Early in my career I was a branch secretary for a mid-size copier sales company. Our office team included four to six sales representatives, about the same number of technicians, our branch manager, a delivery person, and little ole me. It was a cohesive group and I can say I learned a LOT during the year I worked there.
Most of the lessons I learned pointed to business ethics. For example, the reason I only worked there a year was because when it came time for the annual raises, I was given a 25 cent per hour raise. It wasn’t the money as much as it was the reason. The branch manager said he couldn’t give me any more because “that would cut into his bonus money and he had child support to pay.” Basically, what he was saying was I had his child support to pay.
Inside the main door of our office was a huge metal bell. The sales reps would ring the bell any time they made a sale. Those of us in the office would “Woo Hoo” and shout congratulations. It was a great tool for building momentum and excitement. One of my roles as branch secretary was to manage all the prospect files, think LinkedIn in today’s market. I had to enter information about who we were targeting, what our last interaction was, and where the lead came from. Over the year, I saw quite a few sales reps come and go. To me it seemed like a stressful job, and it curbed any desire I ever had to enter sales. It’s a shame because the fact is, they were just doing it wrong.
When I launched my own business in 2011, I new I would have to sell myself and my services to grow my business. I also new I wasn’t going to model it after those copier sales days. Here’s the strategy I came up with and still use to this day.
1. Build a team of subject matter experts.
I don’t know it all and would never even give that a try. One of the most successful strategies I’ve implemented to support my sales cycle is building a team of subject matter experts that I can call on when needed. From business coaching, to strategic planning, to digital marketing, and every other aspect of small business marketing, if there is an area I don’t specialize in, I know someone who does. I’m able to offer much better service and greater value to my clients.
Listening is a lost art, and sometimes I’m grateful for that because I’ve gained new clients just by listening when others wouldn’t. I don’t just listen to my prospects when they speak, I listen to all their communications. What are they complaining about on social media? What challenges are they facing in their industry? What are their competitors doing that they aren’t? Once I identify the questions, I formulate solutions that wrap around my services (or my subject matter experts.) Your prospects will make time for you when you are offering an answer to a problem.
Listening test: When you end a sales conversation, do you know more about your prospect or
do they know more about you?
3. Don’t think numbers, think relationships.
Back at the copier company, every sales rep had a monthly sales goal. They had to meet that quota… or else. The quota was translated into how many machines they needed to sell. They didn’t care who they sold to, they just had to sell machines. Yes, they often met their quota. BUT, what also happened is when they moved on to a new job, they left behind a huge mess of wild promises and angry clients. If you shift your sales focus to numbers one and two above, you will build true relationships with clients, and more important, trust. People invest in people they trust, so this will translate into repeat business and more business referrals, and oh yeah, less “selling.”
How’s it going with your B2B sales? Let’s meet up in the comments.