B2B SALES is challenging! It is complex, the cycle time is higher, the buyers are knowledgeable, highly informed & well networked. Multiple stakeholders need to be satisfied before a BUY decision is made.
Salespeople interacting with customers in the B2B segments need certain skills to ensure their success. Here is a list of important skills that are a MUST.
1. Planning & Discipline
Selling is a process that has many variables. The outcome depends on how well we control these variables. Salespersons who plan their work, have self-discipline, and stay organized will always have greater success.
They will be able to manage their time well, plan their visits, customer interactions as well as internal meetings much better.
A salesperson must be always on the lookout for prospective customers. These are companies that are presently not buying from you but are part of your target market. Identifying them and ensuring that they are added to the database is important.
This activity will have to be done in coordination with your marketing department in case your company has a separate person for marketing.
3. Curiosity & Observation
Sales is an interesting profession. I wanted every day to be different so I joined sales. It is never boring. But you can only enjoy it if you are curious – curious to visit new places, meet new people, find new customers, new applications, and new ways to grow the business.
Another important skill is that of observation. A salesperson can learn a lot just by observing the customer, their premises, other employees, visitors, status of machines and several other aspects that are possible during a personal visit.
Salesperson should be able to communicate effectively using appropriate words and language preferred by the customers. This is called external communication and includes both verbal skills (spoken + written) and non-verbal (body language) skills. It is important that customers understand the message exactly as it was intended.
Effective internal communication (with those inside the company) is also important to ensure that there are no gaps in understanding between the customers and company people.
When I started my sales career in 1988, the person who talked the most was considered suitable for sales. Would you base your hiring decision on that criterion today?
Yes, you cannot do without talking, but what is more important is “listening”. How will you understand the customer’s problems if you do not listen? It is recommended that we develop the skill of “active listening”. It is listening with total involvement, correct understanding and without being judgmental.
You need to ask the right questions at the right time to the right person and in a right manner to pin-point the exact problem the customer is facing.
Only then you can come up with a perfect solution. You should design a simple questionnaire based on your product or service and use the same to guide your customer conversation.
It is important to maintain a professional but friendly & conversational tone to keep the customer motivated.
7. Emotional Intelligence
It is said that your success in life is more dependent on EQ (emotional quotient) than on IQ (intelligence quotient). You should be able to not only manage your emotions but also the emotions of others very well. I recommend reading the famous book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. It will create the necessary awareness and understanding that will help you develop this important skill.
8.Presentation & Story Telling
As a spokesperson of your company, you need to present yourself and your offerings in a professional but interesting way.
It should hold the attention of the customer and ensure an insightful, pleasant experience.
You may use relevant stories to spice up your customer interaction. We all grew up listening to stories. They have the power to grab attention, convey a message and stimulate thinking.
Create a repertoire of stories and anecdotes to be used judiciously to enliven your conversation. Remember to keep it natural.
9. Objection Handling
Any objections from customers during the buying process should be treated as positive signs. A customer who is genuinely interested is likely to have lot of questions.
Address them with patience and positivity in a timely manner. Ensure that the customer is satisfied with your response before moving on to the next steps.
10. Relationship Building
All other things being equal, people prefer to do business with friends. Salespeople should focus on solving the problems that the customer is facing and add value to build trust in every interaction. This takes time but helps in building a relationship. Once that is in place, sales will happen.
I have been rewarded several times in my sales career just because I was persistent. Customers will buy when they are ready to buy. They will not buy to satisfy your target needs or internal deadlines.
Understand that the buyer moves through different stages of the buying cycle, stay in touch, and keep following up but never give up.
12. Negotiation & Closing
It is the customer’s right to negotiate and a salesperson must be prepared for it. Customers protect their interests, and you need to protect your company’s interests. Try to understand their perspective and strive for a win-win solution. The approach should be collaborative instead of competitive.
Closing means locking the sale with proper documentation and ensuring that there are no loose ends or open points. Many times, salespeople mess up this important activity, leading to problems in execution and customer dissatisfaction.
It is rare to find an individual who will have all the skill sets. Usually, a person will have one or two dominant skills and the others may be present with varying degrees of effectiveness. It helps to be aware of your development needs and work in a focused way to build your skills to become an ACE SALESPERSON.
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