B2B Sales Methodology Implementation

After a thorough sales assessment the implementation of an Agile B2B Sales Methodology usually look like the graphic below:

FDBR Agile B2B Sales Methodology Implementation Steps

Beyond the standard items the implementation can include certain custom elements:

  • B2B sales fundamentals training material
  • Inbound lead generation / Content marketing
  • B2B social selling strategy
  • B2B community selling strategy
  • Multi-level account management
  • New CRM database structures
  • Sales force motivation system
  • Implementation of complete B2B sales methodology

The central piece of any Agile B2B Sales Methodology Implementation is a Sales Methodology document.
Click here to see how a good Sales Methodology document is structured.

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How much money to spend on Sales Consulting?

As you are reading these words you are probably either an executive or partner or investor of a company. These people tend to have the sense of ownership. And this ownership way of thinking is not based on costs but on returns.

money and time

An owner rather cares about the return of investment (ROI) than the price tag of anything. Buying sales consulting is an investment so let’s see the return of investing in B2B Sales Methodologies.

Usually there are four areas to check about an investment:

  1. Rate of return – How much more money can sales consulting get you?
  2. Period of return – How quickly will your investment become profitable?
  3. Size of investment – How much does it cost?
  4. Risk of investment – Can you start small? (to check the verfiability of the ROI)

Continue reading “How much money to spend on Sales Consulting?”

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How to (re)build a Sales Team?

This article is about to describe the specifics of (re)building a b2b sales department of high added value services/products.

If you want to create or re-create a b2b sales department here are the four essential things to decide:

  • naming
  • structure
  • roles
  • tools

BEST OFFERS (2)

Naming

Yes, it seems unimportant but it all starts with the right naming. If you call something Sales Department then it will act like a department that’s role is to sell. If you call something Client Success Department then it will aim to achieve the success of your clients. So the suggestion would be to aim high and try to make your clients successful.

But wait, isn’t that the right name for the Account Management Department? How could we make someone successful before they are our clients? Salespeople should engage with people who are not our clients just yet, right?

Well not really, what your sales people should do as the very first step is to make sure that your services/products are the best for their prospects. And many times the best contribution to somebody’s success is realising and advising that our services or products are NOT the right solution for them. Now if the salesperson’s goal is to sell, then he would not care, and would proceed with closing the deal. But if your salesperson identifies with the success of somebody he would honestly inform the prospect that to his best knowledge our service or product is not for them. This is why you should call your sales department: Client Success Department. Because then you would end up with clients that are at the right shop for their needs. And you won’t have to do damage control with unfitting clients. (we can also call this: post lead qualification or prospect qualification)

Structure

You will need to create a structure that is scalable and integrated into your Marketing, and Account Management. Because in the 21st century there is no feasible way to have these three departments separated. The new B2B marketing is called Content Marketing and the only place where relevant content could come from is the day-to-day relationship with your real clients. So your content marketing should only come from the account management experience. Your sales people should be able to speak the same language and bear the same knowledge about customers and their real issues as your account managers.

So at the end of the day you have to take your sales, your marketing and your account management and blend them into one big Client Success Department.

Roles

Of course it is not enough to put all three (sales, marketing and service) together without defining specific roles within. You must decide what type of sales force behaviour you need to make you clients satisfied. Based on your client feedback and your service/product nature you must define if you need ‘virgin-type’ or ‘hooker-type’ sales people to offer to your clients.  Let’s see the differences! 🙂

‘Virgins’ are the ones who don’t know how to promote themselves (the service or the product) but they are clean and young and untouched by either profitability or lying or taking advantage of clients. They are typical experts of a professional area, (so for instance if you sell webpages picture a developer or a designer). Certain clients love to talk directly to our virgins to try to take advantage of their lack of business skills. These are usually clients who buy such services or products often and the like being left alone with the expert without the ‘guard of resources’.

‘Hookers’ on the other hand are shrewd professionals who can provide services and deliver product exactly the way the client needs. Even against clients’ initial interests or wills because they know better. With them clients feel they are in good hands and they are served professionally. These clients are usually the first timers who have no experience in the service or product and it gives them security to be told what to do and what to let be done.

Both roles are equally important and many times they must coexist at the same department. Your client profiles and different service and product types should tell you which one to use.

Tools

The sales acceleration industry has gone through the roof in the past few years. (According to Forbes magazine by 2017 sales acceleration industry is about to be over $30 billion.) And there is a good reason why: by average companies with CRMs have 17% higher revenues than their competitors without. Take your time and study all available sales tools because there is no success without them. You will need a good mix of SaaS and PaaS to create a successful b2b sales machine like CRM, premium social subscriptions, blog engines (CMS tools), etc.  

And of course if you don’t want to waste a lot of money experimenting start with Sales Consulting.

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Sales Methodology Document Structure

Documents-iconTo have an outline – these are the three elementary pillars (structure) of any B2B sales methodology documents:

  1. What do we sell to whom?
  2. How do we sell step-by-step?
  3. What techniques, tools and templates do we use during and after?

What do we sell to whom?

All story must start somewhere so this part must approach the topic starting with a historical overview. But our product or service is coming from our company so we should start with the historical overview of our company first.

Historical basics for sales newbies

To write this chapter imagine a junior sales rep who has just graduated from university. And he is on his first day at your company. And you want to give him the big picture of your company. (Probably you use some sort of a starter kit for your new colleagues, explaining the basics about your company culture. If you have such starter kit then you just need to focus on the sales specifics.)

I can almost always surprise the CEOs I work with by demonstrating how many of their colleagues know literally nothing about the backgrounds or origins of their companies simply because the historical basics are so obvious for the old comrades that nobody has ever taken the trouble to write it down for the newcomers.

Now, what does this have to do with our sales? Why don’t we want our sales reps knowing less about their own company then our clients’? (Imagine if you could surprise your doctor by explaining the historical background of a treatment that he has never heard of! Would you still want him to treat you?)

Your sales reps will meet senior decision makers of your industry. Don’t embarrass yourself and your brand by sending your ‘troops’ to negotiate without the proper intel and background about their own company they are trying to represent!

So this chapter should have many things that are not necessarily on our webpage:

  • Who started our company and why?
  • What was the initial ownership structure and how we ended up with the current one?
  • What were the major HR milestones in our company’s history?
  • Why do we have our current HR structure the way it is?
    (As the first thing every salesperson questions is the HR structure of the sales department.)
  • Any other historically relevant fact of our company that the market knows about us,  so our sales newbies should also know…

What do we sell?

Probably boring and obvious for most of us to explain the very thing that fills most of our lives, but even the way we articulate the obvious could lead to new discoveries and realizations.

  • What is the history of our flagship product/service?
  • What influences made our product/service to evolve the way it is today?
  • Product description
  • What is our current revenue structure?
  • What is the financial priority order / profitability of our products/services?
  • What is our tricky product/service?
    (services and/or products serving sales, marketing or emotional (!) purposes regardless of their profitabilities)

To whom do we sell?

This chapter is about our clients. Seems easy but this can have major influence on the future way of thinking of our sales colleagues. Imagine the everlasting respect of our ancestors towards their prey. That is the right angle to take when you start describing your clients. A respectful and honoring approach towards your clients in all sales documents can prevent a destructive,  disrespectful atmosphere to develop at the sales department.

All the successful companies I worked with considered and understood the importance of the next statement:

“…Our access to our clients is the only thing between our prosperity and our extinction…”

  • What are our markets?
  • What is the priority order of our markets?
  • What is our typical client profile?
    The description of a typical client profile (industry, size, revenue, number of employees etc.) who buys from us.
  • What are the typical issues we look for to help?
  • How do we classify our client types?
  • What is our current market analysis?
  • What do we know about the trends of our market?

How do we actually sell?

And now we are about to cover all relevant tasks of a hands on salesperson:

Prospecting

  • How do we find our new clients? (lead sources)
  • What signs are we looking for to identify a lead?
  • What seasonality do we have in lead generation, sales processes and product or service deliveries?
  • What marketing tools does our company use?
  • What marketing tools are used by the sales team?
  • Who are the lead development participants?
  • What is our lead qualification process?
  • How do we identify a possible source person?
  • How do we identify a decision influencer?
  • How do we identify a decision maker?
  • How do we prepare to personal engagements with our prospects?
  • How do we approach them? (sales techniques)
  • Whom do we send to battle?
  • How do we select our sales teams per client?

Sales process

  • Who are our sales process participants?
  • What are the major external steps in our sales process?
  • What are the internal decision making points during our sales process?
  • How long is our average sales cycle?
  • How do we select the right sales pitches / messages to use?
  • What is our statistically most successful argument(s) to our leads?
    (commodity game = pricing, differentiators = high added values / added services, etc…)
  • How do we collect intel about our competitors?
  • What do we know about the goals of our competitors?
  • What is our current competitive analysis?

Service/product delivery

  • Who are the contracting process participants?
  • What are the contracting process steps?
  • How do we actually help?
    (project, service, product delivery process)
  • What problem do we solve?
    Our software or service benefits our clients because without it they would have this and that problem…
  • How do we change the way our clients work/think/evolve?
  • What do our salespeople do during our service/product delivery…etc?

Account management

  • What are the major goals in our account management?
    • How do we secure our status at the client?
    • How do we generate add-on sales opportunities?
    • How do we harvest recommendations/new leads from our clients?
  • Who are the account management participants?
  • How do we follow up/monitor our accounts?
  • What is our communication frequency after sales?

Sales Techniques, Tools and Templates

Sales Techniques

There are many different definitions of sales techniques. Mine is close to sales communication channels: Sales technique is a specific form of communication. According to this definition in the 21st century we basically have 4 forms of communication:

  1. Written communication
    1. General asynchronous materials
      (webpages, whitepapers, blog posts, social posts/updates, newsletters etc.)
    2. Customized asynchronous materials
      (personal emails, presentations, proposals etc.)
    3. Customized synchronous materials
      (instant messages, chats etc.)
  2. Video communication
    1. General asynchronous video materials
      (Youtube, Vimeo)
    2. Customized synchronous materials
      (video messages)
  3. Voice/video call communication

(phone, video call, VoIP, etc.)

  1. Personal communication
    1. Presentations (with Q&A sessions)
    2. Formal personal meetings
    3. Informal personal meetings
    4. Short chats at events

All of our sales force must be familiar with all our general materials.

Communication Skills of our Sales Team

Our sales management needs to identify the necessary skills of our sales team regarding sales material creation. As we must form a team responsible for the maintenance of our materials. (Do not allow out of touch marketing people to lead the creation and maintenance of our sales materials as our salespeople must have a close relationship with the weapons they use each day!)

Custom Content Creation

In an ideal case all our sales staff must be able to create customized materials to make calls, write custom emails etc.

General Content Creation

Creating general sales content is a senior level skill-set according to my experience.

Personal Communication

Being good at personal communication, presenting and socializing does not necessarily have close connection with seniority. In many cases a well prepared junior or medium level colleague can thrive in personal situations where our best senior sales people could get too bored, uninterested or too detailed, too techy.

The rule of thumb in personal communication is that the best movie actors are not necessarily good directors or good screen-play writers.

Sales Tools

There are technical sales tools helping our sales activity. These are very specific to each company and each sales portfolio. In our sales methodology we must include the manuals of all of our sales tools like CRM systems, Social network softwares, mobile apps, mobile devices, etc.

Templates

This chapter must be a collection of links to sample documents and templates. Such as call scripts, email structures, meeting agendas, proposal structures, etc.

Once you know the DOs and DON’T DOs of your sales communication you must create the related templates and scripts. They don’t have to be mini-books, Many times a 10-bullet-point list can do the job for a meeting agenda or a call script. And a good list of content with some copy-paste-able previous documents is enough for a good proposal. The point is to have a unified appearance and a quality assured content.

What your sales can avoid with creating these documents is to waste any sales communication with clients that are not moving the sales process forward. For instance when it is not clear for our sales rep what are the (let’s say) 5 pieces of information he needs to get from the first sales meeting with an influencer or what are the (let’s say) 4 messages to deliver when he meets a decision maker.

When our salespeople waste time and precious communication opportunities it is ineffective and one of the most expensive waste of resources for our company.

These are the must-haves:

  1. First email templates to gatekeepers
  2. Cold call scripts
    1. prospecting call script
    2. sales call script
    3. follow-up call script
  3. Sales meeting agendas
    1. First meeting with prospect source – agenda
    2. First meeting with influencer – agenda
    3. First meeting with decision maker – agenda
  4. Sales meeting minutes (meeting memo) templates
  5. Proposal related templates
    1. Proposal doc
    2. Proposal-attached email
    3. Proposal reception call script
    4. Proposal follow-up email
    5. Proposal overview meeting agenda

If you have some elementary statistics of your sales, these type of scripts and agenda templates will help your sales performance the most:

  • the top 10 best performing starter sentences in a cold-call
  • the 5 questions to ask in our first meeting with a lead source/influencer/decision maker
  • the 3 important facts about our company to state for a decision maker at a personal meeting (custom sales pitches)

…back to knowledge base

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Inbound lead generation

There would be a lot to explain about the details of Inbound vs. Outbound lead generation but most of these techniques are unique to the specific service or product you are offering so let’s wrap it up with the basics:

In the 21st century it is less and less likely that anybody at your prospects are willing to talk to you. There are dozens if not hundreds of studies showing the expensive and ineffective ways of trying to chase possible clients without any results. See this post about the altered nature of B2B sales in the 21st century.

Today the only successful way to sell in B2B if you can create a situation in which the leads are coming to you and during their approach you can collect enough information to qualify them.

Inbound Sales Process for webpage

Calling Attention

First you need to get the attention of your possible leads. It can be many things, from an online ad of your brand marketing to a direct message or a business card after a bullseye pitch. Anyhow, that attention you have just got should land on a landing page where the promised value is…

Content Marketing

In the past a well designed landing page was enough to get the action you needed, but not anymore. If you want somebody to do something (in our case provide info to be able to qualify them) we need to pay them with value. One of the best way to engage your possible leads with value is content marketing. When you establish your expertise in a specific field and you share informations that represent real value to your possible leads. Value can be many things like industry benchmarks, shared experience, insight of a service, review of some popular content…etc.

Call for Action (Call-to-Action)

No matter what form of engagement you chose, your engagement should always end up with a Call-to-Action (CTA). Call for Action is when you harvest your reward of engagement by collecting the necessary info about your visitors to be able to qualify them. It can be many things again: registering a free pass for an event, getting a 30-day free access to a software, downloading a hardcore study of our industry etc. The point is that at the end you should be able to decide if the lead qualifies for further steps.

Probably your sales department already has some experiments with inbound lead generation. What you should do during our diagnostic pilot is to document the historical examples when your company experienced the rare blessing of inbound leads.

(Btw this transition, from outbound lead generation to inbound, is the heart of most B2B sales consulting projects nowadays in IT.)

Diagnostic questions

  • What are the historical instances of inbound leads at our company?
  • What were the reasons that made them come to us?
  • What was the the lead generation process?
  • How could we  create the same environment to see if it can generate inbound leads again?
  • How could we work out new ways for inbound lead generation?

And here is a bonus video for you about the basics of content marketing:

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What is Ecosystem Selling?

Ecosystem Selling is a B2B sales methodology in which a company creates its sales opportunities by proving its full scale expertise and/or presence in all or most parts of a business ecosystem. Expertise is usually proven by publishing and consulting activities and presence is represented by subsidiaries, spin-offs and partnerships.

Big enterprises achieve their full scale presence by product portfolio management (smaller cross-subsidised products/services, R&D, M&As, etc.) and organic partnerships while smaller companies tend to prove expertise only by publishing and consulting activities. Sublets of ecosystem selling...

 Sublets of ecosystem selling can be called content or inbound marketing (proving expertise by publishing and time/quantity-limited giveaways of smaller services) or social selling (publishing, commenting etc. on social networks for certain audiences). 

Ecosystem Communities

Ecosystem selling can also be identified as community selling as all ecosystems can be described by its related communities. Beyond the typical sales goals (like ‘raising awareness’ and ‘making individuals interested’ in products or services) community selling also has a brand damage control function. Preventive community presence is the ability of companies to manage certain opinions in communities. Prevention is a pattern of online activities to counteract and restrain certain posts, comments, videos etc. from going viral or trending. Publishing different messages for different communities to get the same result is a basic principle in ecosystem selling.
From ecosystem selling point of view there are three types of communities: open-, closed-, and forced-communities to be present.

  • Service or product based (open) communities   More
    There are open communities that organise themselves based on certain services and/or products. Service based communities tend to be bigger communities than product based communities. (Ex.: mobile phone users are a bigger group than the users of a certain mobile brand hence a campaign talking about different phones has a bigger theoretical audience than a campaign talking about functions of Android)
    To be properly represented in product or service based communities by thought leaders and influencers is a complex but relatively cheap way of ecosystem selling. It is cheap as many of the on-the-payroll-type jobs are done by shadow workers (for free) or by contractors (on demand).
  • Media based (closed) communities   More
    Big media outlets are the combinations of many different communities. Smaller media outlets tend to be specialised in one certain community. In ecosystem selling the active user group of a company is also regarded as media based community if the company owns the media platform in which the community exists, like SAP user groups on SAP’s own website. The audience/traffic of certain media outlets can be called closed communities as only the owner of the media outlet has direct access / moderation rights to the community (full control of when/what/how is published/shared/fed to its audience).
    Publishing for a whole ecosystem through media outlets is a method from the ’50s which was invented by a department of a US agency, called Propaganda Assets Inventory. It means having connections to hundreds of different media outlets to amplify the message of an entity.
  • Public service based (forced) communities   More
    In ecosystem selling a special relationship with authorities and regulators are essential for several reasons. Their community (audience/traffic) is the entirety of people in a certain jurisdiction. The PR/marketing value of any communication from a regulator and/or authority is outstanding as any decision of a regulator affects everyone (forced community) in that jurisdiction. This is one of the reasons why ecosystem selling activities often include involvements in cases/issues with regulators and or authorities. From marketing/PR point of view there is little difference between getting involved in positive or negative issues (having debates with authorities – negative or supporting certain cases of regulators – positive).

Ecosystem Selling Case Study

Typical example of ecosystem selling is Salesforce.com. Its products and expertise is represented in all ecosystem segments and all communities of the sales automation industry by products, giveaway services, training materials, certification systems, strategic partnerships, media outlets, incentivised influencers etc. More

Salesforce.com products

You might believe that salesforce.com is a CRM vendor though in reality by now salesforce.com Inc has become the 4th or 5th biggest software company in the world. Some of  their portfolio products are cross-subsidised marketing vehicles and don’t serve revenue or profit purposes but predefined ecosystem selling goals instead.

Salesforce.com in professional communities/partnerships

Salesforce.com owns almost all related professional communities (quasi-open communities), finances quasi-independent communities and has partnerships to closed communities through interface or connector solutions. Most of these partnerships are organic in the sense that bigger players from the sales acceleration industry cannot afford not having cooperation with salesforce.com. And such organic partnerships grant access to newer closed communities.

Salesforce.com in forced communities

Salesforce CEO Threatens to Take Business Out of Georgia If ‘Anti-Gay Bill’ Is Signed

Salesforce.com economy

Salesforce_Infographic

(Infographics from www.outboxsystems.com)

Author’s Sales Note

Though most corporate boards are reluctant to launch ecosystem selling projects being afraid of the length and complexity of such venture. This delay creates opportunity-windows for mid-size IT companies. Because...

 experience and industry statistics show that ecosystem selling projects are scaleable and to build and implement a functioning ecosystem selling – sales methodology with self-sustaining, shadow-working community management protocols is one of the best ROI for mid-size B2B companies. 

(It is also important to mention that such projects are one of the biggest current professional challenges of sales consulting.)

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B2B Sales 101

B2B is the shortening of “business to business.” It is the term of sales made to other businesses (organisations), rather than sales to individuals which is called “business to consumer” or B2C. B2B sales takes the form of one company selling products (supplies, components etc.) or services (software development, consulting etc.) to another business organisation. (selling to NGOs or to the public sector can also be considered B2B based on similar selling processes)

For example, a computer chip manufacturer selling to phone manufacturers or attorneys taking cases for business clients or technical consultants building/developing IT infrastructure or software for a company.
See what Wikipedia has to say about b2b.

The current form of B2B sales can be described with four basic steps:

  1. Making markets aware
  2. Making prospects interested
  3. Keeping leads engaged
  4. Closing deals

The most successful form of b2b selling is called Ecosystem Selling.

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