What is B2B Sales Excellence in the Customer Age? Hint: Not Just a Numbers Game


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During the course of 2016, I’m intending to share a series of articles on “B2B Sales Excellence in the Customer Age”, and thought it would be useful to start by offering my explanation as to exactly what this theme involves and what I’m aiming to cover.

At a very simple level, you might think of sales excellence in terms of consistently and predictably achieving or exceeding your sales targets – and of course this is a very easily accessible way of measuring sales performance.

But I believe that sales excellence involves much more than that. Sales is more – or should be more – than simply a numbers game. Achieving your sales target by getting your customers to do things that aren’t in their best interests is no recipe for lasting sales success at either the individual or organisation level.

It’s obvious: in the Customer Age, if you do wrong, if you do your customers a disservice, you will get found out. Word will spread, bad Karma will multiply, and the cost of your actions will inevitably have a far greater impact than any short-term revenue gain.

I’m going to suggest a working definition of B2B sales excellence – one that I may well refine as the year progresses: Sales excellence involves achieving your targets by profitably satisfying your customer’s needs in an ethical and responsible way that does credit to both yourself and the organisation you represent.

I’m not going to attempt to disassemble this word by word, but I believe every element is important to the whole, and the definition clearly has some important implications for sales behaviour.

Firstly, you can’t define excellence solely through your actions or achievements: you have to also define it in terms of the impact your actions have on others. Second, doing the right thing but failing to achieve your targets cannot be regarded as excellent sales behaviour either. Both aspects have to come together if sales excellence is to be achieved.

Here’s Aristotle’s contribution to the debate: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny”.

I can relate (as I hope you can) to his belief that the achievement of, or progression towards, excellence requires that we make conscious and well-informed choices and that sales excellence is the consequence of a series of thoughtful acts and can, therefore, never be achieved by accident.

So here are a few of the practical questions I’m hoping to address as this series unfolds:

  • How can we thoughtfully identify the customer issues that we are best positioned to address, and how might we most effectively distinguish between interesting, important and compelling needs?
  • How can we systematically identify, engage and qualify the organisations that are most likely to turn into our most valuable customers?
  • How can we better understand the decision making unit within our prospects, and determine whether our contact is a true and effective change agent capable of establishing a coalition of the willing?
  • How can we qualify whether a given opportunity is a good fit for us, and how can we help our prospects make an informed decision about whether our solution is good fit for them?
  • How can we truly understand how and why our prospects choose to buy, and what can we do to facilitate their buying decision process?
  • How can we create a culture in which our sales people understand that it is better to walk away than to do the wrong thing by the customer?
  • How can we turn our satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates for what we could do for other organisations in a similar situation?

I hope you’ll agree that this is more than enough to be getting on with, but I’d certainly appreciate your contributions in shaping the content. Perhaps the best way to start would be by asking you to contribute your own definition of B2B sales excellence in the customer age.

How would you define B2B sales excellence in 2016? Are there any differences to your expectations of sales excellence as a consumer? And is there anything that B2B sales can learn from B2C when it comes to the pursuit of sales excellence? I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions.


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