral business that will follow the first closed deal.
Don’t waste time wrestling with prospects. Don’t focus on the balance of power in the relationship by straining to make sure both are giving and getting in the same proportion. Don’t look at your opportunities as “what’s in it for ME?”. Instead walk away from the ones who have, rightly or wrongly, decided you’re not a fit, and spend your time proving you will stand by those who think you will be a fit, one hundred percent.
The marriages I have seen fail are often because both parties look at the relationship as a fifty-fifty proposition, and when someone seems to continually be taking a little more than their share, the relationship falls apart. The best marriages I have seen are the ones where both parties give the other one hundred percent, with no expectation of being paid back. And when one party does that, it inspires the other to do the same. Why would they not? What better person in the world would you want at your side?
I would propose that if you treat your short list prospects like this and bend over backwards to make them happy, they will reciprocate, because chances are your competition will be busy trying to keep the balance teetering exactly on the fifty-fifty point. Put yourself in their shoes. Who would YOU rather do business with?
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