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Developing next level B-TO-B sales skills

Technology has enabled B-TO-B buyers to use e-commerce for buying and researching products and services online. Technology has also allowed B-TO-B buyers to use social media to connect with vendors and salespeople on their terms. B-TO-B companies and salespeople need new skills and training to meet the expectations of the next level buyers.

Important Points

  • Driving B-TO-B revenue growth requires well-defined and ongoing sales training programs. After working with more than 800 sales managers and salespeople, we found less than half possess the capabilities required to drive growth.

  • Providing sales teams with next-level capabilities takes effort, but the ROI is significant.

  • B-TO-Bs having the most success provide a more consultative and solution-oriented approach with their customers. This requires strong product knowledge and a well-thought-out value proposition for the customer.

  • Our research in interviewing thousands of salespeople and managers has shown there are two common threads in successful salespeople: organization and relationship skills.

Over the past 30 years, the executives at Sellside have seen buyers shift from relying exclusively on salespeople for product knowledge and purchases, to using multiple channels in their buying process. B-TO-B customers often research and use websites, social media, reviews, and videos in addition to meeting and speaking to a salesperson.

To become world-class in today’s digital environment, B-TO-B sales organizations will need to make two significant shifts in the way they lead teams and approach clients; become proficient in multi-channel sales and communications and implement a solution-oriented recurring revenue mindset. They will also have to strengthen their core skills of relationship building and organization.

As less than half of the sales teams have the tools and skills to achieve these changes, significant training and development for B-TO-B sales organizations will be required.

At Sellside Group we have a simple formula, Success = Work Effort + Attitude + Skills. We believe the people on any team need to have a great work effort and attitude and then it is the managers and the company’s responsibility to make sure the people with great work efforts and attitudes have all the tools, skills and training they need to be successful.

Here’s what you need to give those top performers the skills required to deliver outstanding performance in this next era of B-TO-B Sales.

1. Become Proficient in Multi Chanel Sales and Communications

As B-TO-B buyers have become more comfortable and proficient buying online and using social media, they have more transparency, more choices, more ways to communicate and more ways to get information. Sales teams need to embrace these new technologies and in addition to being out in the field visiting customers, use email, texting, chatting and phone calls to communicate with buyers.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn are great ways to research a buyer, contact a buyer, get referrals and build trust through a shared network.

In our research, salespeople fear new e-commerce systems will replace them. However, that is not the case. There are many strategies that can be used to integrate the salesperson into the e-commerce experience to build trust with the buyer, the sales rep., and their company.

2. Implement a solution-selling & recurring revenue mindset

With the rise of larger e-commerce players, Companies need to develop programs that add value for their customers and build recurring revenue streams. Salespeople need to add value to their customers through service, training and dependability.

Sales teams need to be highly trained experts in their field to add a level of dependability and service their customers expect. Great sales teams will partner with their customers to design a customized value proposition and relentlessly work to show and document the value.

An MRO company we worked with was selling its customers one off products by using a method called pitch, demo and close. The sales team ate what they killed every day, and the company was always trying to figure out what was going to be sold each day to support the business. We developed a contractual based model where the sales team would make a friend, find the issues, show the solutions and ROI, and develop a proposal which included service, storage hardware and the products on a monthly contract.

This solution-selling, recurring revenue model gave the commission-based sales team a stable income and allowed the company to better plan its inventory and properly support customers. The program benefited the customer by saving them money in parts, labor and downtime costs.

3. Become proficient at Relationship Building

Making a friend is the foundation of any great relationship. With all things being equal people want to do business with people that they like and trust. It is surprising how many salespeople go right into a presentation about themselves, their company and their products without investing the time to get to know their potential customer both personally and professionally. For sales teams to become a trusted advisor they first must earn the trust of their customer and that starts with a solid relationship.

Once trust and a friendship are built it is much easier to open new accounts and then build on those accounts. Your newfound friend/customer will also be happy to supply you with the holy grail of leads, “REFERALS”.

Companies need to make sure they have a proven sales process that combines the relationship building skills with the solution selling and closing skills into a great sales process that can be taught the same way over and over again to both new and experienced salespeople. To Maximize the results there needs to be a program of initial training and continuing education. Just like great sports teams need to practice the same is true with great sales teams.

4. Become highly organized

In our research with thousands of salespeople over the years and studying what the top performers had in common, some had great personalities, some were highly motivated, some had amazing work efforts, some came from the industry, some were new to the industry. We found there was only one common thread among all of the high performing salespeople and that one thing was Organization. All the top performers where highly organized. They knew exactly where they were going each day. They kept excellent records on their customers and prospects and knew everything about them, from their personal lives to knowing what they needed to do their jobs better. They knew what happened in the previous call and what they needed to do in the next call.

Having a great CRM system, teaching the sales team how to use it and having the managers follow up to ensure the salespeople are using it in the right way makes becoming organized much easier for your sales team.

Building a new program and implementing change

When we make changes, training and implementation of the desired new skills and programs always starts with the Sales Managers. If the Sales Managers are onboard, they will work hard to get the salespeople on board. Bring the Sales Managers into the program early and give them input into designing and developing the program. Once the program is developed, have the sales managers go out in the field and use it and get some success. Make iterations based on their feedback to fine tune the program and then train the managers how to teach the salespeople the program and the new skills they will need to be successful.


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