Your Roadmap to Achieving Sales Success is a practical, no-nonsense guide for anyone looking to forge a successful career in B2B sales. It purposefully doesn't deliver any new, ground-breaking revelations about selling. Instead it delivers good, common sense insights into B2B selling and provides the reader with a solid foundation on what is required to enjoy success in the most rewarding of careers…sales.
Moloney distils over 40 years of sales and business development experience into a handbook that provides readers with a thorough understanding of the basics of sales. Basics that unfortunately many new to sales, and not so new, fail to learn, fail to adopt or simply believe are no longer appropriate in an environment full of hype about Sales 3.0, sales automation, social selling and artificial intelligence.
But Moloney doesn’t ignore the changes that are happening and helps the reader understand and stay relevant in this changing environment.
Your Roadmap to Achieving Sales Success isn’t just a sales book, it’s an essential manual that anyone new to B2B sales, or those more experienced looking to refresh their knowledge on sales basics, should work through page by page; do all the exercises, write in the margins and use as their essential handbook for sales success. It is a practical and compelling handbook and even more significant, is that it’s an excellent resource for assisting sales managers in coaching their team members.
There are three essential concepts that underpin this Roadmap to Achieving Sales Success that I am going to introduce to you, and then you will find them interwoven through the entire guide. They are:
1. Selling is about people, not products - Here’s a fact: people buy things all the time, but they hate being sold to by incompetent salespeople. In our modern world, the salesperson’s role as an influential provider of information in order to ‘make a sale’ is over. By the time you meet a prospect they will most likely know as much about your product and your business as you know about them. They are also more likely to trust what others say on the Internet about your product and business more than they will trust what you have to say about them, at least initially. Today’s successful sales professional, especially in the B2B environment, knows that what they have to do is deliver value, not extract money. In this context, the financial transaction is a natural progression of a developed relationship.
2. Consistent success in sales is about having a lean approach to following an organised sales process, and is not left to chance or luck – I’ve known many very successful sales professionals, and they all have some things in common. They are extremely well-organised people who take a strategic view of sales. They work to understand the business of their prospect or customer. They look for solutions to problems or opportunities to improve performance. They are completely focused on identifying and delivering what their prospect or customer sees as value - That value might include providing insights into market trends or identifying opportunities the prospect is not aware of. They plan for their success. They follow a clear process and track their progress with their prospects and customers throughout a defined sales cycle that they ensure is aligned to the buyer’s process. Every step of the way, they pause to reflect, to assess and to analyse so they can reduce waste in the sales process and ensure that they keep focused on the real opportunities.
3. Your success as a sales professional is wholly reliant on you, your attitude and your behaviours, and will not be affected by any external circumstances – Just as many of us can be the proverbial ‘author of our own misfortune,’ we also have the power to be the ‘creators of our own fortune’ – especially in the sales profession where earnings are unlimited. With a positive attitude, a sales professional can keep making sales and gaining customers even in troubled economic times. With superb relationship skills, a sales professional can inspire others to turnaround their performance in a struggling organisation. With an unwavering focus on being successful a sales professional can push through any adversity and achieve their personal and work goals.
Your attitude determines the type of salesperson you are
Whether you are a small business owner driving sales to make your company successful or a member of a sales team, your attitude will determine which of these defined levels of salesmanship you operate at.
Have a look at these descriptions, reflect and identify the type of salesperson you are at this time:
1. The Order Taker – this salesperson makes themselves available as they wait for a customer to ask if they can buy. If they are friendly, efficient and effective at taking the order, the customer, who made the decision to buy all on their own, might like them; but they’re unlikely to regard them, or remember them for delivering any value to them.
2. The Techo – this salesperson tries to impress the customer by displaying their detailed technical knowledge of their product or service. They focus on telling the customer as much as possible about the dazzling features, and miss the point that customers buy benefits and solutions; not features. They may be the kind of person who wants to show-off their knowledge, often at the expense of the customer, making them feel less knowledgeable. I’ve often come across this type of salesperson in technical fields, and have recently also experienced it in the horticultural industry. The Techo needs to be aware that they risk isolating and offending customers, and they may well put in a lot of effort for slim results.
3. The ‘I Can Do it All’ – this salesperson promises the customer the world just to get the sale in the moment. They may succeed in getting a first sale but they have little to no chance of building the on-going, trusted relationships that are so necessary for the repeat business that underpin a successful sales career. Therefore, this type of salesperson is in it for the short term. This salesperson also has little consideration for the rest of their organisation. They often sell ‘futures’ or products and services at the limit of its capability, making it difficult for others to deliver, implement and maintain. They often tend to be so focused their own achievement that they fail to be mindful of the fact that a collaborative process is needed across all areas of a business in order to increase its revenue and profits.
4. The Value Creator – this salesperson makes the effort to get to know the customer and understand their needs and problems. They focus on the benefits of their product or service, and thoroughly think through how they can provide a worthwhile solution that is valued by the customer. They position themselves well to genuinely build rapport and trust, to develop and maintain relationships, and to act as an advisor to the customer who adds tangible value. In the role of a trusted and valued advisor, they actively consider ways of helping their prospect or customer do their business better. They are confident enough to challenge customers to think differently and to help them shift the status quo. They are operating on the level of a sales professional.
Over many decades the question of “How to sell successfully?” has been answered with an ever-evolving array of sales methodologies and solutions, approaches and processes. This evolution has succeeded in dragging selling out of the manipulative dark-ages.
While some of these sales processes of the past have naturally become out-dated and would be considered inappropriate today; some have aspects that are still relevant when adapted to our current sales environment. In essence, it was not so much the particular steps in any methodology necessarily becoming irrelevant; as it was about the manipulative approach of older selling styles becoming an unacceptable way to engage with customers.
In the 1950’s, the B2B corporate world was focused on Transactional Selling that involved the 5 ‘AIDCA’ steps - Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action. The 1960’s saw the emergence of Tactical Selling focusing on Feature, Function, Advantage, Benefit. Over time, we saw a mellowing of aggression in the sales approach. Sales people started to align with the customer to build rapport and develop trust – this, to me, was the real start of relationship selling. The 1980’s introduced Solutions Selling that resulted in sales people engaging at higher levels than they did in the past. At this time sales people looked to identify where the political power lay and to understand the problems and opportunities the prospect faced so that they could deliver a solution. From a sales perspective the focus was making sure you put time and energy into the right places and right people by asking the right questions.
We are now moving into an era of ‘Value-based’ Selling and ‘Insight’ selling when relationships are more important than ever as buyers and sellers align even more closely, and the buyer’s journey interweaves with the sales cycle; and the line between sales and marketing becomes more blurred. The salesperson’s role is to fully understand the buyer’s business, their needs and budget; and go further by even providing ideas and insights that will deliver gain or address pain.
Relationship Selling and Social Media
We are operating in the fastest-changing technology and communications environment ever known and it makes on-going, significant impacts on how we go about our business in sales - from finding prospects, to sharing information that builds rapport and nurturing relationships with existing clients. While you may not be a ‘tech-geek’, you need to be aware of what is happening in your market; how your clients and prospects are getting their information and making their decisions, what communication and social media channels they prefer - and then, you need to get involved.
Used effectively, social media can make business research and lead generation quicker and more efficient, helping to improve a salesperson’s productivity. However, the poor use of technology will have the opposite effect, and the power of social media to be distracting needs to be properly considered. You need to use your time most effectively and efficiently, and technology can help with this.
Regardless of the changes in technology and how we do business, relationships in selling are still needed for your success. Due to social media, relationship selling has different aspects nowadays, but is very much alive. People still buy from people they know, like, trust and respect, and who can help them be successful. This applies at all levels of selling.
Being known is an important aspect of today’s professional sales cycle. With prospects potentially being as far as 60 to 70% into their buying cycle before they actively engage with potential suppliers, your challenge is to become known, liked and trusted in the internet and social media environment.
Now that we’ve looked at what makes a successful salesperson, let’s look at how to be a successful salesperson.
The sales cycle is a process that you use to move step by step towards achieving sales – a mutually beneficial transaction. Every stage of the sales cycle offers you opportunities to build and sustain your relationship with prospects and clients. Understanding and following the sales cycle provides you with an organised and rational way to know where you stand with a prospect, and to assess what you need to do next to move forward with them towards your goal of delivering value.
It used to be that the process of making a sale was mostly dominated by the seller. That’s all turned around nowadays, and it is the role of the salesperson being to integrate their sales cycle with the buyer’s journey instead.
What is the buyer’s journey?
There are a number of different definitions and models of the buyer’s journey, but in general it describes the process a potential client moves through as they make decisions that will directly impact their final decision to engage with a salesperson by accepting your proposal. I find this simple definition most useful:
The Buyer’s Journey
1 – Awakening (and Awareness)
2 – Exploration
3 – Analysis
4 – Agreement
5 – Implementation
6 - Post-purchase behaviour
It is becoming more and more common for a buyer to go through this entire journey on-line, especially in the B2C environment or when the transaction is seen as ‘commodity-based’. However, even when that’s not the case, it is estimated that B2B buyers can still be up to 70% through this journey online before they engage with a salesperson – that would mean that they have been awakened, they have explored and conducted a fair amount of analysis on their own.
In a B2B environment, it is not uncommon nowadays for the salesperson to ‘physically’ enter at stage three. However, recent research also shows that where an organisation IS engaged during the ‘Awakening’, they are 70% more likely to be successful. This means that the business’ marketing efforts, as well as the personal ‘branding’ and networking of the salesperson must be closely aligned to the buyer’s journey through stages one and two; the driving force behind the current call for sales and marketing to be far more integrated and collaborative than they have been before. Having a strong personal brand that is visible and active in relevant networks can increase a salesperson’s opportunities to also be part of the buyer’s journey through the awakening and exploration stages.
“Research shows that highly aligned B2B organizations achieve 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability.” - Sirius Decisions, leading global B2B research and advisory firm
Let’s understand these stages of the buyer’s journey and how your company’s communications need to strategically align to the different stages...