Over the years, I have worked with a lot of different B2B sales reps, many of them might be starting out in this line of work for the first time. During the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of retail sales people have been laid off or furloughed. If you have been making a living in retail sales at a brick-and-mortar business, or otherwise working in customer service or support, you might want to consider making a new career move into B2B sales and talking with customers by phone. Many of the same skills and personality traits that help people be good at retail sales can also transfer to the world of B2B sales, appointment setting and lead generation. But instead of talking with customers in a real-life brick-and-mortar setting, you can talk with them by phone.
4 Lessons for B2B Sales
Whether you’re new to the industry of B2B sales, or if you’re a business owner who wants to improve your own selling skills when talking with customers, here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years from training new sales reps.
1. Start a Conversation, Build a Relationship First.
The first step of B2B sales, no matter what you sell, is to just build a relationship with that prospective buyer. Talk with them, get to know them, and listen to them. When I work with new sales reps at my company, I always encourage them to just practice opening a call in a way that is natural and friendly, in a way that builds trust.
2. B2B Sales is a Long-term Process.
You don’t have to start selling right away, you don’t have to close the deal on the first call. B2B sales is a process. Give it time. Your first call with a customer, the goal should be to just find out more about the customer, see if they are the right fit for what you sell, see if they have interest in what you sell, and then ask for the customer to make a commitment to have a follow-up appointment. Not everything has to happen right away. The goal of B2B sales is to sell, of course, but closing deals takes time and there are a lot of other steps in the process that need to happen before the customer is really ready to buy. So be patient, with your buyers and with yourself.
3. Don’t Put Pressure on the Customer.
Sales people get paid to sell, so of course they are sometimes a little too eager to close the deal and get the customer to sign up. This requires a careful balance. Sales people that push too hard will end up making the customer feel pressured and stressed; this tends to make the customer less likely to buy. Most customers don’t like to feel pressured or pushed by sales people. Instead, sales people need to act like trusted peers. Act like you’re on the same side of the negotiating table as the customer. Work in the customer’s best interest and show how you can help to solve the customer’s problem – you and the customer are not opponents, you’re not enemies, you are on the same team. You as the B2B sales person are not trying to “get” something from the customer; you’re trying to “give” something to the customer that will truly help their business. B2B sales should always feel like a win-win.
4. Different Personalities Can Be Successful at B2B Sales.
A lot of people might think that sales people are always cut from the same cloth: outgoing, charismatic, competitive, hard-charging. The truth, in my experience, is more complicated. B2B sales is an art and a science. There’s a strong element of process-oriented, data-driven “science” that happens with B2B sales – you need to have a strategic, clear process in place for how to work with buyers through the customer journey, and you need to understand how your customers are responding and which points in the sales funnel are causing the biggest challenges. However, there is also a strong element of “art” to B2B sales: creativity, improvisation, relationship-building, creating an emotional connection.
Not all B2B sales people are good at both of these aspects of selling. Some B2B sales people are more analytical and technical; they know the product and the industry really well, they are almost more like engineers or data scientists than sales people. Other B2B sales reps are “people persons” through and through; they just want to be talking with customers all day and moving their sales conversations forward.
If you’re retail sales person or customer service rep whose job was affected by COVID-19, and you would like to start a new career, I encourage you to think about getting into B2B sales. There are ways to get a foot in the door in the industry by working on the phone as an appointment setter or B2B lead generation specialist, and then if you like the work and you do well, there are ways to get involved with other roles in B2B sales. Anyone who cares about customer relationship-building, who enjoys the challenge of selling, who has a sense of curiosity and is willing to learn on the job, and who wants to add real value for customers and their career can potentially do great at B2B sales.