The 4R’s to B2B Selling Success in the Virtual World

How difficult are you finding it to connect with new clients in this business environment that continues to go more viral? If your job focus is new business development, landing new clients has become more challenging. In the 3-R Strategy for B2B Success, the new selling world requires a story that answers one or more of the key selling drivers of RISK, REGULATION, or RETURN. The 3-R strategy brings a technical solution with your product or service. Many would have you believe that relationship doesn’t matter as much as it once did. I’m not sold on that conclusion.

At its most fundamental level, sales is one person saying “yes” to another, unless of course we are talking about an online auction facilitated exclusively by a software program. The human factor hasn’t yet been eliminated from the selling equation. Therefore, selling success in the new virtual B2B world is still focused on leveraging the 3-R strategy on top of the fourth R, otherwise, known as RELATIONSHIP.

How Relationship Building Should Pivot

Gone or minimized is the in-person, face-to-face relationship building meeting, replaced by the virtual call. [Note: If you’re still showing your clients a dark screen during Zoom, turn on your camera.] Building trust, demonstrating competence, and growing likeability on-line requires a more knowledgeable and intentional strategy.

I know this firsthand, because I’m an independent professional coach and consultant. Having already developed an in-person relationship before COVID, it’s easy to continue the relationship virtually. However, it becomes more challenging to make new connections and establish new clients.

Virtual selling requires different or exaggerated techniques. The most effective relationship builders have a strong command of people skills and interpersonal intelligence. They know that communication comprises 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% words. Unfortunately, virtual meetings significantly cut peripheral vision, so that both parties can miss key body language signals, and depending on visual screen quality, critical feedback on facial expressions may be overlooked. Today, salespeople no longer have the handshake in their toolkit that helps convey likeability and confidence.

Virtual Selling Strategies

Below are a few of the new or expand skills that the best salespeople deploy in virtual selling: 

  • First impressions are made within the first few seconds. We decide whether we believe, like, and trust someone before ever having heard their voice. Whether conscious or not, we are intentionally trying to assess and decide whether you are friend/foe, winner/loser, ally/enemy in the most primitive of terms. The best salespeople show and use their hands in virtual calls take up as much of the screen without appearing be under the microscope, sit erect and keep shoulders back, and look straight into the camera at eye level.
  • The most effective salespeople avoid the small talk and focus on stimulating conversations starters. Why? Because it increases the dopamine and pleasure centers of the brain. The best salespeople ask questions that allow clients to share about themselves. Fresh questions might involve some homework to find some interesting topic to open the conversation. A powerful conversation starter might be, “I saw on LinkedIn that you’re involved with Habitat for Humanity. How did you get in involved with that organization?” or “Your company appears to be a disruptor in the industry. I admire what they’re doing? How did you come to work for them?”

These are just two selling strategy examples that help build a relational foundation to do business in these virtual times. If you’d like to explore some of the other powerful relationship building strategies over video conferencing techniques, reach out to schedule your coaching session.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Negotiation: What Questions Are You Asking? And Why?

questions

I’m a business, sales, and leadership coach, so I ask a lot of questions. Why? Because it’s my profession, and I get paid to ask questions. In all seriousness, I find people spend more time assuming, telling, and trying to convince as opposed to asking the right questions. You might ask, “Would you tell me more?” If so, you’re now getting the hang of it.

What do questions have to do with good negotiating? Their value is delivered in the answers, the insights and information, the other person shares that helps your negotiation strategy.

What are good questions to ask? There are different types appropriate for different stages of the negotiating process. General open-ended questions give you valuable information, because they allow the other party to express his or her opinions.

  1. What’s been your experience with…[insert product, service, supplier, etc.]?
  2. What do you think of…?
  3. How do you feel about…?

Depending on the answers, you may follow with more direct questions to pinpoint specific information such as dates, money, etc. These questions may include:

  1. Who is involved in the decision-making process?
  2. When will the decision be made?
  3. What budget range did you have for this project?

The conversation can be brought full circle when you use paraphrasing questions that help ensure agreement in your understanding.

  1. You believe you could decide by [insert date], if I provide the product specifications and price by [insert date]?
  2. You could issue a purchase order, if our price proposal was in the [insert price range]?
  3. You believe the product will work in this application, if we can get it to [insert performance criteria]?

Questions are powerful tools to help the negotiating process move forward. I’ve observed some salespeople make a pitch, pause, and wait for the customer to say something without a question even being asked.

If asking questions is not one of your refined skills or in your comfort zone, try practicing in other areas of your life and let it carry over into your work. Go to a party, introduce yourself to people you don’t know, and make a point to ask questions. Use the 80/20 rule. Use 80% of your words for asking questions and only 20% for answering someone else’s questions.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Negotiation: Action Strategies

negotiation-skills1

Few want to play a game they have no chance of winning, and the same concept holds true for negotiating. Most people dread situations that require them to negotiate for a salary or even a purchase; hence, the opportunity for the likes of Saturn, the car manufacturer, to successfully enter the car market by offering a firm sticker price.

For those who find themselves unable to avoid negotiation, don’t fret, because you can improve their negotiation skills—perhaps to the point you believe negotiating is fun. I share some strategies for when you find yourself in the thick of it.

Key Negotiation Strategies

In the business world, negotiation is about finding common ground that is acceptable to both parties. I have a lawyer friend who once said, “A good deal is when both parties strike a deal in which each is just mildly disgruntled with the outcome.” I interpreted this to mean both got most of what they wanted but wished they’d gotten more. If you want to strike a deal and get more, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Check your bravado and intelligence at the door. This is code for play dumb, so the other party underestimates you and comes to the negotiating table less prepared. Have you read Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success?
  2. Always agree with people. Agreement always keeps the negotiation moving and allows you the opportunity to redirect the discussion toward what you want. For example, you are a new car salesman and have explicit instructions not to sell a car for less than $30,000. You have an interested buyer who tells you he can’t pay a penny more than $28,000. What do you say? Instead of responding, “Sorry, but I couldn’t possibly sell it for less than $30,000,” you might consider saying, “Since you are interested in the car, I’m motivated to find a way to get you into the car today at a price you are comfortable and can afford.” This can be followed with a series of questions that allows one to understand why the limit and how to work around it with other options such as lease, car trade-in, extended payment terms, etc. You want to avoid putting the other party on the defensive.
  3. Flinch at the first offer. When people are put into the position of making the first offer, they are attuned to watch for a reaction as a means of gauging whether their offer was good or not so good. Regardless of whether the offer meets your expectations, make sure you flinch—indicating that it is far from what you expected. This signal of your body language will notify the other party he or she must come lower if you’re going to make a deal.
  4. Position yourself to account to a higher authority. Most salespeople want permission to negotiate a deal from beginning to end without having to check back with management. Although you may have the skills to negotiate the best deal, you shouldn’t underestimate the value in saying, “I’ll have to go back and check with my manager. I’m not sure he’ll agree with it, but I will fight for you.” Indicating you need to check in with leadership puts more pressure on the other party to concede and allows you to play the infamous good cop/bad. Taking a pause also helps you gain perspective before continuing the negotiations.

I know some people who seem to negotiate everything. Negotiation is not for every situation. As a servant leader, I frequently give away what I could have easily negotiated. I think of it as an offering of good will and relationship building. Because these strategies are powerful, the best leaders know when to hold them and when to fold them.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

See Your Revenue Increase When You Switch from Sales Training to Coaching

Sales Growth

Will 2020 be the year when companies have 20/20 vision on how to best invest in their sales team to deliver targeted performance? US-based companies spend nearly $20 billion per year on sales training. Why do they settle for traditional sales programs where 85% of the content is lost within 90 days (SRG, 2018), when strategic and tactical coaching can potentially increase revenue by 20%.

Many sales leaders don’t have the coaching skills or time to invest in their sales staff. For this reason an external sales coach can be part of the sales training solution—working with the sales leader and meeting one-on-one with account reps or in small sales groups on day 30, 60, and 90 after initial training. In most cases, sales coaching brings substantial and sustainable benefits regardless of whether formal training is part of the process.

A coach can help the sales professional with approaches to new clients and how to sell deeper with an existing accounts. A coach can also help the sales team to:

  • identify and overcome specific account obstacles
  • prioritize accounts based on risk/reward
  • create specific customer strategies
  • review and understand contributors to success
  • develop plans for improvement
  • build general sales skills in account planning, preparation, and execution
  • improve negotiating approaches
  • increase sales team cohesiveness and teamwork

More companies are realizing the value of individual coaching for their sales team. Group training can still be part of the process, but to sustain the impact of training investment it should be paired with one-on-one coaching. Coaching is the sign of the future. Are you ready to get on board and make more effective use of your learning and development dollars?

Reference

Sales Readiness Group. (2018). Maximizing the Effectiveness of Sales Training: Five Factors for Developing Sustainable Selling Skills.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Is DISC in Your Sales Tool Kit?

discprofilewheelSalespeople are usually seeking ways to connect with customers, and some of the most strategic utilize the power of DISC. If you haven’t heard of the DISC personality profile, it’s an acronym representing four behavioral styles: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness. People can be a mixture of all four but typically act out behaviors that align with one or a blend of two primary styles. Strategic salespeople leverage the power of DISC by adjusting their approach, words, presentation, and pace to the prospects’ preferred style and the role the customer plays as influencer, approver, decision-maker, or recommender.

DISC (www.discprofile.com) measures (1) the degree a person naturally prefers to be outgoing as opposed to reserved and (2) the extent to which a person is people- versus task-oriented. Although there are many exceptions, people who gravitate toward finance, accounting, and analysis are typically strong C’s. CEOs tend to be D-driven. Commonly, salespeople are strong I’s, which explains why they typically approach their clients with enthusiasm, as if they too are I’s. Strong S-people are drawn toward jobs where they can support teams such as Human Resources and Training & Development.

Salespeople should ask enough questions to determine what behavior styles each client favors. The clients’ preferences and role they play in the purchase decision should influence how the salesperson approaches the sales process. For example, “C” clients will prefer to know the facts, measure the ROI, thoroughly understand the alternatives, and focus on efficiency. They will likely ask a lot of questions and may extend the sales process until they get answers. On the other hand, a “D” client will be about action. Once D’s decide something needs to be addressed, they look to solve it and solve it fast, so they can move on to the next decision that needs to be made. Salespeople should focus on the benefits and minimize the details; otherwise, they will lose the attention of this decision-maker.

High-performing salespeople intentionally get to know the personalities and behaviors of their clients and adapt their style to match. They don’t have a one-size fits all approach. Although salespeople have a tool kit, the DISC personality assessment can be one of their most effective tools when they know how to use it.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Success: Where Do You Focus First?

Zig ziglar

As a coach, I’m an advocate of always having a vision for every area of your life, whether it be marriage, career, or what you want to accomplish in the position you currently have. In my opinion, salespeople have some additional pressures, because their success is usually dependent on influencing others as opposed to working on tasks that are easily self-controlled. You could say that sales people have pressure to “close the deal” by the “close of business” which is no small task.

With so much emphasis on closing the deal, where does the salesperson spend most of his or her time, energy, and effort with a customer? A search for the best sales training would have you believe it’s anywhere but the beginning, as promotions abound for “selling with stories,” “driving to a close,” and “sales presentation training.” I’m sure there are useful insights delivered by each program, but what I believe is missing is how to take the very first step with the customer, which is the farthest point from winning the deal.

Instead of focusing on the end, I suggest the focus be on taking the first successful step with the customer. You’ll never have the opportunity to make a second first impression, and a first impression is made within the first 10 seconds. Studies show there are two questions a person will try to answer about you when they first meet you: (1) Can I trust you? and (2) Are you competent?

Maybe the best way to successfully close business is to focus on how to open business—the first conversation. I’m not referring to idle chit-chat or talking about your credentials. Forget about the weather or traffic, which are meaningless banter. I’m talking about forming a genuine connection based on finding out who you know in common or asking questions about your prospect’s background?

If you’re good with your opening, your customers will be able to answer “yes” to their two burning questions. When you earn trust and credibility, usually everything else that follows falls into place.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Are You Measuring the Right Sales Metrics?


ROIAlmost everyone has heard of, if not experienced, the 80/20 Rule, such as 20% of the employees contribute 80% of the output or 20% of the customer portfolio contributes 80% of the revenue. In the case of sales, many companies do derive the majority of their sales revenue from a handful of customers and tend to focus their efforts on satisfying the needs of those customers. In business, however, it’s not as important how much you bring in (revenue) as it is in how much you keep (profit).

Some companies have no idea who their most profitable customers are, because they don’t have the financial software, the correct cost basis, or the means of tracking all the costs to service a given customer. The largest customers are likely to be the most demanding and for good reason. They believe their status gives them the right to the best service and lowest cost a company can offer. How do these demands impact the bottom-line?

Instead of or in addition to calculating the sales revenue or even gross margin, what is the return on investment (ROI) for each client? The customer mix that applied to an initial 80/20 Rule for revenue may fall short for ROI. Better to measure and manage your strategic relationships so you know they are valuable assets.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She coaches individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Leadership: Are You Measuring the Right Things?

Customer ExperienceMany companies define sales success based on meeting targets of revenue, gross margin, and market share to name a few. Many times, these metrics are referred to as the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which define how well a company is implementing strategy. What some companies fail to realize is revenue, gross margin, and market share are not in themselves KPIs but instead the result of executing on well-defined and meaningful KPIs. As the acronym implies, “indicators” are the things if executed well that will result in performance.

In some sales organizations that are trying to develop more predictive KPIs, I’ve come across these more common ones:

  1. Number of sales calls within a defined period
  2. Number of new prospect sales calls
  3. Number of sales connections made with a customer’s organization
  4. Number of technical demos or hosted seminars/workshops
  5. Number of tradeshows attended

What these KPIs measure is solely activity and not the engagement level or experience of the customer. Even a highly technical sale has relational and trust components embedded in the sales decision. Successful sales organizations of the future will appreciate how they must more heavily weight their behaviors towards creating a “best practices” customer experience.

Over the past decade you can see the evolution in advertising toward a more engaging customer experience. No longer are companies advertising about a product’s features and strengths, they are showcasing the experience you can have while using it. Coke commercials don’t focus on the beverage’s taste or use words. Instead, Coca-Cola advertisements are visually designed to engage you emotionally by showing you the experience you too can have while drinking a Coke. The real-time customer experience in product marketing also plays out at the higher-end outdoor clothing retailers. These stores are installing freezers, so customers can experience just how warm that winter coat can keep them before deciding to purchase.

What experiences do your customers have when dealing with your sales organization? How are you measuring the customer experience? More meaningful sales KPIs that focus on understanding and building the customer experience may include:

  1. Time to respond to customers after they make contact (responsiveness)
  2. Number of the “right” follow-ups to secure a new customer (persistence)
  3. Number of joint calls so the customer has multiple points of contact within your company (collaboration)
  4. Number of business reviews to discuss performance (customer feedback)
  5. Number of exploratory or “design the alliance” meetings with customers (partnership)
  6. Strategic use of media platforms (LinkedIn and Facebook) to integrate and involve customers with the company and its sales team (engagement)

No one KPI is the silver bullet but tracking and rewarding the right collection of KPIs that are predictive of sales success will help ensure the team meets its goals. If you’d like help in designing measurable KPIs or developing specific actions that drive the customer experience, let’s have a conversation on how we can work together.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales. She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

Leadership: Ten Strategies to Build a Winning Sales Career

Sales ABC

On occasion we get asked, “What one piece of advice would you give a person who has just accepted his or her first sales position?”  That is truly an unfair question.   How do you boil down the essence of sales leadership into one slice of a whole pie?  However, that question is worth an answer.  Our best response would be, “Engage a coach.” Why? Because partnering with a sales coach can build a firm foundation to use as a springboard towards success.

We would expect a coach to help you leverage the following:

  1. Define measurable goals: Select several meaningful one, three, and five-year goals that focus on financial targets and personal growth. Without measurable goals you won’t know the direction you’re headed or whether you’ve arrived at your destination.  People without defined goals typically meander and become disappointed in their lack of results.
  2. Focus on a vertical market: Good sales people are not all things to all customers. What area are you most passionate?  Join an association in that market and become the “go to” expert.  Consider certification or accreditation to bolster your expertise.  Make sure to understand the emerging trends and have a plan to take advantage of the opportunities and to navigate through the threats.
  3. Understand your customers: Ask powerful questions of your customers so you clearly understand their needs and what keeps them up at night. Be the solution seeker and problem-solver by offering answers that address their needs.  Customers partner with sales people who create and offer value.
  4. Know your competition: Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Strategize how you can navigate the competitive landscape to take advantage of their weaknesses by driving on your strengths.
  5. Build trust among your customers and industry colleagues: People do not do business with others whom they don’t trust unless there are no other options. Make decisions and exhibit behaviors that garnish trust.
  6. Leverage social media: Set up a LinkedIn profile that reflects who you are and what you offer. Share and publish articles that are relevant to your customers. Make sure your public Facebook represents what you want customers to know about you.  Be sure to clean up your social media of any “unwanted” posts.
  7. Establish a personal brand: When your name is mentioned in industry circles, what one phrase would you want to come to mind: “gets it done,” “always looks for the win-win,” or “sales leadership expert.”  Develop a personal brand based on your best assets.
  8. Grow your leadership: Learn from the best, get a mentor, and practice leadership.  One of the most powerful annual leadership conferences we attend is Global Leadership Summit (https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership).  Strong leadership will not only build your sales it will build your life.
  9. Become a servant leader: Give of your time, talents, and treasures without expecting anything in return. When you do, don’t be surprised how people will respond to you.  People will want to spend time with you, recommend you, and help you be successful.

And last, but not least, you can always benefit by going back to school to…

  1. Relearn your ABC’s (Always Be Connecting): Selling is about connecting and one person saying “yes” to another. People rarely say “yes” to people whom they don’t like or trust. Spend time with your customers in casual settings getting to know them on both a professional and personal level.  Your calendar should be populated with customer lunch dates.

Every seasoned salesperson has one or two special secrets of the trade that may have contributed to their success; however, these fundamental strategies will build a solid sales career over a lifetime. Although every salesperson can try to implement these practices on their own, most would benefit from having a sales coach who can keep them accountable.


About the Authors:

HE21118Davis_07-medSandra Dillon is a professional coach and leadership consultant with an extensive background in sales and new business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops on current business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Darin headshotDarin Dillon is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP), 30+ year business development veteran, and active leader in the electronic security and integrated systems industry.  As a business leader, he has a passion for developing long-term customer partnerships and providing solutions to Fortune 1000 companies across many vertical markets. He can be reached at ddillon14@hotmail.com or 713.204.7035.