[Guest post by Shivaram who was the Head of Merchandising, Training and Regional Sales @ Tanishq]
A footwear marketing company sent two of its sales men to a country where nobody was wearing footwear and asked them to explore business opportunities. One immediately responded, because nobody wears any footwear, the market is zero. The other guy also responded, but said, send all the stocks we have, nobody wears any footwear in this country, the market is huge and there is no competition at all!
This “story” probably sums up the attitude of different people in the world today.
I have been a Salesman for more than 3 decades and have seen the transformation from a “Seller’s market” to a “complete buyer’s market” with huge choices for everyone, including the Salesman.
B2B sales come with its own set of challenges. Clients in the B2B space, especially Big Corporates, have a wide range of choices of almost every category of products and services. Sure, prices, discounts, free offers, 60 to 90 days credit are all “marketing“ strategies used by MSMEs. But, there are a number of “opportunities” that SMBs can leverage. One big opportunity is the actual “client building relationship” that is done through both face to face and on Phone, Email and Social Media etc. Sure, the challenges of recruiting, training and retaining “sales” staff is never going to go away for many reasons. But if we build a “SERVICES” culture in your sales team, then you can make a difference to now and future proof your business too.
First and foremost is to build a “S.E.R.V.I.C.E.S” mind set rather than just a Sales mindset into the entire organisation. Here is my acronym for the word “SERVICES”
Each employee needs to be trained on hygiene, smart appearance, speaking and body language, time commitment, responding to problems on time (even if there is no easy solution) etc. Nothing is more frustrating than finding the telephone calls unanswered. Always call back every incoming call! It is said, that if you SMILE at your customer even while using the telephone (Exotel included) the customer on the other side can see you smile! In these busy times, more orders are lost, because the Salesman upset the buyer because of poor soft skills than for not offering a further price discount. The pity is you never came to know about it.
Having been a buyer for a large company for many years, my suggestion is – Take time to enquire about your clients’ customers, its products and problems they face. Visit their offices to understand where they can use your product! Never be afraid to ask questions because the more you understand what they do, the better will be your solution to their problem.
Having understood what the customers’ problems are, then respond promptly with not only your solutions but also what it cannot do! Buyers appreciate and will remember prompt service first than an immediate solution to their often long standing problems!
Or No. Unfortunately, it is human nature to believe that all Sales people are out to “sell” all the time. So, many a times, clients say “no” regardless of your solution or suggestion. Remember, it may be nothing against you personally. But, if you analyse why they said no, you will have lot of opportunities to offer a better solution.
Include additional Items. After all the effort made to make a sale, most sales guys are often easily satisfied and tired after closing the first sale. Don’t. In these days of multiple product offerings and multiple choices, there are always opportunities to sell multiple items to each client. And remember, it is now easier to sell a second or a third product to the same client rather than find a new one to sell your first product.
Close, but there is a story of a group of sales men who were asked, what was their biggest sale. Each guy gave some huge figure, until a wise salesman said, his biggest client was an old lady who came multiple days to the store to check and finally bought a small item. But she was so happy with the service, that she directed all her friends to him from then on!
Most sales techniques will teach you that you must “close” a sale asap! While closing of a sale is important, especially in B2B or in consultative selling, it is the beginning of a lifelong relationship that really counts! The initial trail order might be small, but always look at the client for his “life time value”.
In the B2B space, it is often a very impersonal way of doing “business” during the working hours of an organisation. Whether it is meeting clients with appointments, demonstrating the product features, collecting the order and then chasing the client for payments! Remember, that there is a human being everywhere and have you thought of your clients birthdays, or anniversaries and wished him? Does your business have a loyalty program for its B2B clients just like an airline or a retail brand? Why not? What about his family, Can you help out in some form or the other? Most employees often have little connection with the “outside” world, beyond their industry. They are always starved of knowledge of the “market happenings”. But as a field salesperson, you have a huge amount of knowledge, including a view of an outsider, which can be easily a big source of information that no money can buy. Use that to exceed your clients’ expectations and build relationships.
S-Post Sales Relationship
In a B2B businesses, people often believe, once the payment is collected, the sale is over. Nothing could be farther than the truth! It is really the beginning of a relationship. The time you spend building a relationship, for no reason at all, when “no sale” is in sight, is what helps in the long run, both for you and for the client. Because, then there are no expectations at this stage on the “business” side!
Would love to hear what you thought of this in the comments section.
Shivaram was the Head of Merchandising, Training and Regional Sales @ Tanishq Jewellery for many years before he setup Retail Gurukul in 2012 to Mentor, Consult and Train in Inventory Management, Sales Force Training and Coaching the Management. His clients are spread across India and the Middle East. He can be reached on 09036036524 or email@example.com