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7 B2B Sales Techniques that ACTUALLY Work (Based on 5 Years of Research)

Selling & Closing

Are you looking for B2B sales techniques that actually work?

You’re not alone! Sadly, the tools and resources that are supposed to help us sell more don’t always deliver as they should. Which is why I dedicated 5 years to interviewing top sales professionals and researching 50 books on business, behavior change, and selling.

What I found was shocking!

There are powerful sales techniques being used by smart salespeople to consistently win the deal — and though they could be applied in any industry, many people aren’t even aware of them.

Today, we’re going to fix that…

Keep reading to learn 7 B2B sales techniques that ACTUALLY work:

  1. Target with a Cannonball NOT a Shotgun
  2. Anchor the Sale in the Why
  3. Prepare to Win a Million Dollars
  4. Use Tactile Negotiation Strategy
  5. Win the First Five Seconds
  6. Frame the Loss Not the Gain
  7. Uncover and Deliver V.A.L.U.E.

But first…

It’s About Sales Techniques, not Methodologies

Having been trained on Spin Selling, Challenger Sales, and various other methodologies, I’ve always been frustrated by two things.

First, these methods stem from books written by researchers and consultants, not SALESPEOPLE!

Sure, the research is sound and the methods have their place in understanding how to sell; however, no single selling method will work for everyone in B2B. We all have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. There is no silver bullet to selling.

Second, they never seem to spend enough time on general business acumen.

Selling is paramount to successful products and companies. How can we be expected to sell better without a strong understanding of the business side of the transaction? There are so many great books on behavior change, influence, negotiation, leadership, and decision-making. Why is that research not included in traditional sales training?

So, with that as my motivation, five years ago I set out on a mission to find the innovation going on around me in B2B sales. My “method” would be to interview the top salespeople and business minds I could find with the hope of accelerating the learning curve that most of us experience in selling.

What I found was that there are salespeople who succeed year in and year out. Much of what they’re doing could be applied in any industry — but it’s not.

My goal now is to share the ideas that ACTUALLY work out in the field and in practice. So let’s dig in.

1. Target with a Cannonball NOT a Shotgun

The Pareto law states that 80% of output will come from the top 20% of input. Less is more when you create this kind of awareness and focus.

Find the customers that are likely to benefit the most from what you have to offer and start there. Then, as you approach closing a deal, generate that laser focus.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are the top 20% of targets that will drive 80% of sales?
  • What 20% of your actions drive 80% of results?

Also, avoid the natural fear that comes along with the potential to fail. You will crash and miss on some targets from time to time.

When you do fail, ask the customer what would have been needed to secure the business. Strive for candidness and openness and apply the learnings to that next big target!

2. Anchor the Sale in the Why

Understand the customer’s “why,” and you will guide them to “buy.” Imagine you are selling a new BMW to a young business professional who wants it for status. They have no interest in the engine, the BMW tradition, or any of the features and benefits.

Now, let’s say you engage with the customer and find out he’s searching for something “unique”? He wants something he can tout as one of a kind. You, on the other hand, happen to know of a car on the lot that was just returned on loaner from a high profile CEO.

With this information, you can then share the history of the car’s previous owner and likely generate that “one of a kind” perception. Uncovering and then leading with the “why” is far more likely to generate the sale than spouting off features, advantages, and benefits of no interest.

Questions to Ask the Customer

Why? Lean Six Sigma strategy touts the “five why strategy.” Try to ask five “why” questions.

  • Why is this important to you?
  • Why has this become your priority?
  • Why did you choose your current vendor or product?
  • Why would you consider switching?
  • Why would you be concerned to switch?

3. Prepare to Win a Million Dollars

A million-dollar target in B2B isn’t that hard to find for most. For that matter, neither is finding and landing a sales job that could pay you a million dollars in commission over a period of time with the company.

If someone was offering a million dollars next Thursday to the person that could deliver the best presentation, could you prepare in a manner that would assure you the win?

How many times do we prepare for a big presentation or interview and only do what we think will be enough to win? The harsh truth is you often only get one shot.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • If there are five other viable competitors, am I confident I’ve prepared enough to assure myself the win?
  • If I lose this deal can I confidently say that I did everything I could do?
  • What might others be doing above and beyond what I’m doing to prepare?

4. Use Tactile Negotiation Strategy

There have been so many great business books on negotiation over the years, but most would likely agree that the hardest negotiation of all would be coming to the terms of release in a hostage situation.

Chris Voss, a former hostage negotiator with the FBI, explains in his book Never Split the Difference, “Forget about winning. The goal should be to have the other side feel like they won.”

The principles in his book are simple to understand but much harder to apply. In essence, you have to understand the goal is not for you to win, but instead to come to terms of “mutually beneficial agreement”.

Try to get the other person saying, “That’s right,” and avoid divulging any specifics until the very end.

Preconceptions often derail the negotiation. Get the other party talking. Have them divulge their specific needs, wants, and desires first. Listen, ask questions, listen, then act.

Questions to Ask the Customer

  • What would you ideally like to achieve?
  • How can I make your job easier?
  • What does the ideal outcome look like?
  • How can I prove my worth by tracking the outcome?
  • What measurements would spell success?

5. Win the First Five Seconds

Movies like Glengarry Glen Ross and The Wolf of Wall Street like to paint closing as the most important and highly sought-after skill in selling. However, the real artists craft a good opening.

“Win their hearts in the first five seconds,” says Aaron Wozniak, a multiple-year P-Club winner.

Over and over, the common thread amongst top sellers interviewed was a focus on a solid opening.

In general, you want to open the sales call in a manner that immediately generates trust and emotional connection. There are a number of techniques to achieve this, but transparency, empathy, and at times, even brutal honesty are often successful.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What is the other party thinking, feeling, or experiencing currently?
  • What can I say to get them to think I’m different than others before me?
  • How can I build instant credibility and trust to earn more time?

6. Frame the Loss Not the Gain

Behavioral psychologists like Jeni Cross Ph.D. and Dr. Robert Cialdini often talk about how we are much more loss-averse as a society than we are driven by gain. Change is hard and that is often what we are asking our customers to do.

How can you tip the scales in your favor by showing the customer what they will lose by not doing business with you?

Questions to Ask the Customer

  • We all have concerns when it comes to making a change. What is one concern you would have in partnering with me on this?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you currently face with the way you do things now?
  • How does that impact your business?

7. Uncover and Deliver V.A.L.U.E.

The last of the seven techniques we will share here is to be value-driven. The most consistent and common thread amongst the top reps interviewed was their focus on finding and delivering value. The best strive to uncover ways to add value where others before them had been ineffective.

If there is a silver bullet to selling, it is this. However, it requires experience, innovation, and entrenchment in the customer’s business to find it.

Questions to Ask and Places to Look (Think of V.A.L.U.E as an Acronym):

Variability: Where there is variability of product, service, or outcome, there is an opportunity to help the customer. Where are they experiencing inconsistency?

Automation: Look for areas you can help customers alleviate manual or redundant tasks. What’s the most annoying part of your job?

Lower Cost: You can reduce cost a number of ways for customers without lowering prices. Look for opportunity costs!!!

Uniquely Different: How can your product or service help uniquely differentiate your customer?

Excess Waste: How can you eliminate waste of time, money, or talent for the customer?

Putting it all Together

So, what are you to take away from all this?

Don’t think for a second that there is a “type” of salesperson that is best or a method that will always work. The “challenger” can be at the top of the sales ranks and so can the “relationship builder.”

The trick is to understand and develop your own system. If there is anything I’ve learned in thirteen years of B2B sales, it’s that “it’s not the age of the car, but the miles driven.”

Challenge yourself to be in a constant state of learning and application. Just as change doesn’t come easily for our customers, we too struggle to create new habits.

  1. Pick one of the techniques above and apply it to your own system for selling.
  2. Then, once you’ve mastered it, go find another technique to adopt as your own.

Cited sources:

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion: Robert B. Cialdini. Collins, 2007.

Dennis, Pascal. Lean Production Simplified: a Plain-Language Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Production System. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Talks, TEDx. “Three Myths of Behavior Change – What You Think You Know That You Don’t: Jeni Cross at TEDxCSU.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5d8GW6GdR0.

“Understanding the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule).” BetterExplained, betterexplained. https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/

Voss, Christopher, and Tahl Raz. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It. RH Business Books, 2016.

Tyler Menke has an MBA from Xavier University and is a career-long B2B sales professional with 13 years of experience in medical sales. He recently published and released a book entitled The Pirate’s Guide to Sales - A Seller’s Guide for Getting from Why to Buy. It can be found on Amazon, Kindle, and will soon be appearing on Audible!