For anyone who grew up in consumer sales and marketing, moving into B2B selling can be confusing. Many of the elements in the process are quite different. Relationships in B2B selling are direct and far more intimate, and lead generation becomes critical. In spite of the growth of online media and online social interaction, only 7% of interactions are online, according to Professor Jonah Berger of Wharton. That means that 93% are in person or on the phone.|

The New Way of B2B Selling

Therefore, companies that abandon the “old ways” do so at their own peril. The following diagram shows how B2B selling works in enterprise software:

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So we enter a world where direct response, trade shows, referral generation, and a website, like a Venus Flytrap, is designed to be seductive, sticky, and central to the sale to capture prospects. This is a world where telemarketing is used to qualify prospects so that sales people are not wasting time on unlikely prospects.

Ruth Stevens, MENG member and Columbia Professor, has written one of the best books on lead generation, but the next step is the sale itself. Depending on the market, the B2B selling cycle can be anywhere from almost immediate to several years. However, it all starts with understanding the prospect’s needs or pain points.

Many books have been written about the sales process itself. The principle I see flouted most of all is that the sales person talks more than listens. However wonderful the presentation deck may be, the objective is not to force the prospect to read every word but to engage him or her in a dialog in which they share their problems and even participate in improving your product if there is even the germ of value in it. Prospects want to buy, not waste their time. So the effective sales person involves the prospect and all the influencers, gatekeepers, and final buying authority in the process so that they feel ownership of it.

Track the time spent talking and it is more than one third of the time, you have lost control of the call—you can’t listen or keep the listener’s mind from wandering while you are talking.

In many ways, a sale has not changed in hundreds of years. We see wonderful sales people in action every day, not only in business but also as evangelists, politicians, motivational speakers, TV personalities, and CEOs. We can learn from each of them because so many of them establish intimacy by demonstrating their humanity via an openness about themselves, however false it may sometimes feel. I once knew a wonderful salesman who used to talk about the warmth of his family life to connect with the prospect even as he was going through a bitter divorce.

It all sounds simple, but if it is so easy, why do so few people do it well?

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