Sound familiar ?

“As a result of an internal business review we’ve built a detailed specification of our requirements for [insert descriptive] that we feel your organisation may be able to satisfy. We’d like you to complete the attached RFP by [insert unreasonable time-frame]  and if considered suitable, to attend our offices on [insert non-negotiable date] and make a presentation about why you should be considered as a potential supplier”.

…and the unspoken bit hidden between the lines, “ We’ve also managed to come up with a list of your competitors and have asked them to do the same. Of course, one of your competitors is the incumbent and as such is very likely to retain the business”.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this type of conversation is becoming more and more common as buyers of B2B goods and services increasingly access publicly available information and use it to work out their own needs. Some studies suggest that they are completing as much as 60% of purchasing decisions before even engaging a supplier or speaking with a salesperson.

Of course, the RFP is an extreme of how the “informed” buyer is handling the procurement task. Not every solution is acquired through an RFP. Maybe it’s a scenario where the prospect says things like “I’ve been on the internet”, “I know how much it should cost”, “I’m familiar with the technical specs” or countless other examples. One things for sure, it’s a fact that every prospect can tap into information that just wasn’t accessible a few years ago and that changes the game.

So how do you adapt your sales approach to ensure that you are seen as an invaluable part of the buying process and be the one that secures the customers’ business?

An approach to this conundrum has been developed by Global Sales Training and Results Improvement Specialists, Mercuri International, and is centred on Differentiated Selling™ or put another way, the ability to flex your sales approach to the way people buy.

As the information age continues to gather pace, there are a number of your customers who having researched everything, feel that they know clearly what they want and are very comfortable to continue to trust you to provide it. In these situations the salesperson is fulfilling a known set of requirements in a “safe” relationship and only has to provide the solution. Typically, this type of selling situation would be managed by an Account Manager. That is, a salesperson who is focussed totally on the quality of the relationship between your company and the client.

But what happens when the prospect is not clear about their requirements and whether they want to work with your company at all? How do you approach this type of prospect?

Or the prospect who knows what he wants (or thinks he knows) but is not happy or convinced about working with you?

Differentiated Selling™ is essentially an approach that flexes dependant on the buying situation of the prospect. It requires you to think and act differently in different situations rather than have a “one size fits all” sales approach.

Are you ready to start being different? If you are, it could be useful to have a discussion with us first. We have some provocative insights into how you can turn your customer’s way of thinking on its head.

Interested in hearing more? Contact me by clicking here to arrange an introductory discussion and discover how to win that elusive customers business a little more often.

Who’s going to be on top?

There is lots of bad economic news circulating on a daily if not hourly basis at the moment. Economic experts from around the world are telling us with varying levels of hysteria that the end is upon us if the Euro collapses. Apparently the UK will be badly hit despite it being just one of the many export markets we serve. 

This is interesting to some and very worrying for others. I prefer to sit in the interesting camp. Let me try to explain why.

Many years ago my father said to me “there is always a winner in a recession, no matter the industry or sector, there is always someone who comes out on top”. (My father was Chief Buyer with Shell International, so he knew a thing or two about selling, albeit from the other side of the table).

Having recently reached my half century I have lived through a range of recessions and economic downturns. Of course, I’ve also lived through the boom years. When I sit down and think about how those periods of negative economic growth affected me and the companies I worked for, I can honestly say that they spurred me on to be the one who came out of it smiling.

My reactions to tough times varied in execution mix but were always remarkably similar in theme. It was always a resounding “let’s get our act together and be the absolute best we can be”. We re-focused our investments in training and re-training our sales and other customer facing staff, accelerated new product introductions or found a new way of adding value and sometimes we just worked harder and smarter.

The net outcome was always the same. We emerged from each downturn showing top line sales growth, delivering sound profitability and all done with limited losses in staff numbers.

The overriding lesson to me in over 25 years of sales and sales leadership is that it is an attitude of mind coupled with smart thinking and actions centred around how, where and what you sell that will not just get you through the pain, but actually thrive whilst others struggle and sometimes fail.

If you’d like to confound the economic doom-sayers and come out the other side with a smile on your face then maybe we should talk. Call me for an exploratory chat on +44 (0)7515 394373 or click here to contact me

Picture credits:
iStockphoto credit: http://www.istockphoto.com – MERCURINT2010
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Thinkstock credit: http://www.thinkstockphotos.com – jfmessier
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Social Media – the ultimate referral tool ?

When I first started out in selling, it was drummed into me early on to ask for referrals. It made a whole load of sense and I did win business as a result of asking for referrals to other possible customers.

This was an example of Social Media at work in the world of selling. Do a good job for someone, ask them for help in finding others that you can also do a great job for, keep doing this and you have the beginnings of a pipeline.

In the new age of Social Media the basic principles haven’t really changed so much. However, we now have the benefit of the Internet to help us. We can tell our story to so many individuals and organisations using tools like Linked in, Facebook, personal Blogs and many others.

Recently I personally witnessed the power of Facebook referrals. My wife and I fancied having a meal out the other day and had recently seen a friend highlight their great night out at a new award winning restaurant. Guess what? We had a great night and posted a simple three line comment about what a fantastic meal it was. No doubt our contacts will read that update and some of them will think about trying out the restaurant.

Of course the downside of this is that if you do a bad job then the world will find out quicker than ever before. It’s a great incentive for organisations to focus on delivering great customer service.

Your sales team is sitting there ready to go. They number in the millions and you can find them in all of your social networks. Go talk to them.

(This example is a consumer focussed business, but the principles and practice are just as valid in the B2B world).