When it comes to selling B2B services, a lot of my coaching and training clients ask me, “Ago, how do I know I will be successful at this? How do I know I can create a successful career doing this?”
Sometimes they are early on their career, and they are uncertain about what it takes to be successful. Sometimes they made a transition from a consulting role, and they wonder if their sales skills are where they need to be. Whatever the case may be, being successful at selling B2B services is something they really want to accomplish – and they’re looking for advice on what it takes to succeed.
Adopt an advisor mindset.
The first criterion or key to success is this: learn to think like a consultant – not a seller. In today’s post-recession, post-2008 world, buyers are more educated, more informed and more aware of their options than ever before.
In order to succeed in selling to these demanding, critical and astute buyers, you need to be seen as educating, providing thought leadership and helping your clients decide which option is best for them by collaborating with them in their buying process.
Not in a pushy way, but very much in a collaborative way, where you take the position of a trusted outside adviser or trusted counselor with your clients.
Think “buyer first”.
The second key success factor I’ve observed is that people who are successful at selling high end B2B services think buyer-centric or “buyer first”. They are always seeking the best outcome for their client, and that means understanding the client first.
They are not thinking about their product or service until a much later stage in the sales process, when they clearly understand which needs and desired outcomes or objectives their buyer has, which things they value, and what risks they are concerned about.
Then – and only then – do they position their offering against what the client might want. Thereby literally thinking “buyer first, selling second”.
Take a long-term perspective.
The third key success factor is: successful B2B sellers take a long-term strategic perspective, not a short-term tactical one. They are not merely focused on the next sale, the next deal or bringing in a particular account to “make the number”.
Instead, they are always thinking about what happens two to three steps down the road. Similar to experienced chess players, they think about a single deal as the first stepping stone – an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and gain a chance to demonstrate the value they can deliver.
But they are always thinking ahead towards the next deal, and very often the one after that. Meanwhile, they focus on a singular question: “What can I do to put in place a foundation that will build a long-term relationship with this client, and their firm?”
Foster collaboration, not confrontation.
The fourth key success factor that I see with those who are successful at selling B2B services at high levels is that they exhibit an attitude of collaboration, not confrontation.
In other words, they really see themselves as a value-adding partner in the sales process, and walk alongside their client every step of the way – never pushing too much, only enough to stretch the client’s imagination and comfort zones enough to get them the result they seek – and (often) more.
They always reframe the “traditional” sales mindset of “you vs. me” into “us vs. the problem”.
Lead with new ideas and perspectives.
The fifth and final strategy that successful B2B services sellers adopt is: they always lead with new insight ideas and perspectives. In practice, they often don’t really talk about their products often very much at all.
They’ll talk at length about the results those products can achieve or the challenges they can help overcome. They’ll talk about the outcomes the client is seeking, and how they can help them achieve those. But they’ll never, ever launch into a “features and benefits” pitch, or a lengthy presentation about why their product is “best of breed”, “first in class” or “top of the line” (buzzwords intended).
In recap, I believe the most important point is this: if you want to be successful at selling B2B services, think of yourself as an advisor first, not a seller. Learn to think of yourself as a trusted ally, a value-added advisor, someone who is there to advise your client on your prospect on the best course of action to take moving forward.
If you do that, whether you’re a newbie or an old hand making a new career move, I guarantee you’ll do well for yourself.