Increasing sales is a fundamental concern of business. No business can survive without an effective strategy to win business from both new and existing customers. Do you have an effective strategy that works?
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I offer you a framework that you can work within to increase revenue in a predictable and sustainable manner. This strategy is designed to help you win new customers initially and then help you expand your relationship with them through time. This approach is focused on the B2B market space; yet there are tactics that apply to the B2C space. This is true because I have taken a fundamental approach to sales and revenue generation.
Design a new sales process or use this strategy to review your current sales process.
STEP 1 – FINDING A BUSINESS PROBLEM WORTH SOLVING
This initial step is critical, because unless there is a business need for a problem worth solving; you do not have the opportunity to make a valuable sale. Stop selling your new shiny object. In general, in the B2B space organizations will give you checks to help them stay away from pain and suffering. There is a space for luxury items and services that might be ostentatious; but again; they are validated as being services or products that keep your clients further away from pain and suffering; take for example the private Jet market or the upscale Class A office building market. Either way – make sure the problem you are solving for your clients is worth solving … in their eyes. It will make your job easier. The bigger the problem is in the minds of your client, the more valuable your solution will be to them. What you think is irrelevant.
STEP 2 – DESIGNING A SOLUTION
The Solution you offer them; should solve the problem worth solving in their eyes and then some. Being specific and focused to what they see as important is key. To do this; it is imperative to be an expert in your field. This is because, in the eyes of your customer; the problem is important enough for it to be done right. They will not be interested in risking the future of their business and their resources on an amateur. When as the last time you thought it was ok getting heart surgery done by an intern? You get my point.
STEP 3 – DEFINING YOUR TARGET MARKET
This step is critical. Focus, Focus, Focus. What business problem do you really solve? Who has this problem and who specifically would trust you enough to solve this problem for them? What I mean my this is; which subsection of the market does your specific solution or product offering help? If you were selling private Jets; are you selling the smaller cheaper Honda Jets for $4,500,000 to businesses that have a need for short run trips with 3-4 Executives or are you addressing the needs of larger global companies who require a longer range aircraft to transport larger teams of executives like the Global 8000 from Bombardier? Identify your specific customer base.
STEP 4 – BUILD RAPPORT
People (and all businesses are made up of people) do business with people they like, know, trust and respect. Building rapport is the first step in this journey. Rapport can be built directly person to person at a face to face meeting in real time or at a conference when you here someone speak to a group. It can also be built online; asynchronously when people (your prospects) consume your content on the internet or other media channels. This could be in the form of advertisements on TV and the internet or written content in the form of articles, blogs, interview, tweets etc. When your prospects consume your content they make assessments of value and either lean in and identify with your way of thinking or they move away because they don’t get, appreciate or agree with your point of view. Knowing your audience improves your ability to build rapport fast and effectively through whichever channel you are using.
STEP 5 – BUILD TRUST
When was the last time your felt comfortable sharing your problems with someone you did not like or trust? Without trust, your prospects will not feel comfortable sharing their problems with you. It is that simple. Since all business is personal, the rules are the same. You have the opportunity to build trust in many ways. Most of these approaches are anchored in the fundamentals of human nature.
- Partner with a company or a person that your prospects already trust. This way you access the trust (or some of the trust) they have with the partner company.
- You speak the truth in ways they understand and accept when and they begin to trust you as a person and what you say and do. This can happen at your first meeting.
- You demonstrate your leadership and value in an authentic way.
- You show accomplishments and demonstrate capabilities through case studies, testimonials and customer references.
You get the point. There are many approaches one can take. Authenticity is key. Without trust you do not have the required mindshare on the part of your prospects to engage effectively in the sales process; your sale will not move forward.
STEP 6 – GATHER BUSINESS NEEDS & REQUIREMENTS
With trust you now have the right relationship to have a meaningful and honest conversation with your prospects about their business and the problems they have. With trust you earn the right to see the inner workings of their company and their business needs. Your prospects will share the problems they face and ask for help. With the right listening ear and the ability to leverage your leadership skills you have the space to dig deeper and find out which strategic initiatives they have chosen to address. Moving forward; everything you do with your prospects should be a collaborative process. This way you stay close to their working culture and business plans. They will tell you what they want to do, they will tell you how much of a budget they have and how they want to go about solving these problems. If you follow their lead and coach them on how to do things effectively you have opportunity to evolve your working relationship and become a trusted partner in their business; an extension of their organization.
STEP 7 – COLLABORATE AROUND DESIGNING A SOLUTION
Now that you understand their Business Requirements and have a sense of how they might want to go about solving their problems with your support. Begin collaborating with them around the design of the solution that will solve their business problem(s). This process when done collaboratively will allow you to save a lot of time and wasted effort making assumptions about their business and or the appetite for risk. Give them your genius and the value-add you bring to the table, but keep them involved every step of the way. Get into a practice of asking them for their input and allow them to influence how you design and or customize you solution so it fits their business requirements well. When you create the space for them to get involved; you allow them to take ownership for the solution. Once they feel they have ownership of what you present to them; it gets approved and adopted much faster and easier.
STEP 8 – COLLABORATE AROUND SUBMITTING A PROPOSAL
Since you have collaborated around developing a solutions together, ask your prospects about how they would like you to submit the proposal. Better still collaborate around what they want to see in the proposal. Review their budget and have your proposal match their budget. I always get my prospects to tell me what their budget is and where they need the numbers to come in for a deal to go through. They should tell you how to write the proposal and there should never be any surprises once you submit it to them. If you follow this approach; the approval process will be a matter of formality and you will be able to monitor it very easily. Your champions should have an easy time helping you move the paper work along once you submit the proposal to the executive sponsor. Make sure you get all the details before you send in the proposal.
STEP 9 – NEGOTIATION
I like to say; “What negotiation?” In essence, if you are negotiating; you did not follow this approach well. Or you are having a simple conversation explaining the details of what you are doing to bean-counters in their Purchasing department. If you end up at purchasing, know that you just started a new sales cycle because they were not aware of and had not participated in all the conversations you have earlier with the people you were talking to. But if you followed this collaborative approach, your proposal would fit into their guidelines and their way of doing things. This step is when you make sure you get all the approvals needed to come to agreement and get the signatures needed to complete the transaction. Once this step is completed; you have the agreements in place so you get paid. Again, there should be no surprises and this should be quick and easy if you have followed the collaborative approach to sales as suggested earlier.
STEP 10 – DELIVERY
You are now in a totally new phase in your relationship with your prospect. They are now your customers and your job is show them that they are not just customers; but clients. A customer is someone you complete a transaction with and works well for simple B2C transactions in Retail. But in the B2B space, you need to have “Clients”. A client is who is someone that you choose to have an ongoing relationship with. With a client you take a leadership role and help them prevent or solve important issues with their business. The Delivery phase of your sales process is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your leadership and your ability to be a valuable resource for them. This is going to be their first impression of you as a client. This is your opportunity to specify how your relationship with evolve over time. Take a leadership role, start paying it forward and become a Trusted Partner that is always looking our for their best interest and start solving problems they did not even know they had. Your primary objective here is to deliver on the promises you made during your sales cycle. Your secondary objective is to find another problem they need solved. Your second sale will be tremendously more profitable as you will do much less marketing activity. The deals will typically move faster than the first deal you made with them; because you will be selling from the inside.
STEP 11 – CROSS SELL & UP SELL
Once you have started working with a client; pay attention to what you see around you and start noticing areas of their business you might be able to help them with. Talk to them, ask them how things are going and see if there are any specific areas they are struggling with. Be perceptive and proactive. Very often; they might not even know that you have a solution for something that has been suffering with for years. A problem they had not yet decided to fix. I was doing a sales training at a client not too long ago and in the class were a group of sales people I had not yet met from my earlier consulting engagements with the same company. As the training session moved along; I learnt more about their business unit and it became obvious I could help them with specific business practices that would help increase sales. We had a conversation and I presented them with an opportunity to work with me at a later date. This was both a cross-sell and an up-sell opportunity that I created for myself; by paying attention and noticing an opportunity to add value to this new group within the company.
STEP 12 – COLLABORATE AROUND SOLVING NEW PROBLEMS
This is not a final step, but more importantly a pivotal part of your customer success and client engagement strategy. As you spend more time with the client and build a relationships of trust; leverage the information you have gathered about their business; ask questions and start taking a leadership role with the intent to help them accomplish their goals. The more you do this, the more you will start learning about problems they have. It is inevitable; because everyone has problems and soon you will learn about an opportunity that is perfect for you. At this time, you must opt-in to offer to help. This is what sales is about. In the B2B space you must add value to your clients; both at the company level and at the employee level. Making your clients; the people; look good and help them be successful is your primary goal. Help them move their career forward and help them look good at work. This is a fundamental concern of theirs and it should be yours. The more you learn to help them both at the personal level and at the company level; you start becoming a trusted partner. Help them do their jobs better and easier. Help them access the success they want to accomplish in the business.
Stop Selling! Start Supplying Solutions. This is key. Stop selling what you think is an exciting product or service offering. Nobody cares and nobody will care; unless it solves a problem they have AND they have the money to invest in solving the problem. Instead, learn to ask questions. Learn to talk to your prospects about what problems they have and which problems (a smaller subset of all their problems) are they committed to solving. Learn to ask them if they have the money needed to solve these problems and when they want to solve them. Then start working with them collaboratively; so they help you design a solution that works for them. Finally give them all the credit for coming up with the solution.
EXTRA! EXTRA! — THE ULTIMATE CLOSING LINE
First off, don’t “Close” deals. Start “Completing” Transactions. Linguistics are important.
Learn to ask the same question a million different ways and you will be well on your way to winning bigger deals.