Thinking retail when comes to B2B sales

Effective prospecting is a totally different game now


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There are too many technology walls and filters against traditional sales calls for them to be effective today. Not only that, the buyer mindset has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Cold calls were once respected, even appreciated by many buyers at a time when salespeople offered new product information and comparison-shopping opportunities.

There was once, on a certain level, a sense of obligation to respond to the persistent salesperson’s calls. Do you see that sense of obligation working for your selling efforts now? As a salesperson, do you feel it out there anymore?

Voicemail and automated call answering were first, the speed and reliability of the Internet were second, and the cultural shift toward “build a relationship and earn my trust before I will even talk with you” (resulting from the peer-to-peer socialization of business and commerce) is the final nail in the coffin of cold-call selling.

Sidewalk canvassing doesn’t even work anymore because many business entrances are locked for security. I remember how awkward it felt ringing a buzzer without an appointment and struggling to offer a valid reason to be let in the door. Welcoming front desks and receptionists have been vanishing as fast as payphones.

Bottom line: Effective prospecting is totally different now, and traditional, old-school prospecting methods will mostly fail. We’ve hit that tipping point, much to the chagrin of many experienced sales pros who are reluctant to embrace technological and cultural business changes.

So what’s a salesperson to do these days? Here’s what: Transition your energy from making enough calls to make the numbers work, to building enough relationships so your phone business calls are welcomed by enough prospects and they will call you when they need your product or service.

 

Becoming effective

 

The good news is this works really well. The bad news is the work is just as hard, maybe harder. As B2B is the new retail, networking is the new cold-calling. As networking is the new cold-calling, content marketing and consultative selling are the new follow up and close methods.

Your B2B prospect has choices at his fingertips and doesn’t necessarily want to be educated on what’s good for him and his business. The business owner and decision-maker of today still buys from whom she trusts and especially whom she both trusts and likes. At least that hasn’t changed!

Effective salespeople of today are constantly doing these things:

 • Attending events where prospects are numerous

 • Offering valuable information and advice to prospects

 • Providing leads and referrals to prospects

 • Building relationships on several social media channels

 • Writing, producing and sharing blog articles, newsletters and videos

 • Having coffees and lunches with customers and referral partners

 • Taking calls from interested prospects

 • Responding to requests for meetings by prospective clients

 • Closing new business on first meetings

Sound good? Notice how the bullet list starts with a few tough hurdles and ends with enjoyable, winning activities.

When a salesperson practices most or all of the above on a daily basis, he or she becomes like a bright, attractive storefront to the target audience. Buyers of big-ticket purchases will be excited to “walk in” to this shiny, merchandise-rich store and get just what they’re looking for. Herein we see the metaphor of the title.

So don’t “go out and sell something!” Instead, go out, make some friends and be a trusted adviser. Then stay in front of those new friends where they hang out physically and online.

Chuck Sink, a marketing consultant and writer specializing in branding and Web content strategies, can be reached at chuck@chucksink.com.

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