Track Leading Indicators to B2B Sales Success

One of the most interesting topics about goal setting and achieving greater results in upcoming quarters is to be tracking specific indicators. Now the truth is – most b2b sales people (and sales management) – are only tracking lagging indicators. Thus, a lack of predictability of achieving any form of serious growth goals and objectives.

Most people are tracking their sales results and possibly their gross margin data, however, these are all lagging indicators. Meaning these data is found in the history statements of what you have done and there is no way to change the past.

Leading indicators are those specific guides or triggers – usually related to your sales process – which then followed lead to certain levels of success. And, tracking your leading indicators every day will lead to greater success and sales results.

I first discovered these leading indicators back in the late 80’s when I was still doing activity based sales (the traditional model of selling). It was a simple system for tracking my personal results. I basically tracked five things – 4 leading and 1 lagging indicator.

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Stop Educating Your Buyer – Start Finding the Opportunity

Earlier I wrote an article about how the buyer does not need the b2b sales person anymore. And, this statement or information is true. Yet, there are some systematic issues which are creating confusion within the sales organization.

Okay, first, the amount of product knowledge training is still out of control. During the Great Recession, companies figured they could constraint expenses by using more product knowledge training – which could be handled by internal staff rather than outside sales advisers. The data has been showing organizations have been spending upwards of 85% of their “sales training” budgets on product knowledge.

Second, it is true product knowledge does help the sales person to be more creative in recognizing sales opportunities when they are dropped in their laps. And, a side effect is the higher confidence factor when a b2b sales person understanding their products and product lines well.

Third, the majority of product knowledge training is a total waste of time and resources!

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Expect Your Buyer to Recheck Their Options

One thing I’m seeing more of in the marketplace today is customers or buyers rechecking their options prior to making a decision. And, in some cases even after they have decided upon one solution – they will still reexamine the facts or options prior to finalizing a deal.

How and Where did this behavioral pattern show up?

Seems this is a byproduct of our recent economic downturn. The fear of making any type of bad decision has created a safety check before buying anything. I have even noticed it happening in our office. Decisions are being second guessed and facts are being rechecked for accurate.

Seems the only way you don’t have this issue is when you have a LONG standing relationship and track record with the same buyers and the trust level is at a peak level with proven measurable performance. Then your chances of rechecking options is low.

For the rest of us, this is a new modification to the sales process. After the buyer has moved close to the final decision point and confidence is high on your part – expect the buyer to review or check their options one more time.

What is causing this recheck situation? There seems to be several reasons and here are the four most common…

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Are You Still Waiting for the Return Phone Call?

It still amazes me how a sales person will make A (single) phone call and then sit and wait for their phone to ring with the return call of the week. Duh!

Look unless you used the most amazing and effective voice mail that made such a favorable opinion on the decision maker – they could not wait to call you back, then welcome to the real world of communication and contact with others.

The fact of the matter is – very seldom will you actually get a phone call back from a busy executive these days. They feel they have NO TIME to do anything except what is on their day planner for the day.

So how do you get someone to call you back?

By being aggressive yet patience at the same time. I know they seem to counter each other – aggressive and patience in the same sentence?

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B2B Sales is a Process Rather than an Event

Interestingly I am questioned frequently by b2b sales people and sales managers about how to make b2b sales work right every time.

Well, sometime the answer is not what they want to hear. “B2B Selling is simply a Process.”

Yet, the traditionally trained sales people and sales managers want it to be an event. You know what I mean here – make a single call, talk to a decision maker and get a contract!

Yes, it did work that way – back in the 50’s and 60’s when everything you could make was sold immediately. That was a special time in the world of selling. Basically all markets were being created at the time and growth was the name of the game. IF you could build it, you could sell it and sell it quickly.

Today is a totally different game. Due to things like the internet – which told away the sales person role as the holder of product knowledge – and global competition for products (as in cheaper.) we have a new set of challenges.

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BS Reasons Buyers Use to Stall the B2B Sale

Occasionally, I get into discussions with b2b sales people regarding possible stalls tactics used by buyers and decision makers. Now the reality is sometimes these tactics are just part of their unique buying process. However, most of the time these tactics are at best stalling tactics to chase the b2b sales person away.

So here are the eight major offenders used by buyers and decision makers to stall your sales process.

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Nine Steps to Finding the Right Buyer in B2B Sales

Several people have told me how valuable the section in my book – Three Games of Selling – is about identifying who is ready to buy and who is not ready to buy. Then, they ask me – How can I find the right buyer for my sales process? or Is there a method to use to find the best or right buyer for my b2b sales process?

At first these caught me off guard, since I had not actually verified a sales process for finding the right buyer for b2b sales. So, I began to map out the process and came to a nine step process. When you look at these nine steps, please feel free to shorten or lengthen it based upon what you are selling in the b2b marketplace.

So here is my nine step process for finding the right buyer…

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Use the Farmer Concept to Win B2B Sales

Now I know some of your are thinking – I’m not a Farmer, I’m a Hunter – so this will not work for me. So stop right there and realize a hunter can use different strategies to hunt. Some work better than others. This is an example of what works best – even or especially for hunters.

So let’s start by looking at the process used by a farmer to create a new crop to sell. There are five primary steps to the farmers process or concept. These are…

  1. Cultivates
  2. Plants Seeds
  3. Fertilizes
  4. Protects
  5. Harvest

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Buying Process – Six Steps by the Prospect or Customer

My sales tip on keeping your sales process aligned with the customer or prospect’s buying process raised several questions from the group. The most common question was…

“What is the Buying Process?”

Therefore, today is all about the Buying Process.

There are essentially six steps to the buying process, in fact you could call it a Buying Cycle since it begins and ends at a similar destination. The only difference between the start and finish is your role as the seller. Usually your competition begins the process as the seller and assuming you work the process-staying in alignment with your sales process-you will be the seller in the end.

Here are the six steps…

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