What attributes should a good salesperson have? I’ve been wondering about that right from the beginning. It turns out that learning about Sales never stops, even when I am already two years into the job.
Before I started to sell actively, I always thought about salespeople as those who are only after their commission checks and would do everything to get the next one. That didn’t feel very comfortable, selling something to somebody because of the money. Also, for customers, it wouldn’t be pleasant either.
When a former colleague of mine once asked me why I made the change from Software Development and Customer Support to Sales, I answered: “I like to solve problems, just that now it’s a different angle.” I should mention that I was doing customer support for a software developer product, now selling the same product. So I always interacted with developers in different modes.
As I started to work on my first deals, I would consult a lot with my dad to learn about selling a solution in the B2B context. I learned that this is a job that requires a lot of creativity – both technical and business. On a technical level, I need to understand what the prospect’s problem is. Why are they talking to us? What are they trying to solve or fix? Can we help them? Do we have anything to offer? These aspects are fun and challenging. I can rely a lot on my professional experience in software development.
What is more challenging, yet equally fun is the business aspect of each deal. Some deals are straightforward as the customer agrees to standard terms and conditions.
But what would you do in the following fictional example?
In your business, you are producing Sketchnotes. Tom, a prospect, approaches you about your services.
Tom starts the conversation with “So, I’m producing podcasts about software development trends, and I’m looking for nice cover photos, as well as visual summaries for each episode.” – “Sounds good.”, you reply. “I favor a month-to-month engagement for now, yet right now, I’m a bit strapped for cash.” Hmm, what now? Do you wait until Tom has sufficient funding? Or you propose, “Listen, your podcasts are excellent, and I’d like to have you as a reference. Why don’t we do the following? You commit to use visual artwork from me on your next 20 podcasts, and you’ll get the first four free of charge”. It helps them to overcome their financial limitations, and you can start to strengthen the customer relationship.
The lesson here is that a long-term commitment is favorable, even if it means providing some upfront discount. I had encountered a situation in my day job with different parameters, where I learned these lessons. I still remember the “Aha!” moment, realizing how I can create a compelling offer in such a situation.
Another skill that’s key to success is listening. I remembered that salespeople could talk for hours until the prospect said yes.
Interestingly, as I quickly learned, that’s not how B2B Sales works. Whenever I get onto the phone (mostly it’s Zoom) with a prospect, the prospect talks at least 70-80% of the time. Why?
In my 20-30% talking time, I mostly ask questions about the client’s business, what their challenges are, how many team members they have, what they’re working with, and so forth. It is my goal to understand and gather as much knowledge as I can. The best way to achieve this goal is to let them talk and carefully listen to their replies.
The more a prospect talks, the more I can learn from them. Only then, I can do the next step and offer something.
It’s not so much about selling but about consulting. What is hurting right now? And how can I help?