In my view selling is 85% mindset and 15% technique.
Unfortunately, most sales professionals focus primarily on learning sales techniques. Adopting a better sales mindset might be what’s required. I call it a “buying” mindset. I’m looking to acquire customers for my business.
What is Selling?
This is a question I regularly ask B2B sales professionals, especially those with new customer acquisition responsibility (hunter), more than an account maintenance (farmer) role.
“Persuading someone to buy my product or service.”
“Finding people who need my product and convincing them we have the best.”
“Selling is the way that you help customers to buy products and services from your business.”
As you are undoubtedly thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with these answers, and the thinking they reflect.
But they imply two things:
- Selling is something you have to do (can do) to someone else.
- You’re in conflict with the buyer.
They don’t want to … talk, meet or buy from you.
These are all “objections” that must be overcome.
And in one sense this makes sense. We know buyers hold the power and control, especially these days.
With this sales mindset, you’re going to work every day with an inherently conflict oriented mindset. (Don’t worry, my prescriptions aren’t a panacea that will eliminate all conflict. But with the right mindset, conflict won’t adversely affect your behavior.)
Create vs Find Opportunities
I want to speak primarily to B2B sales professionals who sell a “complex,” considered, or value sale more than a commoditized, transaction sale.
In this sales world extensive research has indicated that only 4% and 9% of potential customers within your target market segments are actively seeking something close to what you are selling.
This means you must create sales opportunities more than find active buyers. Consider the implications of this reality.
How do you think about prospecting for “create” opportunities differently from “find” opportunities? How does your approach change? How does your sales process change? How does your marketing / lead generation team think and address these two categories differently? (Great question for them!)
Recommended Sales Mindset: Become a Buyer of Customers
What happens when you become a buyer of anything?
How do you feel emotionally? How do you experience your personal power, and control? What primary approach, and primary techniques do you apply when you’re a buyer?
I suggest the primary approach is investigative. The primary techniques are research and questions. Your emotional state is somewhat skeptical. Isn’t this how your buyers are — to you?
Consider how the odds favor a buyer approach over a selling mindset. What percent of every prospect you speak with will actually buy from you? 4%, 2%, 1%?
The sales mindset I’m recommending is to become a buyer of customers.
Your emotional state will be more powerful. You will feel in control. You will be on a hunt for the perfect solution. In this case, it’s to your “sales problem.”
Mindset Applied to Selling Behavior
What would you do differently?
As buyers, we have defined criteria (or should). In the sales world, these criteria include a clear “ideal customer profile” (written), understanding about who can help you (PeopleMap, buyer roles or personas), an expected buying process, timeframe, budget or ability to purchase, and others (terms, etc).
We adopted this mindset in our company many years ago. But recent reading of the book The Challenger Customer helped us further clarify our approach.
With a buyer mindset you’re looking to find companies and people who are aware of their problem and are willing to consider making a change. Challenger refers to this as “breaking down the ‘A'” — the prospects status quo and current thinking.
This means our initial prospecting and sales conversations focus exclusively on whether the problems we address exist within a prospect organization. We want to find the people who have responsibility to address those problems.
But buyers are skeptical.
So even when we find a prospect that’s “actively” investigating a relevant business problem (or we can help them get there), as buyers of customers, we remain skeptical that they will actually reach a buying decision, let alone one that favors us. Again, plenty of research indicates as many as 60% of B2B buyer activities never result in ANY decision. Not to mention decades of personal experience, right?
CEB Challenger ideas help. Before presenting our solution, as buyers of customers we want to understand how prospects see their solution to their problem (The “B”.)
CEB identifies your biggest selling risk as the inherently dysfunctional nature of committee decision-making. The middle point in the graphic indicates buying teams have difficulty agreeing on the solution approach.
As a buyer of customers that meet our criteria, we want to be sure the prospect organization will make a decision, AND embrace the solution approach and required capabilities that favor us.
I refer you to our Problem-Cause model for more on this important point. There are many ways to solve particular business problems. How buyers define the causes of their business problems indicates the nature of the solution they will prefer. Once prospects understand and agree on the approach and capabilities required to solve their problem they will open to hear how you can help.
Adopting a new sales mindset by becoming a buyer of customers rather than a person trying to sell what you have lowers selling anxiety, keeps us asking questions (which ALL buyers appreciate) and actually shortens selling time. We abandon opportunities earlier. We win at much higher percentages.
Two Simple Approaches
This new mindset, when applied to sales prospecting, means you look to find companies that have the problems you address. Prospects must appreciate these are “must solve” problems. It has been our experience that people with this responsibility will be interested in learning how we can help.
Two approaches we recommend are:
- Referrals. Conduct “information interviews” at the tactical personnel level. You are calling not to sell, but to acquire the information you need to decide if an organization meets your “buying criteria.” You’re looking for problems you can “lead with.” You’re researching background information for an executive conversation.Your primary tactic is to find internal referral sources who can refer you “up the food chain.” You are also looking for appropriate third parties who can refer you to the right people, the right way, at the right time. Referral sources can become an important part of your “buying criteria,” ie you have an appropriate referral.
2. Nurture with a combined voicemail, email, and content offer to “earn the right” to have a conversation. We developed this approach for two primary reasons: 1) we are not a national brand, so doors don’t easily open when we call; 2) create opportunity prospects are not actively considering a purchase. They may not even be aware they have the problem, or have it on their “whiteboard of priorities.”
It’s important to be realistic about timing issues that affects buyers and sellers. B2B buying teams are not going to make a decision until they have completed their consensus building and approved decision process. So you need to manage your time to focus on your best opportunities. This approach addresses these issues.
We recommend an appropriate application of the program we call, 35 Days to Great First Sales Meetings. The link is to an article that explains this approach in detail. With this approach, when it becomes evident a meeting is appropriate, prospects know who you are (little brand). Our experience is they either will call, or will accept a call, conversation and, if appropriate, a meeting.
Given how time consuming prospecting is, the 35 Day Program will introduce you in a helpful and convenient manner. The prospect’s “digital body language” will indicate interest and timing as they read the email and click the link to problem-related content.
Andy McClure’s article is appropriate for sales professionals as well as marketers. Marketing to People Who Are Hard to Find