Tips on How to Align Sales and Marketing With How Your B2B Customers Make Buying Decisions – Part 2

Many sales people have been trained it is not about “What you sell”, it is about “How you sell”. The next leg of the journey, it is not about “How you sell”, it is about “How your customers buy”.

This requires us to understand how customers make buying decisions before we optimize our sales methods. Whether the B2B customer is making the buying decision with 1 person or a Buying Committee, we are selling to individuals with individual business needs.

Tip 1: Begin with one of the largest studies done on buyers. Xerox researched 35,000 buyers and how they made buying decisions. The research was done by the Huthwaite Group, which leads to the creation of SPIN.

SPIN works best with products and services where the business usage is already understood by the individuals making the buying decision. The prospect does not require assistance discovering business needs, crafting a solution based on value and evaluating alternatives.

If you are selling products and services where the business usage and value is not readily understood by prospects. It is important to focus on the shifting concerns of how individuals make buying decisions.

Tip 2: As an individual moves from unaware, (latent needs), into the discovery, (active needs), the focus in a B2B setting is on the person helping them. During the discovery phase, needs are the primary concern in the beginning, being replaced by a Vision of a Solution towards the end of this phase.

It is during discovery individuals are most interested in discussing their needs and solutions based on value. Thinking about this from an internal view, is your sales team prepared to have business conversations around needs and potential solutions based on the titles of the individuals they are calling on today. Or are they prepared to make product and service pitches and presentations?

Tip 3: In many cases, there will be more than 1 person who reviews needs, evaluates, decides and purchases a new product or service. If there is more than 1 person, we need to understand each person has their own shifting concerns. Said another way, each individual has their own personal buying cycle with 3 primary phases.

  • Discovery
  • Evaluation
  • Commitment

Knowing this we can have various members of a buying committee in different phases during a buy-sell cycle. We need to have sales stages and steps which help align the individual buying cycles of all the buying committee members.

As a buying facilitator, (not a sales person), part of the job is to help buying committees line up their concerns and get on the same page at the same time.

Tip 4: As the Vision of a Solution becomes the primary concern, the individual is moving from discovery into the evaluation and proof phase.

If you sell a product or service which is not readily understood by prospects on how the usage will help improve their businesses, why would we presume they know how to effectively evaluate alternatives? The sales stages and steps need to help the buying committee evaluate if it makes sense to make a buying decision.

The role of a sales person as a buying facilitator is to help buyers prepare a buying evaluation plan.

Tip 5: Part of proof in the prospects mind during evaluation is whether a transition from today’s way of doing business to tomorrow’s new way is possible for the company.

The same comments ring true for transition and startup as they do for evaluating. This means the sales stages and steps need to help the buying committee develop a transition and startup plan for the potential new solution being considered.

Tip 6: During the commitment phase, individuals move into risk as the buying decision and a transition to potentially change the business moves closer. It is important to prepare and train the sales team to help prospects with the feeling of risk and focusing on a win-win.

This includes how we negotiate at the end of the buy-sell cycle. If we are not prepared for a win-win negotiation, it will come down to price. Unfortunately nobody really wins when price is the only thing on the table.

We need to arm our sales people with pre approved negotiating tactics and use a get-give approach. The main point is to go in prepared, don’t let the sales team “wing” negotiating.

At this point we have research based buying phases lined up with consultative sales stages and steps. In part 1 we crafted customer focused messages which help individuals, by their respective title, understand how to consider using the product or service to help improve their business and satisfy their needs.

In part 3 we cover the final leg of the 3 legged stool on how to align sales and marketing, a common sales method.

The World’s Oldest Profession: Sales and Marketing

I’d like to focus on the world’s oldest profession: sales and marketing. Now some people might disagree with my theory, but I think even Heidi Fleiss would have to admit that nothing happens until a sale is made.

Today, sales and marketing are merely a civilized form of warfare in which most battles are won with words, ideas, and disciplined thinking. They are critically important because generating new sales is the key to success in any business. Experts estimate that with the current rate of business failures and consolidation we need to replace about 15% of our accounts each year, just to stay even.

So how do you properly market your business? Here’s a four point plan that can dramatically increase your sales:

Step One:

The first step to increasing your sales is understanding who your customers really are. It amazes me that most business owners I ask really don’t know their customers. They get so busy running the business that they don’t understand who buys their products and services. I like to ask, “If the “Perfect Prospect” was the next person through the door, what would they be like?”

If your answer sounds something like 55-65, conservative white collar professional male working in downtown Phoenix with an income above $100,000 and a minimum net worth of $250,000 you probably have this step mastered. If not, here are a few questions to help you identify your perfect prospect.

Look at your existing customer list. Pick out your top 25 accounts and identify what they have in common. What are the demographics? Are they young, old, male, female? Are they located in a particular area of town? Are they in similar or related industries? Are they big companies or small companies? Many times our clients get stuck at this point in the process. If that should happen, I suggest they start with a different question, who isn’t your customer. Once this is clearly established it will be easier to identify who is.

Step Two:

The next step is to ask yourself why these individuals or businesses chose your company? Why do your top customers buy from you? A few questions here are key.

Walmart sells price, Nordstrom’s sells service and Tiffany’s sells quality. Each are successful, what do you sell?

In one sentence, what distinguishes you from your competitors?

How is your product or service different or better than your competition?

What problem does your company solve for the consumer?

These questions will help you discover what your competitive advantages are. To illustrate the concept of competitive advantage, let’s pretend for a moment that you are an NFL coach.

If you had just taken over the coaching position and looking down the team roster you noticed that you had a horrible quarterback, huge linemen and and 2 MVP running backs, you wouldn’t spend all your time developing passing plays. You’d want to run the ball. And run it, and run it and run it until they stop it. And when they do, it’s time to run the ball in a different direction. Likewise in other businesses, you need to play to your strengths; you don’t have the time, money or energy to be all things to all people.

Incorporate these competitive advantages into every part of your marketing. Put it in every ad, on every delivery vehicle, brochure, business card, website or other marketing tool you have. And run it and run it and run it.

Educate your employees, every one of them, about your advantages. Every person in your business must be a salesperson in some way and understand why customers chose your company.

Step Three:

The third step is to integrate your marketing across a variety of mediums. Try not to rely on just one form of advertising. The most effective vehicles for marketing most businesses are:

The yellow pages – both printed and electronic forms

Direct Mail – postcards, letters, doorhangers and flyers produce cost effective results

The internet – your own website and other referring sites. How well does your company rank in Google. How many search terms list you on the first page? What is the competition for those words?

And the best of all sources, referrals from existing clients

Develop a written marketing plan for the next 12 months to do this. It should be a rolling 12 month calendar that allows you to be prepared to hit your promotions at the peak times. It should also include specific goals include total sales or a percentage of growth over the previous year.

The Final Step, Just Do It:

The last and final step is just do it. Take the time to work through the program I have outlined and make adjustments as you go. I think General Patton got it right when he said that a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Yes, sales and marketing is where it all starts, but just like a health club membership it only works if you do.

Phantom Poop Sales and Marketing Tips

I have a rather strange (even by my standards) sales and marketing tip today. But, if you take it to heart, I think you’ll find selling your products and services a whole lot easier… and even “routine.”

Anyway, here’s the story:

It tends to rain a LOT in my neck of the woods. And for the longest time, when taking my dog out during long rain stretches, if she didn’t do her “duty” quick, it got really frustrating. Usually, she’d take her time sniffing and looking for a spot until, at last, she’d squat like she was going to do her thing… only to suddenly stop and stand back up again.

Not just once… but several times for 15 or 20 minutes:

Sniff, squat, stand back up.

Sniff, squat, stand back up.

I call ‘em “phantom poops” and, as you can imagine, it can get REALLY annoying out in the cold rain.

And you know what?

This exact same thing happens ALL the time in business, too.

Customers have their credit cards out and are seemingly ready to pull the trigger… ready to buy… only to stop at the last minute and decide NOT to buy until later (or maybe not at all).

It can be extremely frustrating.

Especially if you’ve been trying to land a big client or contract. And if you don’t know how to deal with this, you’ll end up walking around in the rain with people for days and weeks as they sniff around for a good spot, with no guarantee they’ll ever “go.”

Hey, I admit I do the same thing.

I often read and re-read sales letters, email and call with questions, and sometimes “sniff” around for months until I buy. This is especially true before I hire a service provider or buy a high ticket product.

It’s perfectly natural and understandable.

So what’s the solution?

Well, after a few months of my dog pulling this stunt, it dawned on me to simply not take her outside in the rain unless she’s really and TRULY ready to “do the doo.”

That way, she goes IMMEDIATELY.

No dawdling. No hemming and hawing. No sniffing around or “phantom pooping.” She goes out, does her thing, and that’s that. End of story.

And that’s how I approach business, too.

In fact, I once heard Dan Kennedy (I think it was him) say he doesn’t get on the phone with anyone who isn’t already 80% “sold.”

And I’ve done just that ever since with lots of success.

In fact, if you simply ONLY started focusing on those ready to buy, instead of trying to sell those who aren’t ready to buy yet, you’ll find your sales go up, your stress go down, and your entire business getting a lot more fun.

Simple?

Absolutely.

And that’s the reason why it works so well.