My last post talked about the value of salespeople and how they help clients and their companies achieve important goals. This time I'll focus on the role of salespeople in a relationship model, common to many business-to-business and outsourcing arrangements.
Salespeople must match the value of their product to the needs of their clients. This means all salespeople don't perform the same activities or require exactly the same skills: it really depends on your industry and your company's offerings and culture.
Most people are familiar with the transactional sales model. This is normally associated with low-priced, low-margin products in exchanges that require minimal effort by either side. The salesperson does little, if any, analysis on his or her clients and basically processes orders from those who are interested. There is no customer service after the sale (and sales and customer service are usually separate functions), nor is relationship-building required.
At the opposite end of the sales spectrum is the enterprise sale. This type of process is central to the creation and implementation of outsourcing partnerships and many other complex deals. It requires a high degree of effort from the salesperson to know their clients' businesses and assess their needs. Decisions are typically made by teams versus individuals. Since a successful partnership is a long-term venture; trust, loyalty and confidence have to be established and maintained with all of the participants. And to forge a mutually-beneficial situation, the salesperson must be transparent in communications and execution so that all parties are comfortable and apprised on activities.
When entering into an enterprise-type sales process, there is potential for problems even if you are the best salesperson available to manage and facilitate the relationship.
Here is my advice.
1. Focus on creating business value rather than solely on the price or immediate savings.
Cost-cutting without improvements or innovation will limit the overall value of any change. A good salesperson should always be looking for ways to improve the ROI for their clients. If you don't, they will quickly move onto the next provider who offers a discount!
2. Ensure the proper processes are in place and that communication is a priority.
The salesperson's role is to liaise with clients and his or her company to facilitate quick fixes to any issues and problems that may arise, as well as to provide positive feedback internally on everything that is working well. Do you have a system or a schedule in place to stay in touch regularly with clients?
3. Plan to expand.
Partnerships that drive innovation and increased revenue evolve and will require additional resources over time. You have to monitor the progress and coordinate appropriate next steps. I've had many clients double or triple their business once the relationship was proven and it is much easier to sell to existing accounts than to win new ones. If you are not in regular, proactive contact, you won't know if additional needs arise or your competitors are knocking on their doors.
4. Create deals that are fluid and flexible to adapt to changing business conditions.
Partnerships should continually be enhanced and improved. They need to be constantly monitored so both parties are getting the results they expect. In other words, don't think your job is done once the contract is signed.
5. Coach your clients on implementation requirements and demands.
I've seen in my role that many companies believe their products, processes or customers are special or unique and request customization. You can educate and encourage conformance to industry standards that will increase quality, throughput and scale—meaning the clients actually get better results. Remember, you are the expert guiding your client through the process. They need the benefit of your experience.
In the end, if you work to understand the objectives of your prospects, build your knowledge and experience, and focus on the best outcome for your company and clients, you will not only be successful, you will have great references that will help you sell even more!