The writer Kurt Vonnegut used to tell his students to "pity the reader." Vonnegut wanted his students to slow down and think of the poor soul who would have to endure their writing. The goal was to improve their writing. My first editor once told me that if someone could say something in 500 words, I could say it in 1,500 words. He was asking me to pity my readers.
This manifesto attempts to help B2B salespeople to pity your prospects. It is also a charge to create the value that will help your contacts make good decisions and improve their results.
B2B sales have evolved into a complex, dynamic set of conversations. Our environment is one of accelerating, constant, disruptive change. This environment makes it difficult to make decisions. When B2B buyers face a decision they rarely encounter, they need a B2B salesperson with a sales process that can help them succeed. This is especially true if the decision has the potential for negative consequences.
This manifesto explains the problem with the traditional sales approaches. It explains the disconnect between this traditional selling and value creation while documenting several principles of value creation in B2B sales.
Part One: The Problem
When both HubSpot and Gartner publish statistics that more than 70 percent of buyers would prefer to avoid engaging with a salesperson and research on their own, something is wrong. Forrester's research shows that 59 percent of buyers prefer to avoid salespeople because of the agenda they push. B2B sales are also plagued by longer sales cycles, which can cause problems for both the buyer and seller.
A study by the University of Manchester found that 56 percent of B2B buyers experienced post-purchase dissonance, which is like buyer's remorse. Part of this was the lack of certainty. According to a study by Marketo, 80 percent of B2B buyers experience regret after making a purchase. One reason why is that they didn't have the understanding necessary to make the decision. A study by Vendasta found that 38 percent of B2B buyers experience buyer's remorse after purchasing a product or service. Some complained the product wasn't a good fit. This disconnect occurs because B2B decision-makers make a purchase using a business-to-consumer approach.
The Disconnect between Sales and Value Creation
The disconnect between sales and value creation starts with the legacy approach, which most sales reps have been taught and trained. This process starts in their onboarding, where they are indoctrinated with the belief that their company and their offerings are superior to anything the competition has to offer. The company's B2B sales teams bludgeon their ideal customers with a slide deck designed to differentiate the company and their "solutions." This is a form of transactional selling.
The simplest summary of the disconnect is that the salesperson often believes the value they create comes from the better results the client gets from buying products or services. These salespeople don't believe the sales conversation needs to create value before the client will buy from them.
This approach harms the client in several ways. First, it wastes the decision maker's time by giving the contact information they can easily find on the internet. Even worse, the decision maker wasn't provided the information and insights they needed to decide on their future and how to improve their results. The salesperson will add this company to their sales funnel, but there is no opportunity to close the deal.
To pity the prospect, you must eliminate the traditional sales approaches. By doing nothing more than that, you will increase your chances of winning the client's business.
Part Two: The Manifesto
Principles of Value Creation in B2B Sales
There are a number of principles of value creation in B2B sales. These principles are client-centric, treating the sales conversation as the vehicle to provide buyers with what they need to succeed. It's a modern sales approach. Some of these principles will make some uncomfortable, as it will require salespeople to stop using certain sales strategies and replace them with a more effective set of value creation strategies.
- Principle 1: Pity the prospect. Remove any conversation that doesn't create value for your prospective clients and replace it with something that will help them learn. If your contact wouldn't pay a consultant for the information you share with them, you are safe to eliminate it. It won't help you win a new client.
- Principle 2: Don't ask questions you should know the answer to. The salesperson who makes a cold call and schedules a first meeting has an idea about their prospects’ challenges. But once they are seated across the table from a decision maker, they suffer amnesia, asking about the client's problems, pain points, or dissatisfaction., even though they have heard dozens or hundreds of clients explain the same things. This approach exposes the salesperson as being One-Down, suggesting they are not an expert or an authority in their industry.
- Principle 3: Lead the client. Because you help companies improve their results, you have greater knowledge than your contacts and experience about what to do. Your prospective clients expect you to know what they need to know. It is your responsibility to facilitate their buyer's journey.
- Principle 4: Educate your contacts. The legacy approach to B2B sales training provides the salesperson with the idea that the discovery portion of the B2B sales cycle learns about the client. What's wrong with this approach is that it is incomplete. The way one creates value for their contacts is by helping them learn what they need to understand the root cause of their poor results and what changes will be critical to their future results.
- Principle 5: Be truly consultative. To be consultative, the salesperson must provide good counsel, advice, and recommendations. The salesperson must be a thought leader for their clients. Any conversation where decision-makers and their teams are learning means you are creating value.
Understanding the Prospect's Business
To enable the principles above, it is important that you understand their client's business. Too few sales organizations enable the sales force with strategies for conducting effective research and analysis of the prospect's business. One way to enable this is to have salespeople who already understand an industry and its challenges teach their peers how to recognize common problems and improve results.
Offering Personalized Solutions
Earlier in this article, we noted that buyers suffer from buyer's remorse. One reason this occurs is because salespeople want to sell their products and services to their client, believing they are a good fit. To prevent buyer's remorse, ensure that what you sell will work or tailor it so it does. In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, the fourth commitment is to collaborate, ensuring your solution will work for your prospective clients.
Providing Education and Thought Leadership
One of the best ways to share insights is to start with an executive briefing, updating your client on what's changed over time and what they need to understand now. You can also create value for your contacts by briefing them on what's working, what isn't, and why.
Building Trust and Relationships
Trust comes from always telling the truth. You might believe that you need rapport, but the new rapport comes when you create value for your client around the decisions they make and the results you help them produce. You can have a personal relationship and still not be trusted with the client's business because you lack the business acumen.
Part Three: Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I balance value creation with sales targets? The greater the value you create in the sales conversation, the more likely you are to win the client's business. The only way you win is that the client prefers to buy from you. You need to create value for that to be true.
- What if the prospect doesn't see the value in our solutions? Much of the time, the client doesn't see the value because the salesperson fails to compel change by briefing the client on why they need to change and providing insights that would create value for the client.
- How can I measure the impact of value creation on sales? The way to evaluate any sales strategy: Your win rates. The way to measure your effectiveness is to look at the percentage of deals they win.
Pity the Prospect
To improve your sales results, you must pity the prospect. By focusing on the principles of value creation in the sales conversation, you provide your contacts with the better sales experience they need to succeed, starting with how to make the best decision, and how to improve their results.
You work for a good company with good offerings. Your competitor also works for a good company with good products and services. Here, you have parity. This means the variable is the value the salesperson creates in the sales conversation.
Act on this manifesto and if you need help, schedule a meeting.