B2B sales have, as discussed previously, three clients in one. When selling to another company or organization you must understand the client entity, the individual buyer, and the ultimate beneficiary of your product (see link above for more detail).
Of these three, the Buyer will be the focus of your communication throughout the buying cycle, which, in this environment, can easily stretch into months. This length of time affects the way you are selling, moving it from a direct and immediate decision Q&A:
“Do you want this product?”
“Yes.” / “No.”
“That will be $X, sign here.” / “Thank you see you next time.” (or worse: “What if I lower the price?”)
to an ongoing and developing conversation. The advantage of this cycle is the time it gives you to truly understand your client and sell him or her something fully targeted to their needs. It allows you to make each client feel like your only and best client.
Move into your customer’s context
You already understand your product’s best use and any expected outcomes it can provide. When you are actively selling to a prospect, it is time to understand their specific needs and then position the solution accordingly.
Sticking to an ongoing Pen Salesperson example: go beyond simply “You have to write letters and so you require a pen”. Learn why they write letters, how many they write and how often, where are the pens stored, what personal ink and shape preferences the buyer has, and more.
There is a simple and structured way to do this, allowing you to apply the same method across all clients and still provide a personal experience to each. Focus on their Technical, Business and Personal needs.
We touched on this area in discussing time saving as a value proposition.
In essence, a technical need addresses anything that will save effort. This includes time saving, but also efficiencies. Think about repetitive or manual tasks a client performs. Where are they putting in the most effort for the least return, in other words where is time and effort spent without a value-added return.
In the pen example: if a prospect were using an ink-tipped feather to write memos, then effort is consumed in ensuring ink is always available, constantly re-applying it to the feather-tip, ensuring there is no spillage or staining, allowing the ink to dry on the paper before using or stacking it, and more.
Ask your prospects about their full operational process now, to understand where you can save them time and effort.
These differ from Technical, in that they are strategic rather than tactical. To understand a client’s business needs, you have to understand their position within the company and the responsibilities they have.
How is your client expected to contribute to the organization’s bottom line?
Once you know this you can explain how your product can contribute to this. Give guidance as to how your prospect can use your client to have an impact on the organization’s strategic priorities overall.
This is an example where joint knowledge is better than the sum of its parts: you know your product, the prospect knows the company doing the buying, and matching this knowledge gives a tailored and effective solution.
Your buyer’s personal needs are exactly what it sounds like: what will make his or her life better.
Perhaps using your product effectively will help them get a promotion or raise; perhaps it means they will be able to leave the office earlier; maybe it is a change to their working conditions.
When speaking to your prospect endeavor to understand his or her personal preferences at work, or how those preferences at work impact their private life, and then position your product to help address these needs as well.
With a good understanding of your product, it is not much extra work to focus your attention on each buyer individually. This can be built into your regular sales process in a way to easily absorb this information and then share it back with your client in a constructive manner.
Your client will know he or she is getting a solution tailored specifically to their needs, and not the same sales spiel as everybody else, including their own competitors.
- Create a standard template of questions for discovery meetings with your prospects. This should happen as the first step of the sales process.
- Allow space for your sales people to capture this specific data: Technical, Business and Personal Needs.
- Early on in the process review their results to ensure you are training them on understanding the key differences between these three.