The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 09, 2015 • Issue 15:11:01
The one man show: Approaches in B2B sales - part two
Benjamin Morton Friedman is a Harvard University professor of economics and a political economist. In relation to one of the essential elements of the sales profession, prospecting, Friedman said, "Prospecting is finding the man with the problem."
If Friedman's statement is correct, why does our industry rely so much on a sales/prospecting model that most times fails to identify merchants with problems (which would open the door for business conversations), while also frequently alienating merchants so they won't even accept calls from merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to begin with?
This article is the continuation of an ongoing series covering aspects of running a one man (or woman) show. For this discussion, I'm going to pick up where I left off in "The one man show: Approaches in B2B sales," The Green Sheet, Sept. 14, 2015, issue 15:09:01, by providing a more in-depth example of the New Age approach to business-to-business (B2B) sales. I will also further explain why I believe the traditional approach is inefficient in today's climate.
First, a review
Previously, I defined what I believe to be the traditional and New Age approaches to B2B sales, as follows:
- The traditional approach is all about canned/robotic sales scripts that focus on overcoming objections. Coupled with the canned and objection-based jargon is the recommendation to have MLSs randomly call on merchants within random lists of standard industry codes or randomly walk into merchant locations to try to spark a business conversation. The mantra is, "If you are smooth enough and make good rebuttals, sales will be flying through the roof."
- Then there is the New Age approach in which MLSs rely on being valued sources of business advantage for their clients, rather than just people who regurgitate a series of canned material. These MLSs have access to products, platforms, data, knowledge, players, forecasts, trends, etc., that merchants do not have access to, which allows merchants to see MLSs as valued extensions of their organizations. The mantra of this approach is: "If you haven't researched prospective clients and obtained information on them that puts them in a potential situation to utilize your solution offerings, you should not spend time contacting them."
Flaws in the traditional approach
The main issue with the traditional approach is that it doesn't truly prepare MLSs to deal with today's complex marketplace of issues and challenges occurring within a given merchant's industry and individual business, nor does it lead to truly understanding the complex suite of technologically advanced solutions within our industry (and closely related industries) that are being developed by an array of fintech and general information technology entrepreneurs who are backed by millions of dollars in venture capital to address the issues and challenges merchants face today.
Today's sales cycle requires a lot more sophistication, professional knowledge, market research and business acumen on the part of MLSs than ever before, and the traditional approach of canned, robotic messages, generic solutions and emphasis on overcoming objections is focused only on getting merchants to sign contracts without really trying to solve any issues causing distress within merchant operations.
The result is that not only do merchants not sign anything, but ISOs also experience significant churn and burn through recruiting unqualified and untrained people (practically anybody with a pulse) to resell solutions they don't understand and to address problems they don't comprehend. This approach forces MLSs to function in ways that are unprofessional and exposes them to being dismissed as green.
This approach wastes everybody's time because:
- ISOs waste time on MLSs that do not produce anything of significance for the industry.
- MLSs waste time on what seemed like a get-rich-quick opportunity, based on motivational speeches used during the recruiting cycle, when they could have been more productive in their prior positions or pursuing careers with companies offering real training and opportunities.
- Merchants are forced to waste time when they're receiving 50 calls a day from green MLSs who are pitching generic solutions that have nothing to do with their present-day issues. This leads merchants to stop accepting calls from all MLSs, including experienced agents with valuable solutions.
The New Age approach in action
Today's MLSs ought to fit the following requirements to efficiently operate in today's climate:
- Basic acumen: This includes all basic sales skills such as speaking and dressing well, knowing the basics of your profession, a strong work ethic, integrity; and having actually sold another product with some professional success for at least two years, some level of additional education beyond high school, and a genuine passion for the sales profession.
- New Age competency: This includes all the advanced capabilities needed to compete and win in today's marketplace, beginning with the ability to conduct strong primary and secondary market research. Second, this encompasses the ability to build a strong "center of influence" network that includes other professionals who can provide quality referrals/leads of merchants in present-day diagnosed situations that MLSs can address.
Third, this includes the ability to innovate business communication and marketing processes to reach merchants faster, more efficiently and more economically. Finally, this includes the ability to either develop internally or round up the best solutions for various issues and challenges faced by your merchant prospects (based on the information gained from primary and secondary market research) so that MLSs can strategically fulfill current unmet demand.
For example, MLSs reselling POS systems might look to the following road map when using the New Age approach to B2B selling:
- Basic acumen: Gain basic knowledge and expertise on what a POS system is, what it does, why it's more useful than just using a solitary terminal for particular merchant niches, the types of POS systems available, the different POS manufacturers in the market, and the types of merchant niche categories for which POS systems are a good fit.
- New Age competency: Begin serious primary and secondary market research to determine what merchants are likely to not have the level of technological sophistication within their operations that a particular POS system offering brings to the marketplace. After all, what MLSs are truly offering with POS systems is higher levels of efficiency, reduced operational time, more centralized control, and advanced capabilities such as big data and better focused marketing that no other system can truly provide.
The question is who currently lacks this level of sophistication? Primary and secondary market research should answer this question, as well as answer the question of how to tailor a specific POS system to include features and benefits specific to a given merchant's niche. Merchants lacking this level of sophistication are the ones who would benefit most from the higher levels of efficiency, assuming MLSs can provide them with a great price, fast setup, efficient training, and great on-going support capabilities that include system upgrades, when needed, as well as various forms of network security.
Not really 'New Age'
The New Age approach isn't actually "New Age" at all. I believe the MLSs with staying power have always used this approach, not the traditional one offered by many ISOs. I also believe ISOs utilizing traditional sales approaches have become useless in assisting MLSs with the complex marketplace problems their merchants are facing today and understanding (and developing) the solutions that could resolve them.
One reason our industry experiences significant turnover is because new MLSs are not being provided the tools, resources, research capabilities, planning, knowledge, capital and other means required to truly grow, develop and sustain their independent enterprises. For the success and the respect of our industry going forward, ISOs should begin utilizing their resources and human capital in ways that help train their MLSs to compete and win in the new, complex marketplace of B2B sales.
Many ISOs claim it is increasingly difficult to find quality MLSs with staying power, and they wish the process of identifying such individuals were easier to navigate. I will end this article with a quote from business motivational speaker Jim Rohn: "Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better."
John Tucker is Managing Member of 1st Capital Loans LLC, as well as an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in accounting, business management and journalism. Tucker has nearly nine years of professional experience in commercial finance and business development. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 586-480-2140.
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