The saying goes we hate to be sold but love to buy. However, the same can be said for how people feel about being involved in selling. We all love to help people buy but only a few feel comfortable with being seen to sell to someone.
In the past, this worked well, as the “sales” team were primarily responsible for doing the legwork knocking on doors and finding people to sell to. The trade-off for the company culture was that some individuals in the sales team then behaved like minor gods expecting all to fall before them.
The challenge in today’s market is that business buyers are increasingly acting like consumers in their buying behaviour.
Instead of engaging with sales teams when they have a need, they will do their research on what they need, the providers who offer it and the price they should expect to pay, even before they speak to a sales professional.
Some research has shown that B2B buyers are 50% through the buying process before they reach out to a provider. The impact of this is that the sales professional has reduced influence, is more likely to be competing against competitors and have little chance to add value to the client’s decision-making process.
Switch to a business development culture
The goal of every sales professional is to be in contact with a potential customer at the moment they think “I have a problem I need to solve”. But how do organisations adapt their approach to sales so they are able to engage with customers at their moment of need?
The answer is to switch from a sales culture to a business development culture. A business development culture is where the whole organisation is engaged in nurturing prospective clients, identifying clients who might be in need and helping with the sales process where required.
Importantly everyone has a different role in the sales process, however, everyone is clear that they do have a role to play in helping the company sell.
The challenge is how do you motivate non-sales people to be proactive in their involvement in sales when in their hearts they want to run away?
Here’s how. The topics and questions that follow will enable you to audit and assess how engaged your non-sales teams are with sales;
1. Build belief in the difference you make
When I ask non-sales people, “Would you call someone you did not know to provide a guaranteed cure for a disease they were suffering from?”, unsurprisingly 90% of people say yes.
Yet only 10% of that group would be willing to call a potential customer to tell them about their product.
Why the difference? Belief. Most non-sales people do not believe in the difference their company makes to their customers. This is because most companies’ internal communications focus on internal matters and financial performance.
Testimonials and case studies gathered by marketing are used extensively for external purposes but very seldom used internally to promote what difference the company makes to its customers.
Discussion Question: What difference to we make to our customer’s lives/businesses?
The answers you hear will tell you all you need to know.
2. Train for problems suffered not features
Everyone likes to help someone in need. Yet companies love to tell their staff about new products or services. There is a ‘new button that does this, a new widget that does that’. But, most do not spend time training their teams on the problems their clients suffer that their products can solve.
This means that many team members in a client facing roles are exposed to client’s needs that the company could solve, but because they do not recognise those client situations as needs that can be solved the opportunity is not escalated to the sales or marketing team, for additional investigation.
Discussion Question: What problems or issues can we observe our clients having that we can solve?
3. Clarify the role people play in the sales process
Not everyone is cut out to knock on doors or give client pitches. Yet there are many equally important roles to play in a successful business development culture.
Spotting clients needs, turning unhappy clients into happy ones are just as important to the achievement of the sales goals of the company.
A simple exercise is to use sticky notes to map on a wall the customer buying journey, from identification, through to post-sale implementation or support.
Clarify their role and make them feel good about the role they play. Then engage teams and individuals in identifying where they can support customer engagement, satisfaction or commitment to buy.
The key to this exercise is that everyone starts to understand their role in the sales success of the organisation. To assess how urgently you need to do this ask the discussion question.
Discussion Question: What role do you play in helping sales growth?
4. Recognise all contributions to the sales process
Typically recognition for sales lies with the sales professional that closed the deal. Yet as sales processes become longer and more complicated they are involving a wider range of people across the business.
This means leadership teams need to think less about perks and benefits for sales teams and more about recognition and rewards for those contributing to the success of the sales process. This does not have to always be monetary rewards, peer to peer recognition, team player awards are a few of the things you can do to engage non-sales teams in supporting the sales process.
Failure to do so can leave resentment among non-sales teams and affect the level of engagement when the next bid process comes along.
The discussion question below can help you assess how non-sales contributors feel about the recognition they do, or do not, receive after helping in a bid or pitch process.
Discussion Question: How do you feel about the recognition given to non-sales teams that support a bid or pitch process?
Engage everyone in the business
You may have started to spot a theme in these suggestions…
Talking to individuals across the organisation to learn about how they feel towards sales and business development is vital.
You may well have a grand plan for world domination or just modest sales growth. But if these plans depend on non-sales teams contributing to the sales process you need them on board before you start barking orders or processes that need to be executed.
A failure to engage will leave you pushing against a wall of passive-aggressive resistance which is likely to tire if not defeat you.
You may also find that your non-sales teams have better ideas than you about how they can help the sales process.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Alex Moyle, a business development, sales expert and author of Business Development Culture – taking sales culture beyond the sales team, published by Kogan Page and available on Amazon. Find out more: https://alexmoyle.co.uk/
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