Discover how to transcend gimmicks in sales and establish real authority with our in-depth guide, Elite Sales Strategies, which is specifically tailored for high-stakes B2B enterprise selling. Learn how to become a “knows something” sales expert, providing unmatched value and insights to your clients.
Much of what you see and read about sales on social sites is gimmicky. There is no doubt that these tactics work well enough for getting attention, but if you are selling at the enterprise level, you must avoid anything that will reduce your status in your contact's eyes. The stakes are higher when what you sell is critical to the client's success because decision-makers and their stakeholders seek confidence and certainty.
Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative introduces the concept of being One-Up. This is not about one-upmanship that would have you in a contest with your client.
Instead, One-Up is a way to express the idea and the obligation to help your clients succeed by acquiring the insights and information to make the best decision for their company and their future results.
Building Credible Authority in B2B Sales: The Journey from “Needs Something” to “Knows Something”
Long-time readers may recall the two types of salespeople. The first type is the “needs something” salesperson, who needs an opportunity and a deal. The second type is a “knows something” salesperson, who has the experience and ability to provide counsel, advice, and recommendations. Being a credible “knows something” salesperson will require you to build your authority in B2B sales strategies and enterprise-level selling tactics.
Disclosure: What follows here will be easier for salespeople who have been selling for a long time, and it will be even easier still if you have been in the same industry for several years. However, if you are a relatively new salesperson or in a new industry, acting on these ideas will accelerate your development and make it easier for you to succeed in B2B sales.
Leveraging Your Experience for Enhanced Sales Authority
The first thing you might do to improve your authority is to explore what you know through your experience in selling. One way to do this is to write down the stories that provided you with an insight that allows you to help your client understand something important to the decision they are making or how to prevent making a mistake that will harm their results. This approach not only harnesses your personal insights but also applies industry-specific insights crucial for decision-making in enterprise sales.
Over the course of your time in sales, you have seen clients or prospects make decisions that caused them to fail. For example, your prospective client chose your competitor with the lower price, only to fail to generate the results they needed. You may also have had the experience of a client getting sucked into some new solution without really understanding what it would mean for their business.
- Write down the stories that provided you with the experience that gives you the authority to help your client succeed.
- Write the lessons from each of these stories and organize them into a list that you can use to share with your clients and prospects.
The Authority of Your Reading and Your Research
We live in a world where information is easily acquired with as little as a search-engine query or an effective AI prompt. Yet, few salespeople do the reading and the research necessary to build their authority, something that would improve their ability to create and win new opportunities. Engaging in research about B2B market trends and in client-focused investigations can significantly enhance your consultative approach.
There are numerous sources you can access to do the reading and the research that will improve your authority.
- Industry Trends: Start with the trends and forces that create headwinds in your industry. It’s important to keep up with your own industry, as it can help you provide context and implications.
- Client Industry Trends: Begin first with your company’s experience calling on prospects in the industry you are pursuing. If your company has already won clients in that industry, reach out to your peers to learn about the problems that caused them to buy from your company.
- Client Industry Trends II: Take the top three industry leaders and examine their annual reports. Start by reading the chairman’s letter to the investors. Make a list of the company’s initiatives, especially the ones you may be able to help them with. When you finish with the initiatives, read about the risks that might cause them to fail. You will likely be the only salesperson that has read anything about the industry at all.
Note: In a world that has artificial intelligence capable of doing much of this work for you, you should do the reading yourself. Authority requires you to have more than a surface-level understanding of the industry’s headwinds and tailwinds. Don’t outsource this research to a bot.
Authority and the Future of B2B Sales
Many sales organizations should be using a modern sales approach, one that would help them provide their clients with more help and a better buying experience. Instead, these sales organizations often end up with their sales teams selling as if the enterprise-level client is merely transacting. The nature of the accelerating rate of change in our environment requires more.
When a company decides to change, they know they need to succeed on the first try, as the stakes are too high, and they may not have the time or resources to try again. Plagued by uncertainty, your buyers seek certainty. They feel the pressure to get things right, and worry about anything and everything that might go wrong.
The more effort you put into building your authority, the more you will find your contacts spending time with you, as you create value beyond whatever your competitors offer. Your chances of winning are increased by your authority.
Epilogue: Authority and Being One-Down
You are often One-Up when it comes to your company and your industry. But when it comes to your client’s company and industry, you may still be One-Down compared to your contacts. In this case, you want to be One-Down, asking questions that will help you better understand the company and their industry.
This is here at the end because every client you engage with offers you an opportunity to advance your understanding and increase the value of your perspective. Build your authority and be the best-prepared salesperson your client has ever seen.