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B2B Sales

Winning the sale in 2017

Sales people must stop pushing…..and start using honey!

Give your buyer the experience that they actually want - allowing them to buy the way they want, when they want, and how they want. Using insights and value-adding content to help educate, guide and inspire your customers leaving them wanting to come back to you. The approach used A-Grade sales people reminds me of what my mother always says about “catching more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.

As I have said in many previous posts, we have now moved from vendor-push to customer pull models where the balance of power (in most markets) has shifted so significantly that the dynamic of most business engagements will never be the same again. In other words, B2B sales is now a totally different vocation in 2016 and beyond than it was only 10 years ago in 2006. Business leaders that fail to recognise this seismic shift, and whom continue to measure and manage their sales teams around sales tactics that are no longer relevant will seriously struggle to compete with the new wave of vendors that are now embracing the change…and I’m going to tell you about one shortly in this post. 

So what has changed?

Push Pull Table

Thinking back, nearly all of the training, advice and guidance that I have received throughout my career in sales was primarily focused around how to identify, influence, persuade, control and close a prospective buyer. Given where we are today in 2016, I’m now somewhat embarrassed when I look back at how we sales folks ‘pushed’ our customers through the sales process (no such thing as a buying journey back then) whether they were ready or not. In the old days we all used ‘interruptive-push’ (thanks Tony Hughes) tactics whereby sales people were often trying to ‘shoe-horn’ an ill-fitting product into poorly qualified customer requirements, and this old school approach almost always ends in some sort of post-purchase dissonance which of course leads to increased customer churn. In hindsight, that’s just plain stupid, and no longer acceptable in today’s hyper competitive markets.

So what does “Best Practice” look like in 2016?

By contrast to those embarrassing old push models, best practices today reveals a vastly different approach which converts the sales person into an educator, coordinator and facilitator, as opposed to the old self-serving control freaks from the vendor-push era. So, here is an example of the way B2B sales should be done in 2016 and beyond (IMHO).


I’m currently looking at marketing automation technologies for my own business, and so it was a great opportunity for me to play the role of buyer, and to closely examine the approach that some of today’s leading technology vendors are now using.

Having heard that HubSpot was an innovative marketing automation technology vendor, I naturally visited their website and eventually downloaded a white paper, knowing full well that this would trigger a phone call from a HubSpot representative at some point. The next day, Mr Jack Doran (HubSpot Inbound Marketing Specialist – from Sydney, Australia) called me and was not only polite, engaging and professional, but he was apparently not interested in following the old sales playbook. During our call, it was firstly obvious that Jack had researched my company before the call, and he made no attempt to try to ‘qualify’ me and I found this intriguing…….you see, I was waiting for the SPIN model or BANT style questions that would allow Jack to identify and highlight my pain. There was none of that. Instead, Jack simply used this initial phone call as an opportunity to discuss my business needs and knowledge of marketing automation, social media marketing and analytics. Jack then subtly helped to educate me on some of the high level commercial benefits of these types of modern tools.

We talked briefly about my business plan, and at no stage did Jack mention products, pricing, nor did he look to leverage any real or fabricated ‘compelling event’ that might have been driving my decision making. Jack finished this initial call with a rather unconventional: “OK Graham, really nice talking with you…just give me a call when you are ready to find out more about HubSpot”. What the? No probing or prodding about time-frames or deal size? No driving for a call-to-action? No pushing for ‘next steps’? As a sales person now acting as a buyer, the approach that Jack used felt odd to me whilst at the same time extremely refreshing. There was nothing ‘unpleasant’ or uncomfortable about my initial call with Jack, and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

About 3 weeks later, I received an email from Jack with another piece of value-adding content (an eBook). Again, no pushing or nudging, just a consultative approach with the apparent focus being on helping me to better understand things that I didn’t already know about. This is a clear example of a vendor that not only understands the customer-pull era, but also eats its own dog food. You see, HubSpot helps businesses around the world to attract and convert new customers through a myriad of clever inbound marketing tools, and they clearly practice what they preach with their own approach to sales. This is not just a well thought through sales process that is aligned with the new buying journey, but it is also an example of clever use of content marketing to help educate and inspire to drive inbound, so that when a buyer (me, in this case) enters a buying window, then HubSpot will be high on the ‘preferred vendors list’……all done without any “vendor-push”.

Cease & desist with the pressure tactics:

Yes, there are other savvy vendors also waking up to this new B2B sales approach, but many are still stuck in the rut of 2006 wondering why their conversion rates are heading south. The approach used by HubSpot in this instance reminded me of what my mother always says about “catching more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. In my opinion, the HubSpot approach is going to be the way that all sales people will operate in the future.

Give your buyer the experience that they actually want - allowing them to buy the way they want, when they want, and how they want. Using insights and value-adding content to help educate, guide and inspire your customers leaving them wanting to come back to you. Remember that buyers don’t care if you are desperate to build your pipe and generate new sales revenue…..and the more desperate you appear the more it signals to the buyer that something is wrong. HubSpot’s sales process told me (subliminally) that they are far from being desperate, and this helps to create the perception of a successful vendor….and one that I actually want to do business with.  

So, be patient, and play the long game…as long as you continue to add value over and above what your customers can find themselves (online) then you will be recognized as someone that buyers will want to do business with. Most importantly of all….DONT PUSH your prospective buyers. Period.

Mr Jack Doran, and the team at HubSpot Australia played it perfectly with me….so much so, that when the time is right I will become a HubSpot customer. And before you ask, no, I was not paid anything to endorse HubSpot in this way. Simply credit where credit is due.