I get the chance to observe many B2B sales people in action, and to identify the winning behaviours that seem to separate today’s top performers from their middle of the road peers. I’d like to share 5 qualities that seem to be consistently valuable and to offer some good news - these are all qualities that can be developed through effective training and mentoring...
There’s no doubt that this is a tough sales climate. If you’re in an established market, your sales people are going to face determined competition from a range of alternative solutions. If you’re trying to create a new market, your sales people may find that conservative buying behaviour means that it’s harder to identify those all-important early adopters.
In every market, your prospects are increasingly well educated about the options that are open to them. They have become immune to traditional sales pitches and boorish, “always be closing” sales behaviour. They hate being sold to, but they love to learn something new, relevant and useful. It’s against this backdrop that the following five qualities often prove invaluable:
They Understand Their Prospect’s Issues
Today’s top performers focus first on their prospect’s issues, rather than their solution’s capabilities. They research the key trends and trigger events in their prospect’s environment. They seek to uncover problems, goals or opportunities that their prospects cannot afford to ignore. Perhaps most important of all, they get the prospect to acknowledge the cost and consequences of not dealing with the issue. In doing so, they not only help to qualify whether the potential opportunity is real or not, they also start to build a compelling business case for change from early on in the sales conversation.
The Speak Their Prospect’s Language
It’s all too easy to bamboozle your prospects with your favourite acronyms, technical terms and product specifications. But most decision-maker level B2B prospects don’t appreciate or understand this. In fact, in most cases, there’s nothing more likely to cause them to tune out of the conversation. The most successful sales people have developed the ability to talk in their prospects language. They use the key terms and trends that are relevant to their prospect’s industry. And they talk as fellow business people would about the issues of the day.
They Have a Provocative Point of View
Bland sales conversations are never memorable, and they rarely result in action. So the third characteristic of many of today’s most effective sales people is their ability to articulate a provocative point of view that stimulates their prospect to see their business - and the issues and challenges they face - with a fresh perspective. By helping the prospect to consider their situation in a new light, sales people with a positively provocative point of view can build trust, stand out from the crowd, and help to reshape the prospect’s decision making criteria in their favour.
They Can Call Upon a Collection of Engaging Anecdotes
Prospects react much more positively to relevant stories and anecdotes than they do to formalised product or company pitches, particularly if these stories are based around situations they can relate to. I’ve observed many of the most effective sales people making their points by sharing naturally told anecdotes that describe how other people and organisations similar to the prospect were are to deal with issues the prospect can relate to. The best sales people are natural storytellers. But this skill can be learned and shared, and organisations can create pools of anecdotes that can be used by every sales person to establish empathy with the prospect.
They Focus on their Prospect’s Desired Outcomes
The final characteristic? They focus on the outcomes their prospects are trying to achieve. There is a subtle but important distinction between selling “solutions” and focusing on outcomes. Focusing on outcomes requires that they identify their prospect’s desired results. They understand what their prospects are trying to achieve, and their sales approach involves eliminating the obstacles and risks - perceived or real - that stand between their prospect and a complete resolution of the issue that initiated their search for a solution in the first place. In doing so, they not only reduce the possibility of their buying process ending in a decision to do nothing, they also help to create enthusiastic advocates that can support their future sales efforts.
So - those are the 5 qualities I have chosen to highlight. But there are undoubtedly many more. What are the most important qualities that you’ve observed in today’s most effective sales people?