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The Secret to Selling Business-to-Business

I had the chance to pause recently and look back on my 30-year career in Sales Performance Management. A lot of that time has been spent thinking about how the hell to sell stuff to other businesses.


The Founder's Corner
The Founder's Corner is a semi-regular series of blog posts by our Founder David Marshall. 

I have experienced a lot of highs and a lot of wins. I have also taken my share of hard hits and endured some searing disappointments.

Anyone who has worked in the B2B caper for a decent amount of time will understand the benefits of ‘process’, but also its limitations. You will likely also find yourself on the never-ending quest to unravel the mystery of selling successfully to the enigma that is the corporate buyer.

In that quest, I don’t recall undertaking formal sales training. My colleagues would likely retort - “that would figure”. But, I do recall reading a lot of books on sales. One thing all of these books had in common is that the first two chapters were a ripping read full of inspiration, and then the remaining six chapters repeated what was in those first two chapters.

Regardless, the best thing I learned about sales wasn’t found in a book. I read it in a media interview featuring John Singleton, one of Australia’s greatest advertising executives. Renowned as a bit of a maverick, his style was old-school and no-nonsense.

Singleton was asked for his thoughts on successful sales. The interviewer clearly framed the question for a long-form answer on the world of professional selling.

The power of his concise answer still rings clearly.

It was simply...

“Give the customer what they want”

Period.

You might now be thinking that his answer is ridiculously simplistic and perhaps a little naive. Surely customers always want a lower price, they are never satisfied, they want more features, more this, more that. We can't just give them whatever they want.

But, I believe his answer is the most insightful expression of what sales is all about - especially B2B sales. If you are willing to dig deep into your customers’ wants it will have a profound impact on your career in sales.

This is how I read Singleton’s “secret” - you have to do only two things as a salesperson:

  1. Spend a lot of time working out what your customer wants
  2. Focus all your remaining energy on giving it to them

For example, in our business, customers are looking to buy SaaS to automate their sales commission process. I believe customers in our industry typically want three things

  1. An implementation that is well-managed and relatively light in cost
  2. A product that will save them time
  3. A solution that is 100% accurate and provides robust reporting

Yet, how often have we (OK, me) rocked up to a product demo 100% focused on the demo as an end in itself - and not really focused on proving that we can deliver what the customer uniquely wants for their situation? How often do we focus on our product’s shiny new features and fail to uncover the rational and emotional drivers behind what the customer wants from our product? And how often do we robotically execute our sales process or our canned demo without checking in - is this what the customer really wants or needs to make a decision to buy our product?

To become an elite salesperson, you will need to read a lot of books, attend lots of training, and continuously hone your skills; presentation skills, questioning skills, product demonstrations, etc.

But, the secret to sales is to always be framing your activities within Singleton’s simple recipe for sales success:

  • What am I doing now to better understand what my customer wants?
  • What can I do next to make sure my customer gets what they want?

Simple, right?

-David

 


 

David Marshall - Founder

David Marshall

David Marshall has spent his entire career immersed in the world of sales compensation. As a sales comp professional, he found the existing Incentive Compensation Management platforms diabolically difficult to use. He founded Performio to provide sales compensation professionals with a powerful sales comp solution that was also easy to use.

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