The best performers in any endeavor are dedicated to the fundamentals of their work. As B2B sales grows more complicated and complex, it's worth looking at Sales 101, the fundamentals. Those new to B2B sales must master the fundamentals to find their footing and develop their skills. Experienced salespeople in a slump would do well to recommit to the foundational concepts of Sales 101. Here is an overview of what new and experienced sales professionals should explore:
- Closing: Though many believe closing happens at the end of the conversation with their clients, it's only one commitment you must secure in B2B sales. Before you close any deal, you must gain the commitment of a first meeting.
- Overcoming objections: Whether you ask a client for a meeting or a signature, you may be answered with an objection. Often, the objection is really an unspoken concern. The greater your ability to identify and resolve the concern, the better your results. Adhering to the basics of Sales 101 makes this much easier.
- Prospecting: Selling comprises two outcomes. The first outcome is creating opportunities. The second is capturing opportunities. Prospecting provides a strong base from which to build. The will to pick up the phone and call a contact to ask for a meeting is what allows you to create opportunities. In a sales world saturated with technology, the oldest of our technologies produces better results than any other choice.
- Storytelling: There are stories we use to help our clients recognize the need to change. The person who can help the client see something in a new light will have an easier time helping them decide to change. You must be aware that stories that sound like a pitch will work against you.
- Discovery: In Sales 101, discovery is a conversation where you ask questions to learn the root causes of the client’s poor results. Even in Sales 101, it's important to be able to help the client assess their situation. The better your conversation in discovery, the better your results. You tend to win or lose at this stage.
- Diagnosis: While discovery is identifying the root causes, diagnosis is how to improve the client's future results. The diagnosis has to provide the client with a change they can execute, even if you have more work to do before providing them with a proposal.
- Consensus: Building consensus is now part of B2B Sales 101. Leaders want their teams to buy into the changes they believe necessary. By including their teams in their decisions, they hope they will better execute the changes that improve their results. This is the highest difficulty activity for many salespeople—even after they graduate from Sales 101.
- Presentation and proposal: At some point, you will present your plan to help clients create the outcomes they need. Whether it is a short, basic presentation to a few contacts, or a full-out presentation for 15 people in an executive conference room, you will show them your plan. If you've done your homework, you should know what they need to say yes. You will leave a proposal when you walk out of the boardroom.
- Ask for the business: Your client already knows you want their business. It's still a good idea to let them know you want their business and that you are going to ensure they get the better results they need. Your ability to take accountability for results provides the client with greater certainty.
- Negotiation: Even in a basic sales situation, you're likely to have your client ask you for a lower price or some concession. A negotiation is when two parties ask for something they need to make the deal good for both. A concession is when one party agrees to give something to the other party without asking for anything in return.
Sales 202 builds the basics by adding new fundamentals that massively improve the effectiveness of Sales 101.
- Business acumen: Business acumen in sales isn't something that’s easy to train. Instead, it's an accumulation of knowledge and experience. This experience eventually allows the salesperson to create greater value for their clients. In B2B sales, you are a business advisor, so you are required to know things—especially things your client doesn’t.
- Change management: It's important to recognize that the opportunity you register in your CRM is your client's change initiative. Your ability to help your clients work through this change goes beyond what is covered in Sales 101.
These two fundamentals together improve your results. Anything that helps your clients improves your results.
The greater your mastery of the Sales 101 and 202, the more you can lead your clients. Leadership is the new skill introduced in Sales 303. In Sales 101, you might follow the client's lead. Then, as you develop skills related to business acumen and change management in Sales 202, you can work alongside your client as a peer. As your experience stacks up and you reach the Sales 303 level, you can provide the client with advice and recommendations that allow them to make an informed decision.
To improve your results, the best path forward begins with Sales 101. By mastering the fundamental conversations outlined here, the better your results. There is no shortcut to mastery. Avoid any tricks that are supposed to make selling easier. Also avoid the charlatans that promise you that their approach makes selling easier. Anyone who tells you sales is easy does so because that promise makes selling easy for them.