Catching a Whale for Busy Entrepreneurs

Introduction

Regardless of what founders may share, every B2B startup wants a big brand name on their investor deck – it’s not just for social clout, but for what it represents: being trusted, secure and stable enough to be chosen by an industry leader, who hopefully has the potential to be a six or seven-figure client.

However, not every product and not every company is suited to servicing large enterprises. But if you have an innovative idea that you know will work for a large corporate, there are a couple of challenges you have to navigate around first.

AT&T CASE STUDY

Whistle was approached by an entrepreneur who had an innovative, disruptive enterprise solution that had the potential to change the way large scale businesses operate.

The main target audience from the test they had, were large enterprises that could save these companies millions of dollars by using the technology solution they developed.  The innovative technology cut down a lot of technical needs that were required by the customers.

One of the use cases showed that this solution was ideal for call centres. Whistle started looking for companies that had call centres where reducing wait-time and increasing the customer support element was really valuable and helpful. One of  those identified was AT&T. 

Whistle reached out to a person in AT&T’s innovation department who came via a referral. 

With an ally on Whistle’s side, and who was tasked to find business innovations, our contact was open to meeting and was privy to the  pain points in the organisation.

 Armed with what information they were able to share, our client was able to craft a compelling message for the pitch. AT&T’s innovation person guided Whistle through the initial stages and  the  pitch that included  pricing. We  were able to fit into AT&T’s world seamlessly and not jigged to fit ours. What worked in our client’s favour was the real benefit and we could quantify the real cost of the situational problem for them, which was how much time and money was being lost as a result of poor customer support. We alleviated the problem by shortening the length of wait time for AT&T’s customers. Everything our client spoke to AT&T about was built around this pain point.  

Whistle together with the client built ROI presentations for AT&T and demonstrated those pain points and then weighed them up against the investment. 

AT&T invested in a trial period and during the course of the relationship, a 7-figure contract deal was concluded through fostering the relationship and mapping the way through the organisation for a continued period.

Here’s Whistle’s process to land a whale…

1. Who are you?

The first challenge that every startup will face and the most difficult to overcome is anonymity.

Just getting through to a massive company is difficult to do because they get pitched and approached all the time for their business, by many well-known companies, let alone early-stage startups.

By nature, large enterprises are very busy with deadlines and they are not willing to take a chance normally on the unknown. There is a saying, “no one’s going to get fired for choosing Microsoft.” When you’re trying to pitch your solution to them, you have to bear this in mind and get over the hurdle as soon as possible. A large part of this process involves researching the enterprise well and understanding or having close enough assumptions to validate why you’re reaching out to that specific company and that specific department (the company within the company).

Despite the understandable eagerness to share why you’re wonderful, your entire approach should actually be based on how you can possibly service THEIR needs and not on what you do, or who your founders are – it just isn’t interesting enough, until you can show someone what you can do for THEM. 

If you do manage to attract and engage the contact, you should already have a clear path of progression for discussions and where the meeting will lead them. Time is a precious commodity and is becoming scarcer with the changes in work, meaning that there are more expectations that a meeting will have a clear agenda, outcome and next steps before being set. This also helps the prospect understand and share why they are giving up their time to talk to you and not to do one of the hundreds of other tasks that are set for them and which they are measured directly for.  

2. Build your networks

The only real way of getting beyond the initial hurdle of anonymity,  if you have a limited budget and your stellar reputation does not precede you, will likely be to rely on referrals and networks. If you’re funded, this is usually easier, as your VC will ideally be looking to get you in front of as many brands as possible.

It’s recommended that where possible, you should look for personal introductions. Often, founders are surprised to learn the power of their social network. Friends and acquaintances who you may have known for years, suddenly pop out of the woodwork as directors and senior vice presidents of large companies – it’s an interesting phenomenon! 

Getting a name or phone number is great. But, just like in dating, it more than likely doesn’t turn into a face to face meeting, unless you can get past all the natural barriers of unanswered calls and emails and demonstrate a clear value proposition to your prospective client.  Instead of settling for names and numbers, ask your referee for a personal introduction and give them enough context to work with as to why you feel like this would be beneficial to the prospective client.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get through to a large corporate on the back of running online ads or via cold calling alone without anything of substance guiding that conversation and enough of a name in the industry. If you are embarking on a campaign to attract large clients, make sure you have the referrals, testimonials and talk tracks updated on both your website and on popular review sites. They will do their research on you, so make sure that there’s something to discover.  

3. Find the innovation team

Use channels that a corporate has already developed to your advantage.

 Many large companies suffer from “ocean liner syndrome” – it’s hard to make a drastic turn and any degree off course can result in a massive change in direction. Hence, once a company gets large enough, they become very inflexible, which is why large companies purchase startups often. Startups are usually seen as R&D centres for these large corporates, who are always looking for opportunities to solve million dollar problems that they face daily. 

Firstly, their sole reason for buying your solution is that it allows them to solve a problem cheaper and faster than they could internally. Let’s hypothetically say that you are going to sell them a product for $30-50K per year. It may cost the corporate four or five times more to do it internally because of time input and may distract them from other high priority projects that their internal software development teams, who could build it, are focused on. They will likely start by purchasing a license, but if it is possible that your solution could solve even larger problems for them – for example penetrating a new market, then investment and acquisition become a possibility.

Enterprises will usually have a specific department whose job is to create and source innovation. This group of people are literally paid to find innovative tools and solutions to improve the way the company operates and keep it agile. This is going to be your best route forward, as they will be “expecting” you to reach out – as long as it’s relevant. Do your research on this group and prepare documentation for them to circulate internally. 

4. Find your champion in the organization

In your initial meeting with your champion, as much as you’d like to pitch your product, you first need to listen to their problem around which you build your solution. Remember ultimately that if you’re not solving the organization’s problem they will just ask you to go away. It pays dividends to do some research in this department. If it’s a public company, you will have a bounty of intel to work with, which will help you identify goals, budgets, past performance and more.

The early adopter in the organization has to sell the concept up the value and management chain. You have to arm them with enough knowledge of your product so that they make the choice to use your product over hundreds of others that have been pitched to them.

Bear in mind that they also have a priority of problems that they are trying to solve each month.  When you do find your champion, you need to equip them with materials and information to sell your product on internally. Remember that if they are championing your product they are also becoming one of your sales team.

Your materials should directly address the following questions:

  1. How your product addresses the specific departments challenges
  2. How your product fits within their current systems and processes – shouldn’t require radical change initially
  3. Who your product benefits and what measurable ROI can be obtained from its usage initially and further
  4. The investment required initially and routes to expansion – the pricing strategy should match the buying process of the enterprise (adjust your plans to fit their needs)

Failure to address the above challenges could leave you in limbo – with no clear understanding of a path forward or the costs/benefits to the company, you are likely to fade into obscurity. Make sure that you establish clear next steps from this point – even if the early adopter doesn’t know them, suggest them. It is highly unlikely that they will have a clear path in front of them, so they will need your help to guide this forward.

5. Get your timing right

If the timing isn’t right, it isn’t right. It is almost impossible to move a large enterprise when they are not in a position to consider your offer, conversely, when they are, things can move very quickly and you will wish that you had prepared the groundwork beforehand. This is a critical question to ask and understand – how important is solving this problem now to your customer? What other competing interests are there at this point?

If you are going to sell to a large company and they don’t have a function of an innovation department or a person who sources early innovative products, you probably shouldn’t even try to approach them. You could just end up chasing your tail for a very long time to try to get their attention. In some cases, it could take up to two years to get to a decision, as you wait on budget cycles and availability.

As a rule,  never present a solution until you’ve fully understood your client’s problem.

6. Urgency close

It is very rare that you will have a real time based urgency for a decision. In many cases, you will need to create this urgency when you present your solution. . 

Here are three ideas that you can use, listed from strongest to weakest:

  1. Meeting a time-based goal/ KPI that they have shared
  2. Including additional services to your offer for a limited period
  3. Discounting your offer for a select period

Ultimately, those who make a decision on a B2B purchase do so because it aligns with their personal KPIs and will help them either gain a promotion or bonus or prevent a demotion or sacking. No one is buying B2B for the fun of it. Bearing this in mind, when you map out all the people making decisions across the company, you should be baking in an incentive that aligns with a purchase decision now, rather than later.

Too much time thinking equals inactivity and inactivity equals failure.

The Customers You Never Knew You Had

It started out as a pain. In an interview with the BBC, she told them “It could take a whole semester to learn the very basics. Even the simplest tasks, like exporting a high-quality PDF file, could take 22 clicks.”

She dropped out of university, turned the agitation into building a B2C solution. That idea was so novel, it helped market itself. Today that solution is worth well over a billion dollars and this Australian-based unicorn is Canva

So, what happens when you see a levelling off of new users and your competition is hot on your heels with products and services that are just as attractive as your offering? Just as with B2C clients, It starts with developing a rapport, asking questions and attentively listening to understand your customers needs and then mapping out the next phase of growth. 

In some instances, this ongoing relationship with your clients will help you pinpoint whether it’s the right time to build a sales team and initiate more client facing engagements to your largely “self serve” brand. This option can unlock millions of dollars of revenue and increase customer loyalty, as the brand continues to better serve its customers. These funds can be invested in developing new products or technology, however, the more exciting value can be realised in servicing and finding more customers. 

The average B2C is sitting on a CRM of hundreds of thousands or millions of free/self serve users, some of whom are actually B2B customers, whose full commercial potential has yet to be unlocked.  When you are able to connect with  clients that can be upsold and open new revenue streams from existing users, you will find that conversion will be quicker, cost of sale reduced and loyalty will be higher among this group, as they are already invested in the brand.  These are the new clients you never knew you had!

Enter Whistle

At the point where Whistle steps in, the machine and the technology  has already been built by the client with the potential for hundreds and –  best case scenario- thousands of people signing up for individual accounts. But the challenge becomes greater as these companies grow and try to determine which accounts have more potential- where customers can spend up to ten or 20 times more than they have. The focus then becomes on identifying accounts, building the process for up-sale and aligning this with Product, Marketing, Sales and Support functions.  The focus becomes primarily about conversion rather than acquisition.

After segmenting the customers, a programme is built to identify the people with the most commercial potential and create the user journey that accommodates this group. In a nutshell, the Whistle Accelerator programme engages customers at the right opportunity in their user journey and drives them towards a new multi-license sale or upsell.

Back to Canva

Canva  has a winning formula and is a fantastic platform. While the website’s basic service is free to use, it makes its money by charging a subscription fee to access its more advanced tools. But they have no way of getting more money from, say, an IBM marketing department or a company with more than 20 employees than they do from  an individual user. 

As a Whistle Accelerator client they would have three wins:

Firstly, they would start by tracking the user and buyer journey. Understanding  how  people sign up, which  details they leave when doing so, what to ask them and when to engage them (for example: after creating their first Canva presentation). Would form a strong foundation for this approach. Ideally, Canva would wish to identify customers  who are most engaged, happy and more likely to  upgrade or purchase a multi-licence plan.

One of the biggest problems for fast growing B2C brands is being able to access and use that information. Hence, the second step for Canva, would be to optimise their CRM – where they capture the valuable information that will allow them to segment that data into high yielding customers who require multiple accounts and create targeted marketing to that segment and to potential net new customers, who haven’t yet signed up at all, but who possibly mirror those already acquired.

Thirdly, Whistle would engage in holistic discussions with product teams, sales teams and support teams at Canva to identify the opportunities to add value in the customer’s product life-cycle and ensure that alignment is happening across all fronts. 

  • Product: This helps identify when users are most satisfied and determines the point at which it is the best time to upsell them. There may be elements built into the product where users can upgrade themselves – or new product elements which could encourage further adoption.
  • Sales discussions would be primarily based on conversion and building a seamless process which allows for sales teams to get out of their customer’s way.
  • Support discussions would be focussed on maintaining people on the platform, building customer loyalty, identifying happy customers, but also on understanding where elements of the Marketing and Sales functions could have misled or confused customers, in order to improve upon them.
  • Marketing departments are keepers of all data, are the voice of the brand and are in control of most product adoption. For this reason, discussions would revolve around which elements of sign up and information collection could be more helpful to sales teams and where to focus future campaigns, based on current successes. 

The Whistle Accelerator programme is about bringing all stakeholders together at the right time in a fluid way and managing the whole process to increase adoption and sales. We work with a number of fast-growing B2C brands who are focussed on accelerating B2C adoption or the B2B potential of their offerings. 

For further information about the Whistle Accelerator programme visit www.callwhislte.com

Intelligent Outbound

Why Outbound?

As a marketer, reading anything about Outbound is likely to make you roll your eyes. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s basically a euphemism for spam, dialling for dollars and door to door sales.

“Outbound..”, as one marketing site put it “is based on interruption. Inbound is based on permission”. The general theme in marketing and sales is that an inbound lead is preferable. On the surface, this seems obvious. Surely someone who is coming to your business and registering their interest is likely to be more likely to buy from you versus someone who you approached?

Not necessarily.

It’s difficult to find objective resources about this online, as the world of inbound is actually quite political. It turns out that there’s a lot of money to be made in SEO, SEM, Online Ads, Content Marketing and the like. Companies like Google and Microsoft have also set up mailboxes to divert emails into “promotions” and “spam” folders, in order to protect individuals from unsolicited content and also make it extremely difficult to get through to a prospect.

In an extreme example, for any company running high volume inbound campaigns, you may be familiar as well with the tremendous cost of sifting through the leads in order to find qualified candidates. This is something that isn’t typically discussed, but in working with high volume inbound companies (10,000 leads per month and above), we’ve seen that what they term to be a good conversion rate sits at approximately 4-5% and in many cases, Inbound leads are converting at 1-2%. 

If this is you, note that this means that 95-99% of inbound leads are not, in fact leads. 

The standard closing rate for a standard B2B lead is from 15-27%. 

The B2B outbound closing rate sits at 22%.

So why does Outbound get such a bad rap?

The cynic will point to the fact that there isn’t a lot of money to be made by platforms for outbound by the companies that own our attention, but the reality is that outbound has been abused for so long that it is very difficult to separate it from SPAM.

Outbound has been dumb for a while:

Cold blasting a wide list of email addresses

Cold calling a list of phone numbers

Knocking on doors 

All of the above harasses and annoys the majority in order to win over a minority. 

There is a better way.

It’s something that we have been pioneering with our Sales Development agency Whistle, and if done right, is more effective, more affordable and gets faster results than traditional inbound tactics.

We call it Intelligent Outbound.

_______________________________________________

What is Intelligent Outbound?

Picture this scene:

You’re making your way through the foodcourt of a shopping mall. All of the restaurants surrounding you are well lit, with beautiful logos, calming music and have lines of people waiting for and purchasing food. They look trustworthy and appealing and you begin to talk to yourself:

“Do I want a sandwich or a tuna salad for breakfast?

Suddenly, as you’re having the furious debate with yourself, a young lady approaches you carrying a tray of samples of a new healthy yoghurt from a pop up stand.

You take a sample, taste it and are intrigued.

“Is this yoghurt all natural?”

She nods

“Wow, it’s very tasty. Will it fill me up for the morning?”

Another nod

“What toppings do you have?”

She walks you over to a small stand in the corner where a yoghurt bar is set up and introduces you to the man behind the counter.

“This is {your name here}. He/She is looking for something to fill him/her up for the morning. Would you mind showing him/her our muesli and apple toppings?

Were you interrupted?

Yes

Were you looking for a yoghurt?

No, you didn’t even think about it as a mid morning snack.

Were you curious to hear more once approached?

Yes, but even if you weren’t, you were still likely to be window shopping anyway.

Were you happy to have found the yoghurt stand?

Absolutely, but even if you decided that you weren’t interested after closer inspection, you were appreciative that someone helped guide you to a possible solution to your needs.

This is Intelligent Outbound.

Outbound in general is used to find people who are in the ”pre-awareness” stage of decision making. It’s perfect for new and innovative solutions as people wouldn’t even know what to look for until it was right in their faces. Intelligent Outbound is a methodology that acknowledges the buyer’s profile and factors in the buyer’s real world interactions to define a clear strategy and approach to prospecting.

Intelligent Outbound starts with recognising four key elements in the acquisition of a buyer:

  • Target
  • Channel
  • Message
  • Timing

These elements were made popular by the book ‘Outbound Sales, No Fluff’ by Rex Bilberston and Ryan Reisert (a Whistle advisor) but have now been redefined in the form of Intelligent Outbound to create a playbook that focuses on using scientific methodologies and cutting edge technology to identify an audience and interrupt a pattern of behaviour with a message that is appropriate, timely, valued and worth considering. A message that aligns directly with the target, in the right place and at the right time. A message that converts.

The advent of technologies, some of which we will mention in later paragraphs, have made this process more intelligent and accessible than ever before.

It all starts with a list.

The list is one of the most critical elements of Intelligent Outbound. 

It defines the company’s sales strategy moving forward and will be the foundation for all sales and marketing campaigns that you run. If you get an element of the list incorrect, it can mean that your entire campaign is focused in the wrong direction. If this is the case, it is not a disaster, as you will see later. It just requires refocusing – a methodology that will be taught shortly.

When it comes to building a list, a target audience is usually defined by a founder or CEO based on what they perceive the product or service to support. A quick search of the stories behind bubble wrap (originally sold as wallpaper), listerine (originally sold as an antiseptic), the slinky (originally sold to stabilise naval equipment) and viagra (designed to lower blood pressure) prove that a business owner doesn’t necessarily know their audience until they find them.

So, with that being said, how do you build a list?

The basic starting points for a B2B outbound campaign are usually focused around titles, company types, company sizes, industries, and locations. This is not a bad place to start and a list can be generated in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or purchased online from reputable data providers such as Zoominfo or LeadIQ. This list can be intelligently refined to add elements such as intent data or behaviours that indicate a possible need or fit between a company and a solution.

An intelligent approach would be to start with the why element, before the who: 

Why would this person want to talk to me, about what solution I provide at this time and on this channel?

Here is a real life example:

When WireCard, a global payment provider announced bankruptcy, Whistle used SimilarWeb’s Sales Solution to identify a list of their top 100 customers to prospect to, on behalf of one of our clients. If you were a WireCard top 100 client, then you’ve probably heard from us and may have agreed to a conversation with our client. You may be working with them too.

It’s our pleasure.

ClearBit, a company that maps website visitors and enriches data to help companies identify who’s browsing their site or who is searching for applicable terms is another example of using intent data to drive a conversation. By adding more data elements to enrich a person’s profile, a seller is better equipped to consider the motivations of the prospect and how best to appeal to them.

The framework for intelligent outbound sounds a lot like that for building an inbound marketing campaign – right?

The difference is that with intelligent outbound YOU choose who to talk to, not the other way round.

Layering these elements over the traditional list building exercise gets you 50% of the way to building an intelligent list.

The other 50% needs to focus on data validation and relevance.

In other words, if I believe that my company is likely to be valuable to CMOs at technology companies based in the US with over 5000 employees, plus I now know of a list of CMOs who’s companies have been searching for solutions in my space and can identify who is likely to have visited my website, I simply need to put all of that intelligence through the strainer of data validation, meaning manually confirming the channel health and likely deliverability of the message and a final layer of relevance to ensure that a) the contact is the right person to speak with and b) you have something intelligent and applicable to say to them.

This process forms one of the most important elements in any campaign that the Whistle team runs and has allowed us to bring in on average $3 million per month worth of pipeline for our global customers, who are usually well funded startups looking to break into new markets or accelerate and scale sales activities in a logical way. 

In our next installment, we will focus on Channel identification and reporting to empower adaptation at the top of the funnel.

If you’d like to learn more about Intelligent Targeting, or have our team of consultants build you an Intelligent ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) report, please be in touch with our expert team.

pipecast episode one - budget

Budget Objection Handling – The PipeCast Episode 1

On this first episode of the PipeCast, I speak with Richard Smith, Co-Founder of Refract about navigating the challenging budget issue.

When faced with an objection about budget, do you counter with an offer, nurture or neither? Does this tactic differ by stage in the deal?

Refract helps companies increase deal velocity and decrease missed opportunities, through improved sales conversations. You can learn more at www.refract.ai.

A Step by Step Guide to Enterprise Sales- Part 2: Connecting With the Buying Influencer

Part 2 of a 3 part guide. See part 1 here.

Too often, a masterful storytelling salesperson will wow his or her audience on a call, only to find out that their efforts were wasted on people who lack the ability to take the discussion to any material place.

It was Mike Tyson who put it most eloquently when he stated “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”.

What I am hoping to address in this section is how we can avoid this situation and navigate more freely through an institution, making sure to avoid the “punches” along the way and close the deal.

The first step – sales development

The first step in the process actually starts upstream with Sales Development.

It is the job of a Sales Development Rep (SDR) to ensure that the appropriate people are invited to the call, so that the conversation will be beneficial to all parties.

In preparing to approach each personality, I think it is worth us outlining some of the likely players that will be involved in the buying process:

Champion

  • Responsible for the day to day implementation of the project/solution
  • Has the most to benefit/lose on a daily basis from your service/product
  • Likely to respond very well to your demonstration of how you can add value to their company
  • Will rally support internally behind your service/product
  • Oftentimes, they are middle/lower management and do not have control of the purchasing decision, but can make enough noise as to attract their Supervisor/Director etc to the next demonstration

The Champion is your ally in this process and needs to be treated as such. Build a relationship with this person, reinforce the benefits of your product/service to their company and themselves and be praiseworthy of their support at all times.

Technology Buyer (if you are selling technology/SAAS)

  • Responsible for vetting the technology purchases of the company
  • Likely to be held responsible for anything that goes wrong in purchasing a product or service and is therefore likely to be very risk averse
  • Will have a list of questions, which often don’t always relate to the product/service you are selling, but it is important that you hear them out and address them

Often, this person will respond negatively to attempts to build an interpersonal relationship, but if you can satisfy their questions, take them seriously and if possible, go beyond their requirements, they will be a staunch supporter and ally, and with the Champion, will likely make a convincing argument to the Economic Buyer.

Economic Buyer

  • The person holding the purse strings (in a smaller company)
  • Or responsible for making purchasing decisions on any large purchases over the threshold limit of the buying department in a larger company or institution
  • At times the Economic Buyer may also be the Decision Maker.

In larger companies, governments and even universities, the Economic Buyer is kept separate from the decision making group, oftentimes for two main reasons:

Firstly, in the case of Governments and Universities, they are there to ensure that there is no bias in choice of vendor.

Secondly, their job is sometimes to renegotiate the rates and terms in the contract. As such, it is important to factor this in to your pricing when quoting larger institutions.

In many cases, the Economic Buyer is directly linked to the legal department and together, they form the Purchasing Department.

When dealing with this group or personality, it is important that you follow a clearly outlined closing plan (which I will cover in my next article) to ensure that you can bring the decision to a head as quickly and as pain free as possible.

This includes planning your question and answer process, as well as navigating the legal battleground. This specific relationship has the highest risk of going sour, given the heightened tension in the process as either party makes a final attempt to assert its will.

As such, keeping a cool head, directing the process and being responsive and professional will help you win their approval.

Decision Maker

  • Often the person charged with making a final determination
  • Usually has no specific interest in the product or service you are selling and is simply there to rubber stamp the contract, trusting on the opinions of the Champion, Technological Buyer & Economic Buyer

In some instances however, the Decision Maker is also the Champion. For obvious reasons, having the Decision Maker and the Champion as one personality is a massive benefit, but it does come with its challenges.

Oftentimes, the Decision Maker’s enthusiasm for a product or service may raise the eyebrows of their colleagues/employees in the lower departments and actually work against the salesperson, so it is important to manage that relationship and not take for granted the opinions of those “lower level” employees.

In order to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls, be sure to prove the value to parties on all levels, even if you have the “thumbs up” from the Decision Maker.

Final thoughts

Navigating the purchasing process is a skill that comes with time. It is important to constantly make sure that each party is being addressed and that you are being directed to the appropriate parties.

If you need, create a map for yourself and the buyer or a checklist, to ensure that once each step is completed, you have a clear direction of where to move in the sales process.

In my next article, we will focus on closing techniques and tips for maximising the chances of success at each level in the decision making process.

Happy hunting,

David

A Step by Step Guide to Enterprise Sales- Part 1

This is part 1 of a 3 part guide. See part 2 here.

“We are so excited by [your software/SAAS product]! We’ve loved the presentation and our test! It is going to be a huge help to [save us time/money/make us money/scale our business]. Where do we go from here?”

For those of you SAAS veterans who have been in this position, you would instantly realise that while you may have nailed the demos up until this point, your work really only starts now.

There are many layers to B2B enterprise sales, with each layer presenting challenges and gate-keepers designed to shrivel up that early excitement and your bonus cheque along with it.

Oftentimes, despite our past experience in selling to many different types of organisations, we forget key steps along the way and find ourselves out maneuvered, lost and blind-sighted by an unanticipated decision by the “higher ups.”

In the hope of arming my fellow salesmen out there, I have put together a guideline, which I will publish in parts, to ensure that you can digest, critique and recreate the process for yourselves – never again to be dizzied by the complex world of B2B sales.

Please note: In this process, I am not going to cover the personality aspects of selling, such as building rapport and connecting with the buyer, as that should come naturally and each person has their own personal preference when it comes to engaging with the buyer.

Step 1, the objective

The first step in this process is to identify “the single sales objective” – why are they buying?

If the lead is from an inbound source or if your Sales Development Rep (SDR) has done a great job, then you are likely to know the answer to this question before the call, as they may have told you this already, at least in parts.

Contrary to public opinion, most of sales is not about talking. It’s about listening.

It’s about revealing layers of your product or service and truly hearing the responses of the buyer at each point. You will need to constantly be adapting your offering and ensuring that you address the buyer’s concerns, ease their pain and demonstrate the benefits to utilising your product/service. Some initial questions which you can ask to get the  buyer to open up about their needs/pain point could be:

If you are not sure how they are addressing their needs:

“[Name], I’d like to make sure that this call is as relevant to you as possible, so before we dive in to the demo, would you mind telling me how you currently address your needs with regards to [problem your product/service is solving]?”

What I love about this type of question, is that it demonstrates that you value the buyers time and are focused on helping the buyer.

Consultative selling is a great method for building relationships with buyers and in the first call, when the buyer is at the height of their uncertainty as to the value you are offering, it helps them realize your interest in their needs.

If they already have a solution in place:

“[Name], can you tell me about your experience with your current [system/process/product]? What do you love about it? What do you think could be improved?”

The positives about this type of question is that you give the buyer the chance to talk about themselves and elaborate, but you have added some clearly defined directions in your question as to where you want them to take their responses.

People love to talk about themselves and how they feel and this too is a great in road to allow you to dig further into their response and flesh out the real motivation that is driving their decision.

Depending on your product or service, this may be the critical conversation in your sales process, so it is important to ensure that you outline exactly what it is that is going to generate the value for the buyer or alleviate their pain.

My next article will focus on finding and connecting with the buying influencer. If you enjoyed the read, please like and share!

Happy hunting.