5 questions to an expert
As part of the October Salesbook podcast, a few questions were asked about the ins and outs of sales and the differences between what was important in the past and now. The questions were answered by Piotr Pawłowski, Managing Partner at Level2 Ventures, who managed sales in IT & Telco companies for 30 years. Below is a transcript of the most interesting discussion threads.
1. Is today's sales easier or more difficult compared to what we faced 10-20 years ago?
It's hard to say whether it's easier or more difficult, but it's certainly different. In the era of information scarcity (before the Internet) it was the salesman who was the main expert on the product and its application. Now, the customer usually already has a lot of knowledge about the product itself and competing solutions. The role of the salesman has changed a great deal - he has to prove that the purchase of the product will bring either an increase in revenue, a decrease in costs, or a significant improvement to the customer's organization. To do this, he needs to be aware not only of how the customer makes money and what his organization looks like; he also needs to know how the decision-making process works and how to help the customer reprocess the purchase decision. In summary, today's salespeople need to help realize the business visions of their Customers, and this requires a shift from relational and consultative selling to a new model of entrepreneurial selling.
2. How do you look for sales differentiators in a world that says "come up with an idea and I'll show you 5 companies that do it better than you"?
When a customer makes a buying decision, he buys a product, a company, and a person. And most importantly, a human being who understands his business, what the purchasing need is, and what impact it will have on the organization and its performance. Of course, the product is very important, which must deliver the right values that we can convert into money (revenues, savings, or profits); no less important in a product are the impressions and feelings of its users, which we should monitor and take care of all the time. And then there is the Company - that is, the whole catalog of values behind it and a communication model that is open to feedback and dialogue with customers. In general, we don't have to be perfect in any of these elements, it's enough to be 5% better than the competition in each of them.
3. How to reach decision-makers who have no time for anything today, and how to build relationships with them in the virtual world?
This acumen has become easier thanks to the Internet and social media. Decision-makers are no longer anonymous. We know what organizations they belong to, where we can meet them, we know what they are interested in, and what hobbies they have. However, in order for us to be partners with them, we need to build our position as experts all the time. Social media (e.g. LinkedIn), and activity at industry conferences or publications in the wider media can also help with this. It's also worth remembering that nothing connects like a shared hobby, so also "enjoyable" places and occasions can be an avenue for reaching out to VIPs.
4. How to reduce the time from lead to sales close, which is getting longer every year, especially in B2B?
More often than not, salespeople lack the courage and determination to close, and every meeting with a customer and every interaction with them should end with a partial close. So, don't call the customer to ask how he liked the offer, but whether he is still missing something to make a decision. Remember, too, that statistically, it takes an average of 4 contacts for a customer to go from offer to decision, so the most persistent and determined to succeed win. And there are no second places in sales...
Increasingly distributed buying processes and the associated increasing number of decision-makers are also important factors. You need to know the process and provide the customer with data and materials that can facilitate and accelerate it.
5. What should and should not a salesman do, what tasks should we take off his head and to whom should we give them then?
The salesman should first and foremost sell, this should occupy his min. 80% of his time. CRM, internal processes, reporting, training, etc. are the other 20%. Companies deal with this in different ways: protein-based or process-based. I am a proponent of the process approach, i.e. such organization and systems that automate processes as much as possible. A good example is Salesbook - a sales acceleration system that has a self-complete CRM during a sales meeting. Because salespeople need to have time to build relationships, get to know the customer's business, select a solution and go through the buying process, administrative work is not in their nature and it's hard to hold it against them. Let's also remember that the Company's only source of revenue is Customers and sales to them; so let's take care of Customers and make life easier for salespeople because it is their success that generates profits for the company and... salaries for all employees.