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Part I: Where have all the big customers gone?

by Kevin D. Crone

February 18, 2014

A special report by Kevin D. Crone

What are the notable trends in the selling game?  Since the Great Recession, who has been getting the big business-to-business sales?  In a tougher market, what are some insights that could prepare business-to-business salespeople to understand that they are facing new opportunities? What specific styles, skills and attitudes can be learned from those who are getting sales – and then replicated?  Let’s talk about all of that.

Our group does plenty of listening to clients.  Over the last few years we’ve done extensive research to find out what has been going on in business and in talent management. We concluded that there are three big things going on, and seven minor trends, that are driving our new business world. Sales transformation is one of those seven.

Lately, I have been hearing in our monthly business-dialogue meetings that the number one perceived challenge is how to find more, big customers.  Managers, owners, sales managers, and B-to-B salespeople have stated that it is becoming confusing and difficult to figure out what to do.

We discovered that old business strategies aren’t working as they did in the past.  Customers are harder to access.  Finding customers used to be about advertising/ trade shows/ networking/ online methods, blogging to become known as a thought-leader, and referrals to find prospects followed by either strong product promoters or relationship selling. Most companies followed and continually improved that model, and then created measurements to tell them if their customers were happy. Well, how is that working?

Bigger, more complex sales are harder to come by, and it is too costly to continue to sell in a price-driven, commoditized marketplace.

The big question is:  “Why should anyone buy from you?”

  • Is it because of your product facts and benefits? Prospects can get them on the Internet.
  • Is it because you are a nice person who has been in business for some time?
  • Is it because you got to know your customers or prospects on a nice, relationship basis?

Well, all of this is okay, but what value did you add in helping a client make money or reduce their costs?  What did you do to change the way they think or act that will create the change they want?

The solution salesperson used to own the stage because they analyzed before they proposed. They took the time to earn business as they demonstrated they could uncover problems.  Better value, yes, but even that style is being replaced by professional buyers, digital data collectors, consensus-evaluative teams, and by managers who can manage analytics.

In other words, prospects feel they already know what their problems are, so they don’t want to spend their time answering questions. These days, what is the perceived value of even a very good customized corporate solutions provider who uses a professional consultative sales style? That’s a good question.  Unfortunately, even this terrific model will not cause influential buyers to give you the business without scrutiny, if they give it to you at all.

So what is the advanced style of those who are getting the big complex sales?

Why is it that only 20 percent of salespeople fit into this style, yet they are still getting 50 percent of the sales?

It is the salesperson who can:

  • Clearly differentiate their organization
  • Focus on the customer’s business issues and, as a result, can take a stand for what customers need, not just what they want
  • Engage and teach the client about these issues by presenting new perspectives that create value every time they open their mouth.

They aren’t product-peddling, commercial-visiting, or even solution selling. They aren’t just answering questions about products or being led to give free information while getting nothing in return.  Disturbing, isn’t it?

When the market disappeared, this distinct group stayed the course, continued their productive habits and won big sales while the other types got frustrated and had no idea how to create a market.  A lot of those folks left the sales industry.  Making more calls or pleasing customers, although important, wasn’t the answer anymore. Just because buyers like sales people or because they serviced well, even though that’s certainly important, it won’t oblige savvy business-to-business buyers to buy.

There are no more easy sales.

At one time the solution seller had a great opportunity to engage the customer with lots of questions and time-consuming analysis with the hope that some solution would appear.  Today, customers are looking for ways to reduce risk, complexity, and costs of the solution sales efforts.  As sales become more complex, the star value-creator salesperson outshines the average salesperson by 200%. These stars carry a company and it behooves sales management and salespeople to acquire and take advantage of their skills and habits.

Next week we will discuss Part II, how the value-creator salesperson does so well.

MMM Action:

–    What style are you or your salespeople?
–    What insights are you gaining from this report so far?
–    What action can you take to progress your team towards bigger sales?

Have a great week!

Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
(905) 826-7300 / 1-800-361-2032

A Special Invitation from Kevin D. Crone, Canada’s Monday Morning Mentor…

There was a day when sales worked!

In those days:

  • Product peddlers could start pitching with their product benefits and people would listen.
  • Whether salespeople dropped in or had appointments to see what their prospects or customers needed and take orders, buyers would give them the time!
  • Even professional solution-sellers could stop in to see customers, and the client would appreciate the visits and the solutions that were found for them!

No more.  Traditional sales don’t work the way they used to.  How are you supposed to grow your business these days? Now what?

There was a day – not too long ago – when being a thought leader would get you fans who trusted you and eventually they would go to you, as long as you could be seen on the Internet and through social media.

Well, where are the leads now? The sales?

The Internet has changed everything. Customers already know what their problems are, and they’re looking for solutions – but not from marketing, and not even from the very best solution-salesperson. Sales and marketing have changed and a lot of traditional methods are no longer panning out.

We have been engaged in a world-wide research project to find out more specifically what’s going on. We are now ready to share some data that will explain not only what happened, but the ways in which we all have to adjust to find and keep customers.

There are new ways to sell and market. We will explain it all to you at our next business leaders dialogue. Kevin D. Crone, Canada’s Monday Morning Mentor, and his son, Kevin Robert Crone, will be revealing that research along with a possible action plan for those who can see the need to adapt.

Kevin D. has been sending his Monday Morning Mentor emails and holding complimentary two-hour meetings at their Center of Excellence since the Great Recession hit in 2008, bringing help, ideas, and inspiration to those who were figuring out how to fight back. Don’t miss this one.  Join us!

Executive Coaching Series: The New Sales/Marketing Transition
Thursday, February 27th
3:00 – 5:00 pm
Dale Carnegie Center of Excellence
2121 Argentia Road, Suite 103
Mississauga, Ontario

As always, you will enjoy Kevin’s style, the peer conversation and the insights revealed in the new research.

If you have questions, please contact our office at 905-826-7300 / 1-800-361-2032 / info@dalecarnegie.ca

Not a Monday Morning Mentor subscriber yet? Email to subscribe: info@dalecarnegie.ca

Read past issues in the Monday Morning Mentor Blog.

Contact us today to speak to one of our Performance Consultants about the one or two things you need to change to have a better life/career/business.

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