B2B Chronicles – 9 Learnings From A Year Into B2B Sales
“Selling starts when the customer says no” “All Marketers are actors. The best actors become CEOs.”
This and other such similar phrases by my marketing professor Mohan Kuruvilla instilled deep love for B2B sales in me. During his lectures, I could really live the life of a sales guy. He would vividly describe how various characters associated with the daily life in the corporate world interact and behave. He inspired me so much that I was sure that this is something that I can do and excel in. This coupled with my stint as the placement coordinator and my previous work experience in the B2B domain catapulted my aspirations high, to go into B2B sales and apply all those concepts learned in class.
I came to the industry with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and I did make genuine attempts to apply the concepts I had learned in college in my set of accounts. After completing one year in the B2B sales, as I look back, I feel satisfied – not because of the deals that I have lost or won or the money that I have earned but because of the myths broken, relationships made, business acumen gained and the processes learnt that run a mammoth organisation.
There are a lot of things that I have learnt from my failures, successes and just by observing others which I have tried to accumulate over a period of time. Here are a few such realisations that have dawned upon me after the completion of first year.
1. Price is virtual, cost is a reality: This wisdom quote was spoken by one of my sales leaders to the customer in a meeting. When I was a child, I had accompanied my father to a shop where he was buying few office supplies and was negotiating hard. It was very surprising to me, since he never used to negotiate otherwise and even more surprising since it was office supplies so the money wasn’t even going from his pocket! I often recall this incident from my childhood which makes me smile thinking how naïve I was about money which is not your own but you are still responsible for it.
For industries like telecom, where I have been involved, I have seen them bleed and felt their pain. The onus of owning the responsibility of saving costs lies on everyone directly or indirectly associated with the organisation and not just with the procurement department.
2. Make a clear ask: While negotiating, never make the first offer. When it’s your turn, ensure that your ask lacks nothing and you say it clearly. This not only applies to your customers but internally as well. You might not always be in safe hands and it is only you who has to ensure to communicate clearly that you have the support and enablement needed to perform and to align your goals to the organisational goals.
3. Run rate business is very important: Your leadership will want you to focus on strategic deals but as the quarter end approaches and you try to inch closer to your number – your only saviour are the low-hanging fruits. The accounts and deals which give recurring business to the organisation are often the saviour to most people.
4. Map the entire Decision-Making Unit: No chances here! You have to correctly map the initiators, the gatekeepers, the buyers, the deciders, the users and the influencers and make sure that you are in the good books of each and every one of them. Remember their name, their birthday, their city of birth, name of their kids, their priorities in life and at work. If they like you, it is very likely that they will buy from you. Meet as many people as possible and spend as much time as possible with every person on every visit to your account.
5. The concept of derived demand: This is my most favourite concept out of all the concepts that were taught in class. The end customer is always the king! If your products or services are just a cost to the company then the situation might be a little more difficult for you. However, if your product or service becomes a part of your customer’s product or service, then you can turn your sales from push to pull very easily. Learn from the hugely successful campaign of Intel – “Intel Inside”.
6. Find an entry into the account: The entry to an account is the easiest through purchase. Purchase people are often on the lookout for “alternate quote” and therefore would give you an access to the current requirements. Having said that, to actually get good margin business, you need to add value apart from the price point. This can happen when you are in touch with the end user and are trusted. Please refer point number 4 again.
7. Time Management: As the account owner, you are responsible from book to bill. Develop the habit of reaching office early and finish all the admin and operational tasks before business hours. This has many advantages including that your mail will be on top of the mailbox of many people and your work might just get priority. Utilise the travelling time during the day in calling- calling customers or your office guys follow-up calls for the mails you had sent and processes initiated in the morning or for any other purpose. When I am in office, I use that time to discuss and make strategies with technical teams for new business opportunities in various accounts
8. Emails are sacrosanct: An email can be held as a valid proof in the court of the law. I love it when people immediately respond to my mails and therefore I have also always strived to reciprocate the same. Respond to all mails and document everything on mails- your accomplishments, your concerns, your current work, your plan, your challenges, your ask, everything!
9. Team effort: It is always the team effort which leads to deal wins. Having said that, as the account manager, it is your job to create the necessary space for your case in the organization and ensure that the team rallies behind you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone in the organization for the help you need and create multiple touchpoints with the customer. There are many factors at play when it comes to large deals apart from your value proposition to a deal, so treat every win or loss very objectively and stay positive!
Prof. Mohan Kuruvilla used to say that selling is an art, “Ek baar mann lag jayega to itna anand aata hai Sir, puchiye mat Sir. Jabardast anand aata hai”. There is still a long way to go and a lot more to learn. Many more myths to be broken and many more human and industry dynamics to be learnt. Most of these observations have been the result of lessons learnt in the hard way. But as they say, “if your tragedy was a learning opportunity for someone, then it was worth it”.