Selling to Mainstream Market

Sales Insights: Who is Calling on Whom?

Geoffrey Moore has written several books on product life cycles and when different types of companies are likely to buy.

  • Early market buyers comprise about 15% of a buying population. These companies want to be on the cutting edge of technology and can endure product pitches, determine how they can use offerings and make quick decisions. They don’t need a long list of references, reassurance nor much help from sellers. They buy quickly. If offerings fail to meet expectations, they view it as a cost of doing business and are onto the next offering.
  • 85% are mainstream market buyers comprised of the early majority, late majority and laggards. They buy only after offerings have received market acceptance. They are cautious in wanting to avoid making mistakes so that “no decision” is a common outcome of their long buying cycles. Unlike early market buyers, product pitches will fall on deaf ears. This amounts to inept sellers calling on buyers that don’t understand how offerings can be used

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Pricing Requests

Sales Insights: How to Respond to “Best and Final” Pricing Requests

How should sellers reply when they are not going to win a transaction but are asked for a “best and final” number? Some respond with the lowest possible price with the thought being they may be able to steal the business (unlikely) or at least make it a skinny deal for their competitors. It’s not a tactic I endorse.

I believe floating aggressive prices can come back to haunt sellers if and when the roles may be reversed in the future. It would be awkward if a seller’s customers got wind of pricing that was lower than what they paid.

My suggestion when asked for best and final pricing is to ask:

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Sales Teams Understand Buyer Needs

Why B2B Sales Professionals Must Understand Buyers’ Needs

Why is understanding business needs so critical to B2B buyers?

When buyers feel confident the sales rep understands their pain points, they’re also reassured that the rep will find the best solution to address those pain points and fill a need. In fact, solving business needs is a high priority for B2B buyers. Sales professionals who understand these needs will solve fundamental business problems for their buyers and have a greater success at closing deals than their counterparts who choose not to listen at all.

However, gaining a deep understanding of these buyers requires significant effort, patience, and good listening skills. It’s a journey that can take quite some time to perfect. When you’re a sales rep and you’re selling a product or service to a business buyer, understanding the other person is critical to your career success. Among other items, you must discover:

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Sales Negotiations Tips

Sales Insights: Avoid Negotiating with Buyers Unless You’re “Column A”

A common ploy buyers use toward the end of buying cycles is having someone (often a non-Key Player) request a “best and final” pricing. Smart buyers with multiple vendors in the mix will negotiate with Column C to use their price against Column B, all in an attempt to get the best possible price from Column A, their vendor of choice. Some buyers may just fabricate pricing.

Some salespeople see this as an opportunity to win the business with aggressive pricing. In my experience, vendors selling non-commodity offerings can seldom discount their way into becoming Column A.

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Repeatable Sales Process

4 Components of a Repeatable Sales Process

Henry Ford is credited with creating production lines allowing cars to be built consistently regardless of the staff that assembled them. I’ve worked with consulting companies that wanted to “cookie cutter” engagements because repetition makes people more competent and efficient. It provides the added benefit of being able to identify and share best practices.

That said, many people feel sales calls are like snowflakes in that no two are identical. While calls are never identical, there are ways organizations can make them more consistent by defining parameters to provide context.

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Selling to the B2B Market

3 Things You Must Know Before Selling to the B2B Market

In recent years, selling to the B2B market has presented new challenges for companies such as buyers’ growing tendency to vet vendors using online research and the interplay between the B2B and B2C buyer experience.

B2B buyers identifying and selecting their top tier of vendors for purchase evaluations—including the short list of contenders—often do so with very little or NO input from sales or company reps. Buyers also expect excellence from their vendors, based largely on their expectations from their experiences as consumers in B2C transactions.

So, what should companies selling to the B2B market know before they engage with their buyers?

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The Value of Sales Process

The Value of Sales Process

Soon after starting my sales career I became aware there was a staggering list of things I needed to learn. The biggest challenge I faced was securing appointments with owners of small businesses. In retrospect I’m not proud to admit that my objective when making initial calls was to see if I could get a second call with prospects. My logic was that a follow-up probably meant the first call went reasonably well. I lacked the wisdom and experience to understand the difference between sales activities and progress. I had no concept or a sales process.

CRM is everywhere and yet there are some salespeople as inept as I was that are required to provide input into the system.

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Types of Customer Data to Collect to Improve Marketing Strategy

The Types of Customer Data to Collect to Improve Marketing Strategy

When some marketing professionals think about surveys, they generally think about close-ended feedback. Close-ended feedback, which is typically collected in online surveys, involves rating scales, “check boxes” of applicable categories, “yes/no” questions, and other data that is typically quantitative.

Close-ended feedback is usually efficient and straightforward for customers to answer, as well as straightforward for organizations to analyze. This type of customer feedback also provides the ability to easily compare different parts of the organization, different team member’s effectiveness, and overall customer experience from a quantitative, “temperature-taking” perspective.

In contrast, Read more

Win Loss Analysis Definition

What is Win Loss Analysis?

At the most basic level, win loss analysis helps sales, marketing, and product leaders understand the reasons for their organizational wins and losses so that they can increase their win rates and capture more business in the future.

Win loss programs are important at all levels of the organization because it helps explain why buyers choose specific solutions and why they do not choose others.

At a higher level, win loss programs help transform organizations as they make fundamental changes to what are often systemic problems. When managers see patterns in buyer feedback that consistently show outstanding—or sub-par—performance, they can replicate best practices throughout their organizations and avoid root cause behaviors that hinder long-term success. In this way, win loss analysis is sometimes compared to Kaizen, the Japanese practice of continuous improvement.

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Sales Intelligence for Strategy

Win Loss Best Practice Series: Competitive Intelligence Leads to Strategic Decisions

Any electrical socket around you provides a tap to a near endless supply of energy. Inside the wires, there is enough power to run a houseful of gadgets, recharge your electric car or deliver an awful shock (don’t try that at home).

But, until you use the power to do something (turn on the lights, recharge your phone, etc.), it really doesn’t offer much value. For the electricity to be effective, it must power something that is important to you. Otherwise, it is just a bunch of electrons with potential energy sitting in copper wiring.

Your competitive intelligence is very similar to the electricity in your wires. You can collect as much competitive intelligence as you like, but until someone uses it to power change in your company, it really isn’t effective at all.

Competitive Intelligence for Strategy

Your competitive intelligence is most effective if it:

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sales tip avoid no decisions

Avoid No Decisions by Answering “What’s in it for me?”

No decision is a terrible outcome for both buyers and sellers. It ultimately means both parties spent time, effort and money and at the end, the buyer decided not to buy from any of the vendors that bid. Sellers either get firm no’s or the vague commitment to revisit the offering at a later time.

I believe the primary reason for these outcomes is that buyers don’t see adequate value to justify the expenditure.

Let’s assume you are selling to a manufacturing company and calling on the person responsible for stocking spare parts to maintain their equipment.

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strong qualifier for proposals

A Strong Qualifier for Proposals

When asked in a word to describe the difference between A Players and B/C Players I would say:

Patience.

By that I mean they avoid prematurely talking about offerings that helps them avoid early pricing decisions. Top performers also understand how much control sellers give up after issuing proposals.

I believe proposals should document and confirm discussions with buyers and provide a buyer or buying committee everything that is needed to make decisions. Premature proposals often hang in seller’s pipelines and often wind up being removed months later after no decision has been reached.

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Honest Customer Feedback

Honest Customer Feedback is the Cure for Insanity

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Unknown

This is obviously a cultural rather than a medical definition, but if you sell for a living, and you cannot figure out what you’re doing that’s causing you to lose deals you were sure you were going to win, you might start to feel like you’re losing your mind.

When you get some honest feedback, and start doing different things, the outcomes change, and the insanity goes away. Suddenly the world makes a lot more sense, and you’re closing a lot more deals.

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Different Types of Questions to Ask in Sales

The Different Types of Questions to Ask at High and Low Levels

I believe superior salespeople are curious and ask questions more often than they make statements. They avoid control questions that elicit short responses and therefore don’t facilitate conversations.

Instead they prefer to ask framing questions such as, “How do you create revenue forecasts today?” These questions usually begin with the word “how” and elicit lengthy answers about areas the seller wants to explore.

When calling at executive levels I suggest you try to avoid asking questions they can’t answer.

Many senior executives will seize opportunities to delegate salespeople to lower staff. Their response is usually something like:

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Changing Your Sales Outcomes Report

New Industry Report Available, “Changing Your Sales Outcomes”

Can you salvage a deal that’s on track for a loss? And if you can, what does it take to recover it? For this industry report, Changing Your Sales Outcomes, we analyzed buyer responses from nearly 1,000 highly competitive B2B sales opportunities collected over an 11-month period. Our study uncovered that over one-third of lost deals could have been won. If you’re working on a sale that seems like it might miss, stick to it: your buyers are probably willing to give you a chance to recover the sale—and a chunk of revenue with it.

The impact of recovering one in three lost deals is significant. The missed opportunities in our study represent over $1.5 billion in lost revenue that sellers could have won had they navigated the sale differently. For the average software vendor in our study, a 33% increase in revenue would have added an estimated $15 million annually to their bottom line. Even recovering a fraction of this would have been significant.

With so much revenue left on the table, what did sellers miss?

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7 Things All Sales Proposals Should Have Before Submitting to Buyers

7 Things All Sales Proposals Should Have Before Submitting to Buyers

From a buyer’s perspective, sellers often seem to be in a rush to move buying cycles along. If there is a single trait that separates A players from B/C players I would say it is patience.

That means not discussing products or offerings until a buyer’s needs have been established, but I also believe it applies to when sales proposals are issued. Many B/C players view proposals as a step that moves opportunities forward.

A proposal should document and confirm the discussions sellers have had and provide buyers with everything needed to make buying decisions.

When there are multiple buyers in committee sales, sellers gain access to as many stakeholders as possible to help each of them understand the value that can be realized through the use of the offering being discussed.

A significant mistake sellers make is issuing proposals after discussions with just one person.

The other committee members may be given a copy of the quote or proposal, but how much of it will they read and understand? How many will go right to the end of the document and see the pricing and without any understanding of value and decide the price is too high?

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Understand Buyer Perceptions in sales deals

How to Sway Your Buyers’ Decision in B2B Sales Deals

Although B2B buyers are most interested in product features and functionality when evaluating companies, buyer’s perception of your company can sway their decision in your favor (or not). Primary Intelligence discovered that 20% of buyers, approximately 1 in 5, rate vendors as “poor” in most company-related criteria.

While solution capabilities are typically the most important aspect in B2B sales evaluations, consideration of how vendors are perceived overall – including vendor reputation, service and support, and future direction – are also influential in the final decision.

How can you improve buyers’ perceptions of your company? Here are three best practices you can implement at your organization.

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