In the previous post, we discussed what we, as B2B sellers, must do to address the key buying challenges of our customers, because that’s why selling has become so much more difficult! I ended that post with the following:
“I’m reluctant to predict the future because I’m no better than anyone else. I’m sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but I should always be in great doubt. However, humor me and envision this scenario.
All the scary statistics and studies I’ve referenced are based on today’s selling and buying environment, where sellers at least have some face to face time with their customers and champions. What happens if, God forbid, travel and group meetings are eliminated and all of this “selling” and “buying” must be done virtually? Now how are you going to enable your customer’s buying journey and help them answer their key questions? Because those questions are not going away – and neither is your quota.”
I wish that this was not where we find ourselves today. I also can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had during the past week with sales leaders who are asking “How are my teams going to sell, negotiate and close critical business virtually?” A friend shared with me an even more pointed request, “What are my people going to do – on Monday when they’re at home?”
I’ve also had some enlightening and interesting conversations with leaders at buying clients that still need to buy solutions for their businesses. Their insights are worth sharing as a guidepost for how we should approach the current situation. Here’s a summary of their three key asks:
- Don’t waste my time talking about you and your company, I don’t have time to waste
- Do make your value clear and relevant to me and my business early on
- Do give me a simple proposal that I can readily understand and use to sell and gain alignment internally
I think the message for sellers is clear. If we’re not adept at clearly positioning, proposing and negotiating value, it’s going to be a very tough period – for us and our customers. That’s where I’m recommending sales leaders double down.
Selling virtually will require agility and the ability to effectively collaborate and communicate with your customers. I’m not talking about the teleconference platforms like Zoom, Teams, etc. I’m assuming everyone already has this technology. Rather, I’m talking about collaborating on the critical conversations during the customer’s buying journey – and those conversations must be value based. At a minimum, you need to collaborate with them to justify the case for change, present a value-based proposal they can then easily sell internally, and finally validate with the customer that the value was delivered after your solution was implemented. If there ever was a time that every customer facing team member needed a consistent value message, this is it.
The Case for Changing:
If your customer is not at the point where they have justified the need for a change, then your job is to help them get there. Ideally, you want a platform that allows you to co-create that vision for change with the customer and that makes it easy for them to share it internally.
A Compelling Proposal:
Assuming you’re well into your selling motion and the customer has determined they need to change, your proposal is the single most important tool to help them sell internally, gain alignment and quickly buy from you! Your proposal should be simple for the customer to understand and share internally. I’m not as concerned about the medium as the messaging. It should tell a story – the customer’s story, in their language.
Furthermore, by virtue of selling remotely, the need to manage risk and uncertainty in the sale has never been higher. The best way to manage that risk and uncertainty is through the use of options. But not just any options as there must be a strategy behind building them that is tailored to this particular customer and selling situation.
Here’s the link to my “Compelling Proposal” template. It’s only seven slides, but it is highly effective at engaging the customer in a value dialogue (which you want). Furthermore, it allows them to buy versus you selling to them and can very easily be shared internally. Please contact me if you need help with it.
Past Value Delivered:
This is what the customer cares most about – and is the reason they will readily renew and buy more products and services from you. I realize most salespeople are focused on new bookings, because that’s what they’re compensated for. However, most sales leaders (especially for subscription business models) know the business lives and dies on renewals.
At a minimum, you’ll need to collaborate with the customer on the success metrics you both will measure after the sale and implementation (they’re usually a version of those in your business case and proposal). These should be in a simple scorecard. You’ll also want the ability to easily access this scorecard on performance 24/7 – as will your customer. In their case, they want to show the value they’ve brought the business and you want to get credit for helping deliver that value to enable a straightforward renewal – as well as the credible references this produces.
The Case for Value Selling:
Value is perhaps the most overused term and misunderstood concept in business. And yet, it is the currency of sales and ongoing business relationships. It is why customers buy from you – they see value in it. It’s also why they don’t buy from you (they didn’t see the value). Value selling is not a luxury in a stay-at-home world. You probably won’t get a virtual audience, and your emails and phone calls will likely go unanswered if your messaging is about you, your products and your services.
A CIO friend, during a recent conversation, put it succinctly. “Don’t come in with 100 questions or challenge me, I’ve got enough challenges of my own and don’t have time for your questions. However, I’ll always find time for a sales rep that can help me better meet the needs of my customers, which is the business.” That’s it in a nutshell!
Online Value Selling Training:
There’s now the time and the technology to increase the value selling skills of yourself or your team virtually. Online courses exist for a variety of sales topics and most are very inexpensive. If you really want to go the budget route, here is a link to my series of Must-Win Deals books.
If there is a much more impactful way to address your immediate business issues – at the cost of a single airline ticket or perhaps 2 nights in a hotel room, would you be interested? What if you could train your teams in value selling while having them advance the live opportunities in their pipeline? Here are the features of an effective online value selling program that I believe are most relevant to our current selling environment:
- Exercises are applied to real live selling situations (accounts and opportunities)
- The workshop allows for account teams to go through together, collaborate and share information and insights (after all, selling is a team sport)
- The platform allows for sales managers to not just monitor course progress, but also to coach the account teams on the specific deals they are working on
- Each workshop can be customized for your particular business
The good news is such a training and coaching platform exists and here are the online value selling workshops I can offer you or your sales team:
- The Irresistible Value Proposition: It covers the concepts and elements of B2B Value and how to connect your customer’s desired outcomes to your potential value and craft a Value Proposition your customer will want now and will easily be able to articulate internally.
- The Painless Negotiation: It covers how to ensure you are both having the “right negotiation” and negotiating the “right way.” Learn how to easily determine who has the power and which party really needs this deal. Finally, how to trade effectively to complete a negotiation that results in a great deal for both parties.
- The Compelling Proposal: Learn how to craft a B2B sales proposal in just seven slides that your customer can share and use to easily sell internally. It also addresses how to effectively manage Risk and Uncertainty which are certainly magnified in a virtual selling environment.
For your Customer Experience or Customer Success teams, I have the following value selling workshop:
- Can’t-Lose Accounts: How to manage Value after the sale to stay relevant to customers, ensure easy renewals and provide for plentiful growth opportunities.
I recommend the online value selling workshops be taken in the order above. The Compelling Proposal is much more effective if you have a good grasp on the concepts of B2B Value as well as the key concepts of B2B Negotiations. Then you will understand why the proposal is designed as it is and be able to leverage it in a virtual selling situation.
You can purchase them individually for $97 by credit card. With the collaboration and coaching feature options, I’ve reduced the price to $197 each. As always, for enterprise purchases, please reach out to me directly for pricing and customization.
Critical Deal Coaching:
Of course, I’m still providing live deal coaching to my clients as I have for many years. I wish I could discount this offering too, but I’m still limited by 24 hours in a day…
This current crisis will pass, but it may take longer and have more “knock-on” effects than anyone can predict (I hope I’m wrong). In the meantime, we need to find a way to keep business moving through to the other side – and come out that other side with better skills at selling value and helping our customers address their buying challenges.
I hope this series of three posts were helpful to you in gaining a sense of the buying challenges your customers face, the key questions that we must help them answer, and how we can still do this in a stay-at-home selling world. I wish you, your family and loved ones the very best.
Good (and Safe) Selling!