I don't know who you are. I don't know what you need. I don't know if what I sell is of any value to you. What I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you agree to meet with me, that won't be the end of it. I will ask you probing discovery questions, and if you don't answer them to my satisfaction on my timetable, I will try and jump over you to get those answers. I will call you, I will email you, I will get meetings with you, I will quote you, I will follow up with you and I will close you. - Liam Neeson, Prospecting: The Movie - Coming Summer 2017
Many sales experts see B2B sales people as Liam Neeson - we're the ones on the phone (or behind the email) and we're going to get customers to do what we want.
We have skills. We have tools. We have experience.
But what do we know?
Think about it and read this phrase: "I know who you are."
Five words that mean so many different things - to the same audience - depending on how they're delivered.
Yell them at the top of your lungs in your kitchen and your audience/spouse/partner will most likely say "NO! You know nothing about me!"
Whisper them sweetly on the couch, and the same audience may say "And that's why I love you."
Cut out letters from magazines, glue them to a sheet of paper and stuff it in your audience's mailbox and they will probably call the FBI.
So what does this have to do with B2B sales?
In B2B sales, it's crucial that we know who our customers are. Now more than ever. There's more competition, more noise and more on the line that ever before. One bad moment in the beginning of a customer conversation and you can kiss that prospect bye-bye.
And whether you're calling people on the phone or crafting social selling messages, if you don't know who you're communicating with BEFORE you connect with them, you're committing the cardinal sin of B2B sales: #wastingtime
And I don't mean "know" as in their LinkedIn profile - prospects don't want to talk to salespeople about where they went to school, their time at Widget Inc in the 90s or that conference met at in 2006 but really you weren't there because you just used that as something to say to fake a personal connection to get a sales meeting (that never happens, right?)
I mean "KNOW THEM."
My experience tells me that best way to start this is to create something called the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP.)
An ICP is just what it sounds like - it's a representation of your ideal customer, that includes demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics, as well as buying patterns, creditworthiness, and purchase history. And some other junk.
They've crafted a pretty decent wheel with that post, so I'm not going to waste time (no sinning for me today...at least not in this article..) recreating it for you. If you haven't created an ICP or the one you're using isn't working, follow their step-by-step and you'll be on the right track. (The Whole Brain Group has not paid me for this ad...but I am not against that in principal if they wish to...poke poke wink wink)
I want to call attention to something though that I feel doesn't get enough column space when talking about ICPs:
At the very end of their blog post, the word "personas" is mentioned.
So what is a "persona?"
From the Agile Marketing Website:
A persona, first introduced by Alan Cooper, defines an archetypical user of a system, an example of the kind of person who would interact with it. The idea is that if you want to design effective software, then it needs to be designed for a specific person.
Whether you're designing a dog/cat dating app for Android or the holodeck interface for the Starship Enterprise, effective solution design requires the use of user personas. You can't throw a rock at Microsoft, Google orApple and not hit a User Experience professional who's working with user personas. Believe me, I've tried. (District Court Case Number 1232994-LWP)
Wait wait wait - this article was about B2B sales and now we're talking about software development? You're about to lose me, and Boiler Room is on in the background and Ribisi is talking to the guy on the phone selling newspapers so my attention is waning.
Ok, here's the point:
Obviously whatever widget or doo-dad you're selling has an archetypical user. People that use it and gain value from it. And most likely (hopefully) your team that designs and builds your widgets are using "personas" in that process.
But for many of us in sales, the people that USE our doo-dads or get value from them AREN'T necessarily the people who BUY THEM or make the DECISION TO BUY them.
In B2B sales we have traditionally called the most important person in our process a Decision Maker (DM).
This DM may (or more often may not) use the widget we sell - but they are responsible for purchasing the widget - they hold the purse and we want IN IT!
So, for a very long time the entire B2B sales process rested on the foundational strategy of the reaching the decision maker - where we circumvent road blocks to get to the DM, connect with them, pitch them and then close them.
How many one-on-ones have we ALL been in where the words "Are you talking to the decision maker?" are asked and sometimes answered? (the correct answer is "eleventy billion")
So what sometimes happens is some sales orgs craft an ICP based on their image of a decision maker - and then they try to reach these ICP/DMs.
And they get bupkus.
Well not bupkus - they get unanswered voicemails and unread emails.
So they make more calls and send more emails.
And more, and more and more.
And the decide this new fangled new age claptrap doesn't work, so they buy a BETTER list of C-Levels and make calls and send emails.
Yippee how fun!
Making 200 phone calls a day or sending 100,000 emails a week to reach these ICP/DMs reminds me of someone with a blindfold throwing darts: yeah it's possible to get a bull's-eye and I'm sure there's a thousand stories out there of someone in some bar hitting one, but more often then not, they never get close.
But it's the story of the bull's-eye that keeps the rest of us throwing darts - either dialing or hitting SEND.
So what's the problem?
The problem - as I see it - is that we're putting all our eggs into one persona basket.
Even though CEB reported YEARS AGO that the average business buying team includes 5.4 people, many of us are still prospecting to an individual DM/persona.
I read a lot of B2B sales content - everyone is talking about selling to a persom.
But most of the time it's Person Singular.
We call this person the "buyer" which is Latin for "my ticket to quota."
For many of us (me included) we use the word "buyer" as shorthand - we know there are multiple people involved the process. But its undeniable that a lot of sales prospecting and sales prospecting training is geared toward a connecting with a single individual with some type of final authority in making a purchase decision.
For many products and solutions out there - this type of outreach to some magical friend who only exists to sign your contracts simply doesn't make sense anymore.
Think of it this way. Have you ever seen a children's toy commercial geared to an adult parent? NO. Because crafting that message directly to the decision maker wouldn't get the result you really wanted - the adult buying a toy for the child. So toy commercials are designed to be consumed by children - who have no buying power at all but who (through screaming, begging, crying, guilting - whatever) can influence the buyer to buy the toy.
Now I'm not trying to equate customers or end users with crying children - it's just an analogy and an opportunity to use another meme. But what I am saying is that in the toy industry focusing & messaging & calling on the Parent Persona doesn't get toys purchased.
And isn't that what we're trying to do? Get OUR toys purchased?
I've often heard people say "you can't eat likes and comments" when dissing social selling. I'll grant you that if that's all you're doing - but do you know what else you can't eat? Meetings with DMs that never turn into sales because you've spent all your time with the DM and no time whatsoever meeting the needs and wants of the people effected by the purchase of your widget.
Ever prospect you butt off and get a meeting with a DM, only to have the sale die a quick death because the DMs team (the people who would use your widget) had no interest in working with you or you company? Now, ask yourself, did your company pay you commission for that DM meeting even though you didn't get a sale?
But I though meetings with DMs were important!!!!!
IMHO, we need to be talking, messaging and (yes) prospecting to different people - and doing that means crafting different personas for our Ideal Customer Profile.
Now let's be clear - I have NO idea who buys your widgets at all or why they would buy them - if you're looking for some random dude on the interweb to tell you they've uncovered the Holy Grail for your market vertical, keep looking.
But what I can give you is this outline to the four basic personas you can use to start this process:
Take a good look at the widget you sell and you'll probably find these four archetypes in any organization:
- Persona 1 - Person with a defined set of job responsibilities that would use your widget and would get direct value/benefit from it
- Persona 2 - Person with a defined set of job responsibilities that wouldn't use your widget but would still get direct or indirect value/benefit from Persona 1 using it
- Persona 3 - Person with a defined set of job responsibilities that manages either Persona 1 or Persona 2 and needs benefit/value from the use of your widget to drive revenue, save costs, keep job...whatever.
- Persona 4 - Person with a defined set of job responsibilities that may or may not use your widget and may or may not get direct or indirect value from it but makes buying decisions
Boy that Persona 4 sure sounds familiar - (hint: makes buying decisions.) Maybe I should just concentrate on calling them! #sarcasm
Here's the point: all four of these Personas are crucial to proving the value of your widget to their organization. But in B2B sales, many of us have historically concentrated on the DM - on the person who can make the decision - and we ignore everyone else...to our own detriment.
Now you may be reading this and saying to yourself :
"Wait isn't this a this is job for Marketing? I'm in sales. I don't have time for this."
Well, 1988 called and they want your definition of B2B sales back.
Sales pros in 2017 should be prospecting and communicating to all four of the outlined personas, individually. Different messages meeting different needs with different value props and different next steps. Sales and Marketing needs to works hand in hand in this. At ZynBit we have a bi-weekly standing meeting called "Smarketing" where we discuss over and decide upon all marketing strategy and in the field sales tactics.
Yeah, it's harder and more time consuming than buying a list of C-levels and calling or emailing people on it. But then that's the point.
Take a look at that prospect list of yours - or your list of named accounts- or the LinkedIn profiles of the people you're reaching out to. Are they all C-level? Do that all have the same or similar titles? Are they all DMs?
If that's the case, sounds like you've got a lot of parents on that list - but no kids. No wonder your Pokémon are gathering dust in the warehouse.
Maybe you're saying "Wait, we do talk to influencers and we work with them to get the to the DM - we try and make them evangelists of our solution."
And that's great - but have you ever been on the receiving end of someone working with you to get to someone else? How'd that feel? Awesome, right?
If you're working with multiple personas, you need to make sure you're meeting their distinct and individual needs - not just using them to leapfrog to the corner office to get a signature.
The endgame isn't to move from persona to persona to get to the DM, the end game is to convince each person behind each persona that you "know them" and to prove to them that your widget will meet and exceed their specific needs.
I've made the decision that as a sales professional in 2017, it's my job to know my ICP in ALL their different personas. It's also my job to market and to prospect each one of them. To know their specific needs and to craft my message and my value to each of them so that each one gets their most desired outcome through the purchase of ZynBit.
And the more I talk to prospects and customers, the more I refine and retune those personas and refine and retune my message.
Wow, changing strategy based on changing evidence. Crazy - right?
I think to succeed in sales in 2017 and beyond, you have to know your customer. You have to know them like you know yourself.
And that knowledge can't come in a discovery meeting or come out of a social media profile - by then it's much too late.
Here's your homework, if you choose to accept it:
- Define your Ideal Customer Profile
- Uncover and define all relevant Personas in the profile
- Craft unique messages to each Persona
- Use your favorite prospecting technique to reach out to those Personas to deliver said messages
- Repeat 1, 2 and 3 as necessary.
Anyways, that's my .02 cents - Your milage may vary.