If you’re looking for a concise yet comprehensive book on business to business (B2B) sales, this is it. Geoffrey James stumbled onto the world of sales and he’s a “sales fanboy”. He finds “the behaviors and concepts involved in selling to be endlessly fascinating” and is “especially intrigued by B2B selling”, which he considers to be “the heart and soul of the business world”. Me too. We are kindred spirits, though I have sold a lot of stuff over the 35+ years of sales experience, while he has only written about sales, but that too takes some sales talent to get the kind of exposure that he has.
For the past 15+ years, he’s interviewed the world’s greatest sales experts for his blog and columns. He goes back to those experts for each chapter of this book, to highlight their particular sales specialty and give us their boiled down wisdom as concisely as he can. He believes that this book “provides the ground work for a successful career in B2B sales.”
The Big Idea
Master the B2B Sales Process and Success is Yours!
"B2B selling is not complicated, if you know how the process works."
Selling business to business (B2B) is fundamentally different from selling to consumers (B2C). Typically, the B2B sales person visits the prospect at their place of business, instead of the prospect coming to the seller’s location. Timeframes tend to be longer and the sales process is more involved. The sales professional must be knowledgeable about their prospects and their business in order to ask the right questions with authority and then present a suitable solution. Closing the sale takes practice to make it sound natural.
B2B selling involves larger amounts of money – sometimes millions of dollars, as well as a large number of people who must give their input into the buying decision. B2B selling is more sensitive to economic disruption – remember the recession that started with the housing crisis of 2008 in the USA? It affected more than just the homeowners and banks. The repercussion filtered down to everyone and not just in the USA either.
Having been in sales for over 35 years, I know that learning to sell is a teachable skill, as I was not a born sales person. A professional sales person continues to learn, grow and hone their sales skills all the time.
Each part of the B2B sales process takes time to master. Prospecting for clients is a different skill, sometimes called being a sales hunter as compared to being a sales farmer, where you look after and nurture established accounts.
What’s your story?
"Every sales message is a story. Unfortunately it’s usually the wrong one."
“In effective sales messages,” James writes, “the customer is the hero, the goal is what the customer wants to accomplish and your firm is the supporting character who helps that customer achieve that goal.”
Lousy sales messages make “your firm the hero, the goal is making a sale and the customer is the supporting character who either helps or hinders that sale”. This is NOT the way to present your story.
He uses IBM as an example of a company with a really strong sales message (which I can confirm, being an ex-IBMer myself and where I learned to sell). “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM”. IBM never had the best technology; only the best trained marketing representatives, as we were called back then. We leveraged on others’ fears that choosing the smaller competitor would leave them open to some risks that would never happen if you went with the market bully IBM.
Do not let buzzwords ruin communication between you and your prospects. Get rid of those right sizing, paradigm shifting, out-of-the-box recontextualizing ubiquitous synergetic monetizing BS words (funny enough James’ upcoming book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know due out May, 2014).
He has a list of buzzwords to avoid. Are you guilty of using: customer centric, enterprise-wide, all-hands meeting, center of excellence, big picture, scalable, offline, outside the box, world-class, or -izing things like conceptualize, monetize? Be more original and use language that you’d use talking to your best friend.
As sales messaging has moved to social media and email, you need to be concise and convincing in your written communications. A short well-written message sells.
Rejection = Success
"Reframe Failure as a Part of Success"
I don’t know if anyone ever grows used to rejection. Doesn’t it always hurt or only sting when a prospect rejects your proposal? There’s always a bit of you that takes it personally, even if you don’t show it.
James helps you reframe rejection as just another stepping-stone on your path towards sales success. He says that “the simple truth is that if you’re not getting rejected, you’re not really selling”.
Rejections lead to a sale – eventually you hope, so you’re being paid to be rejected. That makes it easier to take, doesn’t it?
He recommends that you take three Post-it notes and write
REJECTION = SUCCESS
on them and stick them by your phone, on your bathroom mirror and near your briefcase, so that you’re continually reminded that the path to success is through rejection. Read that message until you realize that a valid rejection means you need to spend more time improving your sales skill in an area. “Notice where in the sales process you got rejected and see where it went wrong.”
In under 200 pages, Geoffrey James has managed to write about everything in the B2B sales process from prospecting, crafting a compelling sales message, to nurturing the prospects to a closed sale and beyond. He’s got enough for both the novice sales person to the seasoned professional to get something out of this book. All professional sales pros need the occasional booster shot of theory, so they’ll find something in this book that is a reminder of what had been learned and forgotten at past sales training classes.
I’ve read dozens of sales books in my career, but this one is a keeper, exactly as he had hoped. And I’ll be recommending it to my sales coaching clients as a concise overview book on B2B selling, updated for sales in the 21st century.
In the comments below, let us know…
What’s your favourite go-to book on sales? What should I read next and why? Which book has given you an ‘aha sales moment’?