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Business-to-Business Sales, A Look at Best Practices

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A brief look at best practices in B2B sales, based on the interviews of 10 sales professionals. Among other topics, I explore relationship-building, knowing your industry, challenges, and starting a career in sales. This book was written as a college senior project.

Text of Business-to-Business Sales, A Look at Best Practices

  • Business-to-Business SalesA Look At Best Practices

    Scott Butler

  • Table of Contents

    PART I: The Project

    Introduction.......1My Story, and Why It Matters Here...........1Meet the Mentors...........3

    PART II: Why Meaningful Relationships Are Everything

    The Most Fundamental Concept in Sales..........8Building the Relationship...............9Knowing Your Clients and Their Needs..........11Knowing Your Products or Services............12Knowing the Industry and Staying Current............13Building a Partnership through Effective Communication................15Sales: A Relationship of Integrity.................16

    PART III: Overcoming Challenges

    Rejection...............20Objections.................21Office Politics.............................22Lack of Integrity in Competitors or Buyers.....................22Motivation.................23Pressure.................24Policies and Regulations...............24

    PART IV: Pursuing a Career in Sales

    Preparing for a Career in Sales.....................28Networking and Interviewing......................30Building Toward Success..............31

    Conclusion: Lessons for a Lifetime..................33

    About The Author.......................Back Inside Cover

  • Part IThe Project

  • In our modern world, businesses compete with one another to provide organizations and individual consumers with the products and services they need in order to function. One could not go to the store and pick up a bag of potato chips without the proper supply chain logistics being in place for that bag of chips to arrive at its final location. The military could not defend our country without being sup-plied with the proper defense equipment. How could patients of serious medical conditions receive the proper medical equipment or medication if there was no one supplying it? Every day we benefit from products and services that have been provided by large and small businesses. On the front line of these businesses are found the professionals that serve as the face of these companies to their customers. Meet the sales team. Sales is an important aspect of every industry. These are not just the guys that appear on your front porch asking you to sign for pest control, nor is it just the man at the used car lot hoping to get you to sign over a chunk of your budget to him. Most companies could not function at all without a dedicated team of sales professionals. Most agree that there are a few different branches of sales, but the two most important are business-to-business (also referred to as B2B) and business-to-consumer (also known as B2C). I will use each of these terms in this book. While business-to-consumer sales are perhaps the most widely recognized category of sales, business-to-business is a crucial aspect of sales to which this project is entirely devoted. Business-to-business sales could be described as the art of creat-ing relationships between companies and individuals in order for one business to fulfill the needs of the other. These needs are met by the company providing the solution (the product or service), hopefully in exchange for the continued patronage of the receiving company. In the course of executing this project, I have learned some things that have been game-changers for me. Things that I now have come to treasure as golden nuggets of wisdom. Ten very generous indi-viduals were willing to come forth and share some of their hard-earned experience with me. To them I am very grateful and indebted. They have provided me with the gift of mentorship, and from their words I have drawn a lot of what will be presented in this book. I have taken what they have taught me, over the course of hours of interviews and transcriptions of recordings, and now present it here. I will be discussing several fundamentals of best practices in business-to-business sales, as well as why they are so indispensable in a achieving success as a salesperson. As this has been an enormously valuable learning experience for me, I am excited to share what I have learned.

    My Story, and Why it Matters Here

    It would be remiss of me to not share a bit as to why this project is so important to me, and why I feel it should be important to other people contemplating a career in sales. Ever since I was a young child, I have loved interacting with people. I have enjoyed meeting people with different personalities and from different backgrounds, and creating friendships with them. I was always told by my parents that I had a gift for persuasion. As I grew older, my dad would often tell me, Scott, you really ought to look into sales. To be honest, the idea of a career in sales (as I misperceived it then) sounded boring and unful-filling. I wanted to do something in which I could really help people, create relationships, negotiate, and make an impact on peoples lives. In other words, I was looking for a sales career without knowing it. I worked at a Chicago-area carwash after high school in the role of a sales advisor, in which I would try to educate customers as to the benefits of the products and services my company provided. I would stand outside in summer, autumn, and the brutal Chicago winter as long lines of cars waited to wash the dirt, bugs, or road salt off of their vehicles. I would convince them to buy better washes and detailing services. Making a commission, I would sell, the cashier (sometimes also me) would ring them up, and the customer would receive what they had bought. I would try to remember the names of the

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  • people who had come in more than once, chat with them and make them feel important. Many of them remembered my name too, and often they would buy services simply at my recommendation. Having studied Spanish and practiced it extensively with my Mexican coworkers (some of whom didnt speak English), I was utilized to sell in Spanish as well. I would try to make small talk with Spanish-speaking customers. I just thought it was a good opportunity to sharpen my skill. I became one of the high-est-earning salespeople there. I thought that sales still wasnt for me, even if I was good at it. I wanted to be able to really create relationships with people, and I thought that my doing that in this job was really just me being me rather than me performing the job. As I began a mission for the LDS Church at the age of 20, serving for two years in a country I had never been to, to teach people in a language I had yet to learn at that point, I didnt see it as a sales role. In many ways it was. For the sake of not coming off as offensive or disrespectful, I will add that the missionary service is not typically seen as a sales role to the people involved and the people influenced by it, because of its spiritual significance to them. What I mean to point out is that it requires all the best skills of a salesman and an equal portion of the work. For two years, I met strangers in Portugal and taught them my beliefs in their language without pay. Because what I was presenting to them was something I was passionate about, and because I believed I was really helping those people, I had no problem putting in the 12 hours a day every day of the week. It wasnt workit was service, and it was important and often enjoyable to me. I didnt mind sweating it out, pounding the pavement, knocking doors, teaching in peoples living rooms and in the streets to small crowds. I loved meeting and learning about the Portuguese, African, Brazilian, Hispanic, Eastern European, Romani (Gypsy), and other peo-ple I encountered. I loved hearing their stories and sharing mine with them. I loved promoting some-thing that was important to me and what I felt would be life-changing to them. I literally met thousands upon thousands of people. My hand has shaken countless strangers hands, and I have been in several hundred strangers homes across Portugal. I was often rejected, as one can imagine, but I made lifelong friendships with complete strangers. I was successful in achieving goals and filled several leadership roles. Yet I still didnt see it as having a whole lot to do with sales skills, even if I could recognize several parallels. Since then, I have started a small door-to-door sales operation, selling ties to BYU-I students. It has been very successful. I have had other roles requiring those skills, and as I learned more about B2B sales, I began to realize that it was a great fit for me. I enjoy the rush, the satisfaction of achievement, the friendships gained, and the needs met. As I learned more about B2B, I realized that my B2C experience could really help me excel in a business-to-business setting. The aspects I loved most about relation-ship-building were much more present in B2B than B2C. I liked the idea of networking with other in-dividuals within the same industry but in different roles from my own. Ultimately, the choice to go into B2B was one that replaced an earlier decision to go into public relations. Although it means building more connections and finding new leads in terms of finding a job out of college, I feel it is a worthwhile shift and that it really will be a great fit for my public relations experience and training. I came to realize that sales is more than trying to simply push a product on a customer or a business. It is the process of creating relationships with people who need what you have (whether they realize it at first or not) and bringing it to them with integrity and genuine care. It is the process of being a partner and a mentor. It is the process of negotiating and serving your team well while still looking out for the needs of the buyer or potential buyer. It is about helping people. It is about learning and listen-ing and participating and positively impacting people. It is about all those things I had placed value on throughout the years. That is not the whol

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