I’m always surprised at how many career salespeople and buyers play out the sales process as if they’re in a 1960s TV sitcom.
The salesperson tries to convince; the buyer tries to give pushback. Each sees the other as a title, rather than a person. It’s transactional – even theatrical. People play out their assigned roles and think they’re giving their organization their best.
That’s not how I see it.
In my first blog as a Factora team member, I’m going to talk about how I see the B2B sales process and the people involved. What does it take to do it well, to the benefit of all involved, over the long term?
Our true roles and the value of tough questions
In my 15 years as a buyer, long ago and far away, I learned to value personalized information (even today, the useless, uniform value proposition is horribly prevalent!). I looked for a salesperson who knew my industry and their technology’s role in it, rather than one who could recite an encyclopedia of features in one breath. Plus, one who worked to learn about my organization by asking tough questions, ones that I had to think hard about to answer.
One of Factora’s differentiators is our depth in manufacturing, so I have excellent access to skilled resources when I’m approaching a new prospect whose product I don’t know as well. It’s a big advantage in getting up to speed on your organization’s strategic goals, current needs, and biggest challenges, and to identify if there’s an alignment through Factora’s offerings.
In early meets, the conversation centers on identifying challenges and opportunity, two sides of the same coin. Where does your business want to go; what are your strategic goals? How do you plan to get there? What’s your biggest stumbling block, and what do you need to do to get past it? Where areas do you see as being most likely to offer significant improvement?
Meanwhile, your internal questions are likely to be: Who can help us? How? Last but far from least, do we trust them?
The good stuff resides on the other side of fear
Every sales person is open to connection, insights, new ideas, and true partnership. But a great salesperson is open to closed minds, objections, and rejection. Each of these offers more information, which is our daily bread. Better yet, overcoming these takes us over the wall of fear, to the good stuff – the trust, positive actions and partnership that live on the other side.
Trust is something you build; you can’t buy it. Once you begin to fulfil your prospect’s needs, the relationship changes and possibilities open. Trust also thrives in certain environments. When people are treated with respect, they are more likely to trust those in their own organization and in others as well. I’m grateful to be working in a trusting workplace. I think it’s one of the reasons our clients like to work with Factora; we take our jobs seriously but have a lot of fun as well.
Lengthening timelines, deeper relationships
Today’s decision timelines can be longer, as more people become involved in complex decisions. And Factora only deals in complex decisions. However, this provides ongoing opportunities to accomplish my mantra – get personal and address the unique needs of the various stakeholders involved.
I respect salespeople who have an opinion and share it. We have an enormous benefit to offer our customers by doing so. While they tend to meet many sellers but few competitors, we, by contrast, meet few sellers but know many competitors. We can offer that broad overview, sharing with our prospect that others are facing similar challenges. We deliver perspective. As well, we can serve as Sherpas, as our CEO Barry Lynch likes to say. We guide clients along a tested, trusted path, avoiding those poorly identified crevasses. The path is new to them, but we’ve traveled it many times before.
True ownership of any project creates direction, urgency, and commitment. So part of my role is to own client projects from the discussion stage onward. Other people on the team get to be reactive – respond to my and/or the client’s requests. But it’s my role to make sure that we put forward a solution that answers the client’s requests and needs. So I spend part of my day working hard to pull together the right mix of talents from a group of in-demand experts.
And it’s not over once it’s done. Even after go-live, a check-up can work wonders. That’s how we discover those issues that a client might not call about, but is still not comfortable with. I used to say 80% of the next sale resides inside the delivery of the first. Recently I’ve upped that number to 100 (or, as our Chairman Charles Horth puts it, “delivering is selling”).
People are complex, commitment is crucial
While systems integration is a complex service and daily getting more so, the complexity of the people involved is an equal factor. A great deal of listening and collaboration has to go on for every initiative to succeed. Not to mention commitment! When I was talking to Factora about the opportunity here six months ago, one of the clinchers for me was Barry Lynch saying to me: “We’re all about people – and we don’t leave people behind.”
Meaning, when a project does not go as planned, we do not walk away, we solve it. I like that.
In the sales process, what we’re trading is time
The precious commodity we are really trading in the sales process is time. Any time a client offers me a part of their day, my task is to deliver value. Value in their terms, not mine. That’s how I earn respect, and more time. That’s how we build partnerships. That’s how we develop, day by day and week by week, the long-term relationships that are the foundation of Factora’s success.