Welcome back to the second part of my article and without further ado, I’ll crack straight into it.
Just to recap, last week I stated that apart from having a suitable product and price, a key factor in a buyer’s decision making is the ‘label’ being displayed by the sales person.
In this part of the article, I’m going to explain what I mean, why it’s important and how a salesperson can influence it to improve their chances of winning.
B2B sales people are still very much at the forefront of ensuring an agreement is reached between a customer and a supplier.
In a B2C environment, technological advances have in many cases supplanted the need or influence of a sales person, meaning that the perception of the sales person themselves is less important than it is in a B2B arena.
This is because in a B2B environment the product/service is higher value; more complex and likely contracted for a longer period of time, than it would be if the product/service was being supplied in a B2C sales person’s environment.
Therefore the ‘label’ displayed by the B2B sales person has a strong degree of influence on the purchasing decision of a B2B buyer, because that sales person is the ‘label’, ‘face’ or personification of their company’s communication, negotiation and ongoing dealings between both parties.
A great sales person knows that if something, such as their personal ‘label’ has a strong influence on a sale being made, they need to be in control of it as much as possible and weigh it into their favour.
It’s probably a good time for me to define what I mean by ‘label’ for a sales person and what can be done to ensure the label is customised, optimised and tailored to satisfy the subjective requirements of your customer, without losing the clarity of message that you need to convey on behalf of your company.
I’m going to help define a sales person’s ‘label’ using the three aspects of the wine label analogy from earlier;
“As a buyer I make my decision to purchase a bottle if the label speaks my ‘language’(1), reflects my personality(2), and protects my reputation (3) from the risk of negative judgement of others…”
We’re not just referring to speaking the same verbal language, but also such aspects of language as terminology, inference and body language.
A sales person has a higher chance of selling, if they are speaking the language of their buyer e.g. all other things being equal; a non-Mandarin speaking sales person in China will not be as successful as one who speaks Mandarin.
That part is obvious, as is the effect of body language in rapport building, but what about the other aspects of speaking your customer’s language;
I believe it is the sales person who has the responsibility to speak their customer’s language, just like a tourist has a responsibility to speak the language of the place they are visiting, if they want to get the best value out of their trip.
This is still true whether the buyer is familiar with the industry from which they are buying or not.
If your customer is new to your industry, then you have to explain aspects of the deal in laypersons terms, because they may not have the required detail knowledge, which is then a potential barrier to a sale; if you can’t explain things to them, they will not be informed enough to make a decision.
If you and your customer are established players in a shared industry, then you as a sales person are expected to know the ‘lingo’ and terminology specific to that industry. If you don’t know the language of the sector, then this will jeopardise your credibility with the buyer.
Language as you know isn’t just about the words you speak; it’s also how you listen;
In New Zealand, many times what is inferred in a conversation by your customer is the most important aspect of what they are trying to tell you.
In my experience, if a sales person can reflect back (e.g. paraphrase) to the customer their understanding of a key bit of information that a customer has inferred, they have overcome one of the largest obstacles in building a connection…understanding each other.
Speaking the ‘language’ of your customer increases the chance that they will trust you, because you are on the same wavelength.
2) Reflect my personality.
People buy from people they like and they are generally going to like people who meet their preconceived ideas.
Caveat – This section is not referring to race, gender, sexual orientation or any other non-choice labels buyers (or any of us) may make decisions upon in their subjective purchasing habits. Not because it doesn’t have an influence, but because non-choice labels cannot be changed and I don’t want to get into a debate on the idealism Vs realism of a sales situation (in this article anyway).
Reflecting the personal expectations of a buyer in regards to physical appearance and communication style plays a huge part in the whether a deal is won or lost.
Don’t believe me? Well answer me this. Would you be more likely to buy a gym membership from a personal trainer who was overweight or in prime shape?
I bet it would be the P.T. who had a six pack, why, because they met your preconceived expectations of what a salesperson selling gym memberships should look like.
B2B sales are no different. In B2B sales, the standard uniform choice of a blue suit (trustworthy), white shirt (reliable) and tanned shoes (innovative) is an unconscious way of sales people safely meeting the expectations of a new customer they have not met. It’s a conservative, yet energetic look for meeting an anonymous generic new customer.
There is no specific look for certain types of customers, but there are things that all sales people can be aware of;
A sales person’s appearance needs to alleviate the concerns and build confidence in their customers e.g. a hipster type with a blazer and a beard would be the look I’d expect for someone selling me a digital marketing solution, but not business banking. Whilst a grey suited guy with a briefcase and side comb, may tick my boxes to sell legal services, but not design my new business logo.
The reason; they have not met my expectation on the type of person that I want; creative Vs methodical.
Let’s move onto the need for a salesperson to adapt their communication style to suit their buyer.
A salesperson who speaks to the specific technical features of a product to the CEO of a company will in all probabilities lose out on the sale, whereas if they had spoken to the business benefits of the product and how it will help grow the company, they will more likely win the sale.
The reverse can be said if the salesperson is speaking to an ‘analytical’ personality type, who has a greater interest in the inner workings of the product and its feature offering. Here, the sale may be lost, if the sales person speaks too high level.
Either way, a good sales person should immediately be able to read the clues as to how the customer is expecting the conversation to play out.
Reflecting the personality of your customer increases the chance that they will trust you, because you are meeting their expectations.
3) Protect my reputation
This is a HUGE subjective hurdle for a sales person to have to overcome when winning a new customer, because what the buyer is looking for is reassurance that any decision they make independently will protect or enhance their current position or professional standing.
A buyer will be asking themselves the following questions during your sales meeting;
“Does this sales person work for a reputable company?”
“Have they been referred by someone I hold credible?”
“Who else in my industry has bought from them?”
In many ways, an established brand in the industry will have overcome many of these objections before the sales person has even entered the room i.e. Choosing a new business banking supplier would likely be ASB, BNZ, Westpac or BNZ, so those questions posed earlier are already answered through the strength of their brands.
But many of you will not work for an established brand, because most of NZ is made up of SME’s, who have less Marketing spend.
What can they do to protect the reputation of their buyers?
Your task as a B2B sales person is to understand what your buyer is concerned about and to use your sales skills, business knowledge and industry experience to address their concerns and alleviate their fears.
If your buyer is a Procurement professional concerned that changing to you as a new supplier could present a risk to their reputation in their business, should there be unforeseen transition issues; you could present them a risk mitigation plan around emergency contingency measures.
If you’re dealing with the owner of a business directly, why not put them in touch with a previous satisfied customer who can act as champion for you and also show them that their fears are unwarranted.
Having a third party person or source of information, allows the buyer to externalise their concerns and allows them to also validate a potential decision to buy from you.
If your customer can see that your story checks out, then they are more likely to trust you.
In summary, your label is all about building trust and people are only going to buy from people they trust.
You should be working on ensuring your personal label speaks to trust.