11 Lessons Learned From 35 Years in B2B Sales

Lessons learned from 35 years in B2B (business-to-business) sales.

After nearly four decades in the sales and marketing industry, I have learned many lessons about effective sales. Selling came naturally to me as a child when I discovered an opportunity to collect lost golf balls and sell them to golfers close to my backyard. Since then, I've been hooked on learning the best practices in sales and honing my skills to create a successful growth strategy.

Here are some essential lessons I learned that can help strengthen your sales process and close more deals.

Show Your Customer You Care

People can tell if you are using them solely for your next paycheck. Sales isn't just about sales tactics. Building a relationship with meaningful conversation will leave a lasting impression that you care. It also makes your job easier by understanding what matters to them and finding solutions for their problems. Actions speak louder than words.

Listen for Cues

While it's extremely important to do your research before a sales meeting, it's equally as important to be receptive to your clients' cues. Some people don't want to be sold to. They have done their research, they know what they want, and they want you to give it to them as fast as possible.

Others want you to take another approach to sales. They want to hear your pitch, ask questions, and get you to explain to them why your product or service will solve their problem.

Know What You Are Selling

Being a sales representative means presenting your product/service in the best light, so it helps to be passionate about it! It's hard to sell what you don't know.

  • What are the strengths?
  • What are the weaknesses?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • What makes this different than the others?
  • What are your customers' experiences?

Knowing the answer to all of these is what adds value for the customer in making their final decision.

Really, Know What You Are Selling

I can't think of one instance where the product you are selling is ACTUALLY what you are selling. Let me explain:

  • Mattresses sell sleep
  • Furnaces sell comfort
  • Yoga sells health and mobility
  • Cars sell convenience and status

For many years I sold radio ads. Advertisers don't care about the music that the radio station plays. They care about who the people are that are listening to that station. That's what you are selling.

Don't Use Jargon

Change industry terms to make them understandable to the everyday person. Using terms people aren't familiar with doesn't make you look cool, it makes you look out of touch. It puts your client in a position to feel less-than and you end up speaking two different languages. Great customer service involves using plain language.

Stay Curious

Thirty-five years ago we learned from magazines, books, and cassettes. Now, there are tools on the internet for everything! I have always had a thirst for learning and loved finding tools that could improve my sales performance.

A great example is untools.co, which offers tools for better thinking, but I encourage you to subscribe to mediums you enjoy, whether that be podcasts, newsletters, or websites, to help you stay on top of your craft.

Be Memorable

Find a way to stand out to your clients in a way that matters. I was there for them when they needed me, but also when they didn't, in a no-pressure way.

I would always keep my eyes out for articles that might interest my clients. When I sent it to them I would add the subject line, "Saw This, Thought of You."

It's quite likely they never read the articles I sent, but they remembered that I kept them top of mind.

Anticipate Objections

A lot of prep before my sales calls or meetings would be anticipating objections. I would review my sales solution and write down every objection I could think of to try and understand the risk from their perspective. This helped me confidently handle objections without hesitation or being caught off guard.

Manage Your Time

Find out what really matters to your sales performance and give it your time. For me, it's prospecting. Block off time for the tasks that are important to your business and make sure it gets done at a time that works for you. Whether it's social media, phone calls, email marketing, standard mail, or Zoom calls, these are all valuable tools to connect with your customers. Whatever communication tool you use, consistency is key.

Give Yourself Grace

Not all days are great days. Don't waste your time forcing something that isn't going to happen. If you aren't feeling it, go home. Take a walk and change your scenery. Do something you enjoy and get out of your head!

The self-care craze right now is a valuable lesson that more people in sales should embrace. Your sales performance will improve if you take a little time for yourself.

Ask For Referrals

Referrals are extremely valuable in sales because you have been introduced by someone their network already trusts. A great tactic is scoping out shared social connections and asking if you can get insights on mutual connections you would love to meet. Ask if there is anyone they are comfortable introducing you to, or ask for permission to mention your connection's name when you make a call yourself.

What I know for sure is that connections are important in the sales industry. I worked to develop strong relationships, filled my knowledge bank and applied what I could. It helped me secure many successful sales and enjoy what I do - the most important part!

If you are looking for one-on-one sales consulting to help you solve your sales challenges in a no-pressure, private setting, contact me here today.


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