Success in sales results from a relatively small number of skills. These skills make up the fundamentals of B2B sales. By mastering these sales fundamentals, you create and win new opportunities. We will first explore the fundamentals of creating new opportunities, then turning our attention to the fundamentals of capturing them.
Creating Opportunities: Sales Fundamentals
Closing: It may seem odd that closing is the first fundamental. It's important to understand that sales is made up of conversations and commitments. Once you realize that acquiring a meeting requires you to gain the commitment of time, you understand why this fundamental skill is crucial. Without the ability to gain commitments, B2B sales is difficult.
Targeting: To maximize your efficiency and effectiveness, it's important to target the companies with the greatest likelihood to need help improving their results. When you start prospecting, one of the best uses of your time is to create a list of companies that need your help and will pay for whatever you sell to improve their outcomes.
Prospecting: This is a vital fundamental and the skill most critical to creating new opportunities. Though this will always be true, anyone who avoids this work is nowhere near as successful as those who prospect some part of their day. Whether you are using a prospecting sequence or banging out cold calls, prospecting is a critical activity and skill.
Resolving Concerns: Imagine a busy person is facing a calendar that is overwhelmed with meetings and other commitments. When you call such a prospective client, you can expect them to avoid adding to their agenda. To gain a first meeting, you must resolve the client's concern by explaining the value they will gain by meeting with you.
Storytelling to Compel Change: The stories salespeople tell aren't often helpful for their clients, as most of them try to prove that their company and what they sell will work for the prospective client. The fundamentals of B2B sales require stories about what's changed and why the client will need to evolve to improve their results. This skill is necessary before executing a first meeting.
Creating Value: The easiest way to create value for your prospective clients is to recognize what decision-makers and their teams need from a conversation with a salesperson. The more you educate your prospective client and help them make a good decision, the more valuable your conversation.
Executing a First Meeting: The first meeting is an audition, a sort of tryout to explore whether you might be a good person to help the client make necessary improvements. The two fundamentals that precede this one, storytelling and creating value, must be enabled before a first meeting.
Scheduling a Second Meeting: Recently, it has become more difficult for salespeople to schedule a second meeting. When they do acquire a second meeting, it is likely to be canceled, or the salesperson gets ghosted. The only way to acquire a second meeting is to create enough value in the first meeting to prove you are someone worth the client's time.
The Fundamentals of Capturing Opportunities
Once you have created an opportunity, you must master another list of fundamental skills that will allow you to win the client's business and capture the opportunity.
Building Consensus: In many B2B sales, you will encounter a large number of stakeholders who will weigh in on the buying decision, including what salesperson is best for helping the organization change. Leaving these people out of the discovery process is often a mistake because they may oppose the plan for improvements.
Discovery: You might have expected to find discovery in opportunity creation. I understand why you would believe it should come earlier. The truth, however, is that establishing that a client needs better results is shallow, check-the-box discovery. Capturing opportunities in B2B sales requires a deeper discovery, one that addresses both the root causes of the prospective client’s difficulties, and the changes the client will need to make to improve their poor results.
Determining the Investment: If your prospective client sees the required investment for the first time when you hand over your proposal, you've made a mistake. Once you know what is necessary, you must determine the appropriate investment. It's better to have this conversation earlier than to surprise your contacts with a number beyond their willingness to pay or their budgetary constraints.
Presentations and Proposals: At some point, you will present your plan to help your prospective client improve their results. There is never a reason to provide a presentation and a proposal if you haven't already vetted it to make certain you have something your client can say yes to. The proposal should include the investment you have already agreed on earlier in the conversation.
Negotiation: Even though you have addressed the investment, you should always be prepared to handle a negotiation when the bean counters ask you to sharpen your pencil (even though no one uses pencils anymore). Being able to agree to, say, a larger commitment or a longer contract or something else you value more than the concession is a fundamental sales skill.
Success in Sales
Success in sales comes from practicing and mastering the fundamentals. It's natural to wish there were an easier path to success, but as in any human endeavor, it starts with the basics. Staying true to these two lists will improve your results faster and with greater certainty than any shiny object that is flashed in front of your eyes. In the end, sales success is individual and it builds on a strong foundation.