Over the years I have worked with a wide variety of B2B salespeople, many of whom may be new to the industry. Many retail sellers were laid off or on leave during the COVID-19 crisis. If you've made a retail living at a brick and mortar business, or otherwise engaged in customer service or support, consider starting a new career in B2B sales and speaking to customers over the phone. Many of the same skills and personality traits that help people do well in retail can also be carried over to the world of B2B sales, appointment scheduling, and lead generation. But instead of talking to customers in a real-life setting, you can talk to them over the phone.
Whether you are new to the B2B sales industry or you are a business owner looking to improve your own conversational sales skills here are some lessons I've learned over the years from training new salespeople.
The first step in B2B sales, no matter what you are selling, is simply to establish a relationship with that potential buyer. Talk to them, get to know them, and listen to them. Whenever I work with new sales reps at my company, I always encourage them to practice opening a call in a natural and friendly way and to build trust.
You don't have to start selling right away, you don't have to close the deal the first time you call. B2B sales is a process. Give it time. The first time you call a customer, the goal should be to find out more about the customer, determine if they are suitable for what you are selling, whether they are interested in what you are selling, and then ask the customer To do this a commitment to a follow-up appointment. Not everything has to happen immediately. The goal of B2B sales is to sell, of course, but closing deals takes time and there are many other steps in the process that must be completed before the customer is really ready to buy. So be patient with your buyers and with yourself.
Salespeople are paid to sell so of course they are sometimes a little too eager to close the deal and get the customer to sign up. This requires a careful balance. Salespeople who apply too much pressure will put pressure on the customer and feel stressed out. This makes the customer less likely to buy. Most customers don't want to feel pressured or pushed by salespeople. Instead, salespeople need to act like trusted colleagues. Act like you are on the same side of the negotiating table as the customer. Work in the best interests of the customer and show how you can help solve the customer problem – you and the customer are not opponents, you are not enemies, you are on the same team. As a B2B seller, you don't try to “get” something from the customer. You are trying to "give" the customer something that will really help their business. B2B sales should always feel like a win-win situation.
Many people might think that salespeople are always cut from the same material: sociable, charismatic, competitive, tough. The truth is more complicated in my experience. B2B sales is an art and a science. There is a strong element of process-oriented, data-driven "science" that comes with B2B sales. You need to have a strategic, clear process in place to work with buyers throughout the customer journey, and you need to understand how your customers are reacting and which points in the sales funnel are creating the greatest challenges. However, there is also a strong element of "art" in B2B sales: creativity, improvisation, relationship building, creating an emotional connection.
Not all B2B sellers are good at both aspects of sales. Some B2B sellers are more analytical and technical. They know the product and the industry very well, they are almost more engineers or data scientists than salespeople. Other B2B salespeople are “people” through and through. They just want to talk to customers all day and drive their sales pitches.
If you are a retailer or customer service representative whose job has been affected by COVID-19 and you want to start a new career, I recommend that you consider getting into B2B sales. There are ways to gain a foothold in the industry by working as an appointment setter or B2B lead generation specialist on the phone. If you like the job and you are doing well, there are opportunities to embark on other roles in B2B sales. Anyone who cares about customer relationship building, who enjoys the challenge of sales, is curious and willing to learn at work, and who wants to add real value to customers and their careers, can potentially do great things in B2B sales provide