trust (2)

Building B2B Sales Credibility and Success

I was recently the guest of Fred Diamond on his wonderful Creativity in Sales virtual learning session. It was replayed on his equally amazing Sales Game Changers podcast sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales. You can listen here, or read the transcript below.

Fred concluded the interviewing by asking for one tip I’d give all salspeople. My response is below:

“Focus on the client’s outcome, not on your product. All too often we go in there and all we’re trying to do is push the differentiators in our product. The time of feature, function, benefit, not there now, it’s about what’s the outcome. Go in, do a deep discovery, understand how you can influence positively and deliver value as well as defined by the client, and then talk about your product. Don’t do it too early.”

Thanscript of interview:

Fred Diamond: We’re talking today to the author of The Wentworth Prospect, and of course that is Wayne Moloney. Wayne, it’s great to have you here. I’m just outside of DC, and you’re way down under and we have different seasons right now. Good to see you. Congratulations on the book. It’s gotten a tremendous reception. We’re excited to talk about some of the lessons that went into why you wrote the book and some of the lessons that the B2B and complex sales professionals that typically listen to the Sales Game Changers podcast need to know.

Wayne Moloney: Thanks, Fred. It’s fabulous to be here. I just need to give credit to my co-authors, John Smibert and Jeff Clulow as well who without their efforts it wouldn’t have come to fruition. It was a long road but really pleased with what we’ve produced out of it.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, and it’s an excellent book. It’s written like a good novel, if you will, it takes a sales professional through the process. Let’s just get started here. First of all, why’d you write the book? Why now? Then let’s get into some of the key lessons that we want to be talking about.

Wayne Moloney: Yeah, great question. Look, I’ve written two books previously and both of them driven from my own personal experiences in selling and sales management. The first one, Your Roadmap to Sales Management Success was because I’d been promoted into a sales management role, I was a very successful salesperson. Like so many, didn’t do quite as well as a sales manager. I wrote a handbook on that. The other was, I’ve got a strong belief that we still need to really have solid foundations in the basics of sales and that’s why I wrote The Roadmap to Achieving B2B Sales Success.

I always wanted to write a book on strategic selling, more complex selling, because that’s really where my passion is. A good friend and colleague of mine, John Smibert, we’ve collaborated on a lot of work in the past. John had been working on a sales process called EDVANCE, which we use in the book. I approached him about trying to pull something together around that. John made the suggestion that we write it as a sales novel, and that appealed to me because storytelling as you know, it’s so powerful in getting messages across.

But John and I, after several failed attempts realized that we might be good sales consultants and sales trainers, but we’re not very good novelists. I was very fortunate, a good friend of mine, Jeff Clulow, he’s a novelist, also a businessman and he came in and he mentored us for a while. Then he said, “Look, you know what? It’s probably going to be easier if I write this and you give me the technical side of it.” Which we did and that was where it came from. It came really from my desire to write on complex selling and storytelling being so powerful. We thought we’d try that to get that message across.

Fred Diamond: Well, you did a great job. There’s a lot of topics that you discuss in the book that are very pertinent that we talk again, every single day on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Let’s get with the basic premise. We talk about this all the time. For people who are just getting into the game, if you will, the reality is that it’s gotten harder and harder for sales professionals to get to buyers because buyers can find information that they need on the internet and social media and social support groups. Why would a buyer need a sales professional? Let’s just start with that. Why would today’s buyer need to engage with a sales professional?

Wayne Moloney: I’m going to come at that from two different perspectives. One is they won’t know they will need a good salesperson because the objective of a good salesperson these days is to engage early, and even start engaging prior to actually a physical or direct engagement with the client. That’s building a profile or building a domain expert in the area that you’re working in. Domain expertise has become more and more important. In the past, you had to be a product expert on how you applied your product or service to an industry, but now you need to understand the client’s business as good or even better than what the client does.

What I mean by better, have a broader understanding of what’s happening in the marketplace with their competitors. So, engaging early, and we talk a lot about discovery and disruption in the book. You engage early to discover what’s happening in that client or that prospect’s business, and then disrupt their thinking, change the status quo. The reason you do that is because you want to give them a better outcome.

You want to take them from where they are now to a better position. That needs to be a discovery that they make by you directing them. That’s the first reason why salespeople need to engage early, and why clients or prospects need to have a salesperson to be able to help them to consult with them. I hate the term, it’s cliché, but it’s so appropriate now. You need to become that trusted advisor.

The second reason is exactly along the lines that you were talking there, Fred. That is about the amount of information that’s out. They’re being swamped by a tsunami of information at the moment. A good salesperson is a sense maker. A good salesperson helps that person understand or the prospect understand what’s real, and what’s not real in the information that’s there. They’re helping them make sense of that tsunami of information that’s coming to them.

It’s not necessarily about their product, but it’s about what’s real, what’s not real, how does that apply to their business? When you build up a good relationship like that, you will have the prospect or the client actually coming to you to help them understand that, to help decipher and define what’s real, what’s not and how applicable that is to their business.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Nelly. Nelly says, “Can Wayne explain what it means to be a trusted advisor?” You’re right. That’s a term that comes up all the time. As a matter of fact, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we’re very privileged to be good friends with the great Charlie Green, who was one of the co-authors of the book. It just came out the 20th anniversary. He’s been on Sales Game Changers podcast a couple of times. Could you explain that? You’re right, it’s a term that gets thrown around a lot. What does it really mean to be a trusted advisor?

Wayne Moloney: Look, I’m going to use an example there, Fred, and it goes back to very early in my sales career. I had a large insurance company in Queensland in Australia. They were a client of mine. The way I approached business with them was really looking at how does the equipment that I was selling – it was data communications equipment that goes back to those days – how does that actually improve the business that they were doing?

I looked at it not from how do I move the product, but how do I help the client do business better? If you’re always focused on the product, you come across as, I won’t say insincere, but you come across as being someone that’s just there to get the sale. If you focus on the outcome for the client and delivering a better outcome for them regardless of whether your product is the right product or not, and being prepared to walk away when it isn’t, that’s where you build up that trust and become that trusted advisor.

It got to a point with this client, where if any of my competitors went in there and put an offer on the table, he would ring me and ask me what I thought of that. I’ll be quite frank, if it was something that we couldn’t supply, and that was a better solution for him, I told him. I was prepared to lose that business or not get that business to maintain that trusted advisor status, which just worked so well for me over the years. We really need to build on that and as I say now, by engaging early with clients and helping disrupt their thinking and the way they do business, and not looking at driving the product. That’s where you build up that trust. That’s where you got the authenticity and the integrity to be able to make suggestions to the client.

Fred Diamond: Wayne, we have another question here that comes in from Reuben. Reuben says, can you ask Wayne what do customers really want? That’s an interesting question, Reuben. One thing that you talk about as a premise of the book is the fact that there are a lot more individuals involved in the buying decision than ever before. Of course, there’s people on the finance side and the product side and people on the usage side and program side and administrative side, so it’s a broad question.

But from your perspective, it’s interesting, we’re coming hopefully out of the pandemic. We’ve been involved in this for 18 months, and we’re still really emerging. Not every place has really emerged. Could you talk to that for a second or two? I’m taking Reuben’s question, I’m going to expand it a little bit. We have a lot of sales professionals who are listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast who know that they need to be more customer centric. They need to bring value. They need to become the trusted advisor, but for some it’s still a little bit tricky. Give us some of your insights. You’ve been in sales, you’ve led sales leaders for your whole career, and you wrote this amazing book. What do customers want at its core?

Wayne Moloney: Customers want a better outcome for their business, but how they get that is not necessarily what they need. As you said earlier, customers have got so much information available to them at the moment. They will go out there and they will do their own research, and they will often come up with an idea of what it is they think they need, or what it is they think they want. If you’ve built that trusted advisor relationship, and if you’ve engaged early enough in their buying journey, in their buying process, you can influence that and guide them to a decision which is more about what they need than what they want.

I often remember a quote by Henry Ford. He said, “If I’d asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” It’s exactly the same. Then Steve Jobs came out and said, “Customers don’t know what they want until they see it, or until they have it.” It’s very much the same there. In the book we talk about Sue, the hero of the book, taking the clients on a journey of discovery as we call it. What the people in the book or the buyer in the book actually thought they wanted was just a better cyber security solution. Through the discovery, Sue the hero understood that there was a lot more to it than that. There was a lot of customer support and customer satisfaction issues.

You mentioned about the number of buyers. By digging deeper than just the people that were worried about the security and talking to the customer support and the marketing people, she understood then that the security system they had in place was blocking development that they needed to maintain their leadership position with their clients.

What they needed was a better security system, but also one that allowed their marketing and their product development people to understand more about the customer, more about what the customers were inquiring about when they came on. What they wanted and what they needed were not necessarily the same, but if you can package what you discover someone needs with what they want, you really got a winner there.

Fred Diamond: Again, I recommend everybody get the book. It’s wherever good books are sold. What are some of the things that Sue did to distinguish herself to be able to discover this?

Wayne Moloney: The first was early engagement and early engagement by building her profile, becoming that domain expert. Writing pieces that were on LinkedIn, getting the good discussion pieces, by getting into a position where she was invited in to do speaking engagements at security seminars, and building that profile. She had a high level of credibility, Fred. What she then did is she engaged with an advocate within the organization that was able to give her guidance on the right people to speak to within the organization. She had that person on side.

What she then did is, she didn’t push the product and that’s the important thing. She went in there and she agreed to assist them in that journey of discovery by going in and talking to those numerous people in that decision making process or the decision making unit who are going to make a decision or are going to influence the decision and understand exactly what the key drivers were for them. As you said earlier, you’ve got finance, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got operations.

Each of them are going to have a slightly different take on what’s needed. Sue did that and she helped them develop their own value proposition as to what it was that they really needed. She helped the people that were struggling to get their message heard by some of the others in that decision making process and help them get that message across. While they thought they needed a security solution, they actually made a decision to go with something which was much bigger than that and influence the entire business rather than just keeping the bad guys out.

Fred Diamond: One thing you talk about in the book is the six buyer archetypes that you encounter in the complex sale. It’s interesting. We actually have a question here that comes in from Jean. Jean says, “Did sue get any pushback from her customer?” A lot of times when we talk about objections, and this is a typical sales thing is, what might be some of the objections that we come across and how do we get past them?

A lot of the objections are, how do you get past the gatekeeper and how do you get past price and all that type of stuff? Sales training ad nauseam, you’ve probably been in hundreds of sessions as a customer to sales training organizations also. Here we’re talking about something slightly different which is, hey, I have some ideas for you. I’ve given your problem a lot of thought. You really have to get to that level of trusted advisor A, to get the meeting, B, to get people to buy in that you’re bringing them value. It’s not that easy.

We talk about that a lot. We talk about, you need to be a trusted advisor. You got to bring solutions that they don’t know but you still need a customer who’s receptive to you bringing them that value. It’s not easy in the early part of your career. Obviously, as you get more advanced, you’ve been working with the customer, you achieve that domain expertise, you’ve been bringing solutions for some cases, decades, you get to that point, but early on it’s a challenge.

Wayne Moloney: It is. You mentioned the six archetypes. What’s critical is the key archetype that you need to get to in complex selling and in higher level corporate selling is what we refer to as the champion. We break the six archetypes, and we actually developed a series of cards that we put together that people can use. On the back of it, it’s got details of what turns them on, what their drivers are. We’ve broken them down into two types, the change agent and the advocate.

The change agents are the people either by position or by personality have got the power, if you like, to influence others in the organization. They’ve got the power to be able to make change or to influence change to drive consensus within an organization. We break them down into three. We’ve got the inquisitor. The inquisitor is the one that’s going to drag your proposal, anything you put up there. They’re going to drag it through a process of inquisition. They’re really going to try and pull that apart and understand everything about that.

The sage, they’re the ones that are going to be looking more on communicating the idea to others. You need a sage on board, but the champion is the person that you really need on your side. If you can’t find a champion who is supportive of what you’re doing, you’re probably best not to be engaging that because there can be a positive champion, and there can be a negative champion. The negative champion is the champion of your competitor. You need someone outside there.

Sue found that person who was able to guide her among the organization as to who needed to be on board, what were their decisions and point her in the right direction, but she also found in there a mercenary. That was someone that was really against what she was for. They were the advocate or the champion for her competitor. She needed to look at ways that she could sideline that person and leverage the relationships with the others in the organization that she had so that she could do that.

She did that by building a really strong relationship with an accomplice, an advocate that didn’t have the power to make decisions or make the change, but understood the organization and was respected enough in the organization that he could get her meetings with people that were influential. Part of that was getting her to a champion who saw what Sue was trying to deliver in that change that was more than just a better security system but something that went much broader than that within the organization, and he was able to help bring her through the organization and get to the right people.

It wasn’t till right at the end of that decision making process that she was able to bring her mercenary on side. Up until then he had dug his heels in and was right against her, and he was a thorn in her side through it. She had to work by sidelining him as she worked with the others until the end when he was able to be brought on board.

It is difficult but as you said, there’s more and more people in the buying process these days, but that also creates opportunity. In the older days where there was less people, it was very easy for you to get sidelined early because you couldn’t find the right person. But now that there’s more people in that buying decision, there is more opportunity for you to understand some different issues within the organization and be able to find someone that will be able to support you.

Fred Diamond: We have a question that comes in from Geraldine. Geraldine says, “Wayne talks about people at the company. Who should Sue be really relying upon in her company?” That’s actually a great question. What are some of your thoughts? You do a great job here spelling out the archetypes and you have the cards in the book, it’s crystal clear and who these people are and that’s real.

A lot of times people say, “Well, that’s not critical anymore.” It’s hugely critical. Because again, at the end of the day, even if it’s the most complex sale on the planet, you still have to deal with people and get them to be influenced and build their confidence and make it easier for them, remove the risk, especially when you’re in tech and those types of things. But who do Sue tap into internally? To use the other archetype of the super sales professional, and those are six different types of personalities that Sue needs to figure out. Who did sue rely upon internally to be successful?

Wayne Moloney: We took a slightly different approach with this. We wanted to highlight in the book good and bad leadership, because I see one of the weaknesses in the sales chain is sales management, sales leadership, because there’s less and less investment in the development of those than there is in salespeople. Throw money at training your salespeople, you’ve done your job. We used someone that actually dies in the first chapter of the book, without giving too much away. He had been Sue’s mentor. He left Sue a manuscript which guided her through a process. She was referring back to this, so he remained her mentor. If you like, that was a bit of the novel bringing things to life.

We also had in there the black hat sales manager. The guy that came in that was the old school, drove the metrics, didn’t do development, and he was really a thorn in her side. One of the things that happens for salespeople is they think a lot about networking and when they think about networking, they think about networking external.

It’s about building the network of who can guide them into the right direction, introduce them to the right people. How do I network through the organization I’m working with? But just or more importantly is to have the right network internally, because if you haven’t got people supporting you internally, you’re just as likely to fail as if you haven’t made the right connections within your client or within your prospect.

Sue worked here, she built a very strong relationship with the regional sales director and she was very supportive. She built a very strong relationship with another sales enablement marketing colleague who was very supportive and helpful through there. She built a very, very strong relationship with their solutions architect who was able to build and explain the solution that they were putting in place in a way that was easily understood by the client.

She built those areas of understanding and expertise. In this instance, there was also an external implementer, a consulting company that came in to implement and she built a strong relationship with them as well. She had a lot of support, and in that way, was also able to sideline to some extent the dictating sales manager who was really not in favor of the project that she was taking on.

Fred Diamond: Wayne, you’ve spent all your career in sales and sales leadership, you’ve consulted and you’ve led teams, you’ve been involved in so many different types of products. There’s a classic meme or a graphic that’s out there that shows our plan for success. It’s like a straight line. I guess it’s a 45-degree angle from the XY axis all the way through the end. In reality, sales isn’t a linear process, especially in complex B2B and also depends what you sell. A lot of it depends upon the customer’s budget, their budget year.

You just mentioned, there are so many people involved in the process. You also mentioned, there was a consulting organization that was brought in as well and everybody in the process wants to, I’m not going to say cover their butt per se, but everybody has a job they want to win. It may not be competitive win, but everybody wants to keep their job and show value, etc. Talk about that a little bit because you do a great job in the book demonstrating Sue’s journey to eventually satisfy the customer. Why is sales no longer a linear process? Talk about that for a little bit.

Wayne Moloney: You’re right about people wanting to cover their butts, but you’ve also got people in the decision-making process that are looking at different outcomes. Different outcomes for themselves personally and different outcomes for their department. As a salesperson, you’ve got to be a project manager as much as you’ve got to be a salesperson these days. You’ve got to manage that project from point A to point B, and it’s a parallel process. You’ve got to be managing various people at the same time. You can’t just go through and tick the box. Their ideas will change over time, so you’ve got to be managing that in parallel rather than in serial, one after another.

You’ve got to also bring in other people that you can trust. Sales is a team game. Sales is no longer a game of singles tennis. Sales is now a game of whatever code of football you follow. It’s a team game. If you like to use the American football analogy, Sue’s got to be the quarterback. She’s got to be the playmaker and she’s got to have the right people around her to be able to help her get to the infield. She needs to be project managing that, she needs to be bringing together and have the support of the right people within the organization to bring together a team that will help her address it.

When I moved into data communications many years ago, I had no idea about data communications but I was brought onto the company because of my business development skills. What I used to do is I had worked with the people that made the business decision, and when it got technical, I would introduce my technical team to their technical team. I would close the door and let them go at it until they came up with a solution of how to implement and what impact it was going to have.

To do that, I needed to have a solutions team, a technical support team that I could trust. One that was not going to go in there and look at it just from that technical perspective but also had the idea and the understanding of what the commercial aspect was. You’ve got to build that team around you. It’s no longer, as I said, no longer a game of singles tennis, it’s now a game of football and you need to have the right team around you.

Fred Diamond: We covered a lot today with Wayne Maloney. It’s interesting, the Institute for Excellence in Sales who is obviously the key sponsor of the Sales Game Changers podcast that you’re all listening to, we deal with B2B complex sales. A lot of things you talked about today make so much sense in all of the various aspects. There’s multiple people at the customer with their changing missions, and then you throw in macro things like a pandemic. Then you throw in things like industries that have shifted.

Obviously, hospitality is beginning to come back, entertainment is beginning to come back but for a long time they would throw some curveballs. Then even internally, you have to manage that delicate balance of people. I worked at Apple Computer and Compaq Computer for a long time, and we used to always talk about sales inhibitors internally, like legal or finance, who didn’t understand what the mission was, and the mission is to serve the customer. Yeah, you want to maintain integrity of course, in4 the company’s financial and legal but we want to bring our solutions to the customer.

Wayne, congratulations on the book. I recommend people pick it up. It’s available wherever good books are sold. Congratulations also again on how you’ve impacted so many sales careers over your career. You’ve managed so many great people, you’ve consulted to so many companies, you’ve led some great sales teams, which took you to this journey right now where you’re able to be a co-author of the Wentworth Prospect which really is a fascinating book and it was a nice twist in the novel aspect to it.

Congratulations to you and John for realizing you needed to bring in someone who could really write and make it compelling because it is, as they say, it’s a page turner. You don’t want to put the book down and you can knock it out in an hour and really get the gist. As we usually do with the Sales Game Changers podcast, we like to wind up with an action step for people either watching today’s webcast, today’s virtual learning session or listening as a podcast. Give us one final action step, Wayne Moloney to help them take their sales career to the next level.

Wayne Moloney: Focus on the client’s outcome, not on your product. All too often we go in there and all we’re trying to do is push the differentiators in our product. The time of feature, function, benefit, not there now, it’s about what’s the outcome. Go in, do a deep discovery, understand how you can influence positively and deliver value as well as defined by the client, and then talk about your product. Don’t do it too early.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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