How B2B Businesses Can Build a Culture of Selling
The old saying goes that we hate to be sold to, but we love to buy.
The same can also be said for those involved in selling. Salespersons and marketers alike love to help people buy, but only a few feel genuinely comfortable actively selling.
Business buyers today are increasingly like consumers in their buying behaviour. Instead of engaging with sales teams when they have a need, they do their research on the available providers and the price they should expect to pay. Recent research has shown that B2B buyers are often 50% of the way through the buying process before they reach out to a provider. The impact of this is that the sales professional has reduced influence, is more likely to be competing against competitors and has little chance to add value to the client's decision-making process.
So how do organizations adapt their approach to sales so they’re able to engage with customers at their moment of need? The answer is to switch from a sales culture to a business development culture, where the whole organization is engaged in nurturing prospective clients, identifying clients who might be in need, and helping with the sales process whenever required.
The challenge is motivating non-sales people to be proactive in their involvement. Here are four ways that you can achieve this:
1. Build belief in the difference you make
When I ask non-sales people if they would call someone they didn’t know to provide a guaranteed cure for a disease they’re suffering from, unsurprisingly 90% of people say yes. Yet only 10% of that group would be willing to call a potential customer to tell them about their product.
Why the difference?
Belief. Most non-sales people do not believe in the difference their company makes to their customers. This is because most organizations’ internal communications focus on internal matters and financial performance. Testimonials and case studies gathered by marketing are used extensively for external purposes, but very seldom used internally to promote what difference the company makes to its customers.
So ask your staff, what difference do we make to our customer's lives/businesses? The answers you hear will tell you all you need to know.
2. Train for problems
Everyone likes to help someone in need, yet companies tend to just tell their staff about how great their new products or services are; a new button that does this, a new widget that does that. Most, however, do not spend time training their teams on the problems that clients suffer from which their products can solve. This means many team members in client-facing roles are exposed to clients’ needs that the company could solve, but because they do not recognize those situations as needs that can be solved, the opportunity is not escalated to the sales or marketing team for additional investigation.
3. Clarify the role people play in the sales process
Not everyone is cut out to knock on doors or give client pitches, but there are many equally important roles to play in a successful business development culture. One simple exercise is to use sticky notes to map out the customer buying journey, from identification through to post-sale implementation or support. Clarify employees’ roles and make them feel good about them, then engage teams and individuals in identifying where they can support customer engagement, satisfaction or commitment to buy.
The key to this exercise is that everyone starts to understand their role in the sales success of the organization more clearly.
4. Recognize all contributions to the sales process
Typically, recognition for sales lies with the sales professional who closed the deal. Yet, as sales processes become longer and more complicated, they also involve a wider range of people across the organization, meaning that leadership teams need to think less about bonuses for just the sales team and more about recognition for individuals who contribute to the success of the sales process. Failure to do so can leave resentment among non-sales teams and affect the level of engagement when the next bid process comes along.
Did you spot the theme amongst these four points? Talking to individuals across the organization really is vital! You may have a grand plan for world domination (or just modest sales growth), but if these plans depend on non-sales teams contributing to the sales process, you need them on board before you start barking orders or processes that need to be executed.
A failure to engage will leave you pushing against a wall of passive-aggressive resistance which is likely to tire, if not defeat, you. You may also be surprised to find that your non-sales teams may have better ideas than you about how they can help the sales process too.