For B2B Sales Growth – Do Not DO This First

Do you want to build your business the right way?

Do you want more growth?

Then DO NOT do this first.

Most research shows that the most important goal, stated by almost all B2B businesses each year, is to get more new clients.

But I am telling you – DO NOT go after new accounts until you do this first.

This should not be your most important goal until you understand the following.

WORK WITH YOUR CURRENT CLIENTS FIRST

You need to first fully understand the answers to these three questions.

1. Why did your current clients buy from you?

2. How did your current clients buy from you?

3. What results did they get from using your products and/or services?

And then, once you understand the answers to those questions, you should be selling more to your existing accounts,

Why?

Because it’s easier.

Why is it easier?

Because you have already built a certain level of trust with your current clients, and nobody buys from you, until you have reached that trust level with them, whatever your clients perceive that level is.

And you need to especially be working more closely with your Strategic Accounts before you go after any other business.

So what is it that you need to be doing with your Strategic Accounts?

There are a number of things you should be doing with your Strategic Accounts that will better help you grow your revenues with these companies.

The Four C’s of business development with your Strategic Accounts

You should be following the 4 C’s of B2B business development with your clients.

You need to Constantly Be Doing these 3 Items:

Communicating;
Consulting; and
Coaching your current clients.

Let’s look at each of these 4 C’s in turn.

Communicating; you need to be communicating with your clients on a regular and constant basis. You should be sending them communications in three specific areas.

Things that will help them do their job better,
Items that will help them reach their goals and resolve issues for them,
Personal communications on things they are interested in doing, watching, talking about, etc., outside of the office.

Consulting; you need to be in constant consultation with your clients. You can be doing such things as;

Working with the users of your products/services to understand fully what results they are getting with your products/services,
Regular meetings about how your company is delivering the results they want.
One-on-one meetings – take them out to lunch at least once a quarter, better if it’s more frequently, get to know then personally. Remember, people buy from people, not just companies,
Taking them to events that would help them in their job,
Talk to them about other ideas. As an example, how do your products other clients use your products and services differently, yet effectively,
Etc. – use your imagination.

Coaching; you should be setting up coaching sessions to help them and their company get better at their job.

Lunch & learns,
Facilitations
Planning sessions,
Take them to a seminar you are going to,
One-on-one coaching to help them grow,
Etc.

Constantly; you need to be constantly incorporating the above three processes into your contact with your clients. Constantly means at the bare minimum at least once a month, and it should be once for a week for your true Strategic Accounts.

This will help you understand how best to serve your current clients, but more importantly, it will help them, help you deliver more products/services to them.

It will also allow you to charge more for your products and services because they now know the VALUE you are bringing them.

Do these things first and I guarantee you that you will build a more profitable business, and much faster.

Now, once you do all of this, and completely understand your clients’ buying process, and what results they want, you can go after similar prospects, and you will close them much faster, and with greater revenue and profits.

Let me show you how.

You already know that the B2B sales cycle can be anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. What if you could cut that time in half? Discover how you can do just that and at the same time stop chasing non-productive leads.

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2016 New Year’s Sales Management Resolutions

Here we are, once again at the start of a new year. As you look ahead, what are your goals? What are the goals for your team and what concerns you most? As a sales manager or VP of Sales, I am certain that you could come up with a long list of to-dos that, if well-executed, would bring you great success in 2016.

But, what is really different about 2016 than last year or the year before? I imagine some of the problems that existed in 2015 also existed in 2014 and 2013. Most problems don’t disappear just because we want them to disappear.

Take my health for example. Last year, I had a doctor inform me that I had a life-changing health condition. I knew that I needed to be more conscious of my diet and exercise– my wife, Linda, had been telling me that for 30 years. However, this is a tall order for me, a man who loves to cook and eat. I have never been a big drinker, I exercised somewhat regularly and, beyond the occasional cigar, I thought I was living a healthy lifestyle.

But, apparently I needed to do more. I bought a FitBit, one of those watches that monitors your steps (10,000 recommended daily – which translates into 4-5 miles depending upon your stride length) and I set up the supporting online program that allowed me to enter my food and water intake.

I immediately began to monitor my watch to see how many steps I still needed to get in before the day was over. Where, once upon a time, I would go to the gym and do a heavy workout, my lack of consistent behavior had allowed me to gain weight. After a long day at work, who wants to work out for an hour? So, I changed my mindset and my goals and took up walking the neighborhood to complete the 10,000 step per day goal. Now, I supplement my fitness program with work outs at the gym.

Surprise! Now, that I am monitoring my daily habits, I realize how unhealthy they were in the past. In the space of a couple of months, I have lost 20 pounds and I did not gain a pound through the holidays, which was no small feat for me. Needless to say, I feel better, look better and am healthier than I was prior to monitoring the things that I can control.

Here are my suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions that, if implemented properly, will eliminate many or most of your sales problems.

FOCUS ON THOSE THINGS YOU CAN AFFECT. Recognize that while you can’t control the economy or the world of selling, you can control how you approach it. Recognize that you must have salespeople who know how to prospect and reach out to find business.
MANAGE YOUR PEOPLE’S PERFORMANCE. Inspect what you expect. You will be amazed to discover that the very act of inspecting the right metrics will improve sales (or your health). A weekly huddle to review numbers will call attention to the under-achievers. No one wants to be at the bottom of the board. Peer pressure is a valuable tool for getting results. Use it to leverage sales.
ELIMINATE EXCUSE-MAKING. Stop making excuses for your salespeople and stop accepting them from your salespeople. Introduce a sense of urgency into your sales culture. Too often, we accept unnecessarily long sales cycles. Teach your people to work prospects through the pipeline efficiently. Help them learn to eliminate those who are clogging the funnel so they can focus on finding those prospects who will buy.
COACH YOUR PEOPLE. Focus your training and coaching to improve skills and change behaviors. Make your salespeople role-play. “Have them “practice perfect performance” so that when they are under pressure, they are able to focus and sell.
APPLY THE 80/20 RULE TO YOURSELF. If you perform 20 tasks week after week, there are probably 4-6 tasks that really matter. Those 4-6 tasks generate 80% of your results. Find out which 4-6 tasks are your Go-Tos. Spend 80% of your time on these Go-To tasks.
ABR – ALWAYS BE RECRUITING. About 20% of your sales team is not performing adequately. This 20% is never going to perform adequately. Fire them. In order to do this, you must be able to replace them. Recruiting is one of your 4-6 tasks that really matter. Spend time finding people who will sell.

Summary:

Success in selling isn’t all that different from success in fitness and health. There will always be issues that exist beyond our control-we can’t control our genetics which predispose us to certain conditions, but we can control our habits like sleep, diet and exercise.

In selling, we can’t control the economy or the consumer. But we can control our behaviors – like prospecting and number of dials, number of appointments, etc. – that contribute to our personal and company economies. We can control how we interact with customers, learning to reach out and stay consistently in touch.

In managing a sales team, your job is to control those behaviors that contribute to the company’s sales. Thus, while you can’t control John or when John makes prospecting calls, you can control your inspection of his behaviors and, ultimately, you can decide whether he is productive enough to be on your sales team.

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5 Goals You Should Have During a Government Debriefing

Understanding the government debriefing process after a proposal loss can be very valuable to a company if you approach them from the right perspective. Most companies ask for a debriefing with two things in mind. First they hope to somehow magically persuade the contracting officer through a face-to-face meeting that they chose the wrong company and second; they want to fish for information to determine if they should protest. I’m here to tell you that BOTH of those, in most situations, are a bad idea. In fact, requesting a formal debriefing and then using that debriefing as ammunition to protest, can often times hurt your chances of doing business with an organization simply because you can be viewed as a pest. Instead, I suggest you focus on the following five goals:

1. Discover the significant weaknesses and deficiencies in your proposal. Companies often lose an opportunity because of their failure to clearly communicate the value of what they sell and more importantly, they don’t map their capabilities directly to what was asked for in the RFP. But that is just one aspect of what you should be looking for. A contracting officer can also discuss how you rank/rate against the other companies, where you appeared strong in the proposal and where they felt you were lacking clarity, past performance, and/or addressed their specific requirements properly.

2. Gather competitive information. One of the most important aspects of a debriefing and also often overlooked is that a debriefing gives you a great opportunity to discover competitive information such as price, product information, past performance, etc. of the winning company. The value of this information is being able to adjust your price and margins to be competitive NEXT time. This will give you valuable insights that will allow you to determine if you can truly be competitive the next time around or if it doesn’t make sense for you to pursue this type of work and thus stop wasting valuable time pursuing contracts you can’t win. For example, you may learn through the debriefing that your overhead costs are too high and that you have to resolve these issues in order to deliver competitive pricing.

3. Build a stronger relationship with the contracting officer. How you ask for a debrief is very important. Remember that contracting officers are over worked and don’t have time for their daily duties, much less handling your debrief. More importantly, whether it’s informal or formal, you are ALWAYS being evaluated. How you handle a win is one thing and you will be rated on that, but how you handle a loss is also important. A bad attitude and quoting the FAR will ultimately get the debriefing you asked for, but it may cost you in the long run. Instead, use this time to build a friendly and respectable relationship with the contracting officer.

4. Ask questions. You want to ask reasonable and relevant questions. It’s OK to play dumb a bit and fish around like Colombo, but be courteous and respectful and keep it related to this specific opportunity. One simple technique is to start out by saying something along the lines of: “Pardon me if this is dumb question, but… ” or “I’m sorry if this question seems obvious, but I’m doing my best to learn from every loss and could use a better understanding about… ” Using simple opening phrases like that will give you the opportunity to ask additional questions and build rapport with the contracting officer. Also be sure to use my personal favorite keywords, “Please”, “Thank You”, and “Could You Help Me?” Those words will get you a lot more information than quoting the FAR ever could.

5. Learn from this loss. How do you capture lessons learned and how do you ensure you’re taking these lessons into account in the next proposal? You put a process in place, that’s how. Because after all, gathering the intelligence you need is only the first part of the battle. If you really want to win the next battle and ultimately the war, you MUST put concrete processes in place that allow you to roll these lessons learned into every future proposal process. Systems are repeatable and once you establish the right system, wins become repeatable.

A lot goes into understanding the debriefing process, when you can and can’t ask for one, how to prep for the debriefing, how to conduct yourself during the debriefing, how to gather lessons learned, and more importantly; how to implement lessons learned into a repeatable win system. Do yourself and your company a favor by understanding the nuances of the debriefing process so that you can take full advantage of them.

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