Selling to businesses shares some fundamentals with selling to individual consumers, but requires an expanded skill set in order to become truly successful at it. B2B sales training organizations all too often fail to distinguish between them, causing B2B sales people to falter as they have not been adequately prepared.
So, what are the skills which differentiate a B2B salesperson from the more on-the-spot salespeople found in retail and consumer sales? Read on to discover the top 5.
Unlike B2C salespeople who might see dozens of customers in a single day and try to close all of them right then and there, top B2B salespeople dedicate their time to pursuing a small, select group of buyers whom they feel are most worth their time.
Knowing which prospects to focus on is brought about through specialized B2B sales training that emphasizes a formal sales process in order to determine the chances and ROI of pursuing each deal.
B2C salespeople will occasionally use a family member or close friend of a prospect to get information and procure an introduction. In B2B sales, this takes on a much greater importance - although business associates and co-workers are usually the ones who provide the data and introductions, instead of family members.
Insiders, or "coaches," can grease the skids towards get an initial meeting and provide information that's invaluable on what the potential customer really needs in a solution.
In the hustle and bustle of the retail world, sellers have at most a few seconds in order to find out about a customer and recommend a product. This only occurs before the first contact for repeat customers.
When selling to businesses, however, the top salespeople will conduct research using online tools and the coaches mentioned above.
Good business salespeople are adept at developing a genuine interest in their prospects and their challenges, and getting them to talk about themselves and their business issues. This rapportbuilding, which can occur over several months of lunch meetings, golf outings, and other interactions is much more extensive than can be achieved in the brief time most consumer salespeople will spend with any of their buyers.
This is an important point, and is so crucial to B2B sales. In order to truly recommend the best solution to a complex business issue, which often involves several layers in an organization and multiple employees, the B2B salesperson must be an excellent listener and learn to keep quiet when the client is explaining things. In fact, if rapport and trust have truly been developed, many clients will explain their business challenges so well that they will practically tell you how to close them.
Some of the greatest differentiators between a successful B2B salesperson and a B2C one are the ability to ask great questions, and to listen more than they talk.
B2B sales training must take into consideration the unique skills required in the complex world of business sales in order for it to "stick." While general sales training, coupled with aptitude assessment to ensure some native talent, will produce a salesperson - she or he will still be a far cry from the level of professionalism and skill which is found in a properly trained B2B sales specialist.
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Kevin Gallagher, Vice President, Information Technology Group Aegis Research Corporation