Anyone who has ever owned a business or been responsible for sales and marketing knows how hard it is to win new business. Business development is one of the most difficult responsibilities in any organization. This is the primary reason that sales and marketing people are often among the most highly compensated individuals in a business.
In my experience over the past 25 years, most B2B companies excel at the technical aspects of their business. Many B2B leaders have a technical or engineering background. The technical areas of their business are their comfort zone. As a result, product design and production feel natural to them. However, when it comes to things like marketing strategy, PR, advertising, sales and customer service, many B2B leaders readily admit they are out of their element. And, yet, we all know that without a steady pipeline of sales orders, the business will stagnate and decline.
I know this feeling all too well coming from an engineering and production background myself. I have learned ‘sales & marketing’ the hard way taking what works for me and what doesn’t from many mistakes on my own dime as a business owner. In retrospect, if I could go back and re-do things, I would have spent a few years early in my career as an apprentice with an organization that does sale and marketing really well. Alas, it didn’t happen, partly from my own ignorance and arrogance at the time.
My hope is that I can share with you some things I’ve learned along the way that will help you win more business and grow your company. Over the past couple of months I’ve shared with you Parts 1 & 2 of a three part blog series on Implementing The 7 Elements. As most of you know by now, the 7 Elements framework is my attempt to de-mystify the ‘sales & marketing’ functions for B2B companies and professional services firms.
Again, here are the 7 elements:
The 7 Elements
1. Build Awareness: I am familiar with your company
2. Develop Understanding: I understand what your company does, and how it is are unique
3. Create Interest: I sense that what your organization offers is credible, relevant and potentially of value to me
4. Inspire Belief: I believe that your unique offering is our optimal solution
5. Earn Trust: I trust that you are honest and dependable. I believe you have my best interests at heart, and I feel comfortable working with you
6. Determine Ability: I have the funds and organizational support needed to buy from you
7. Gauge Readiness: The timing is right and is now a priority for us to do business together
In my experience, getting through these 7 elements is challenging. And, yet, it is important that we do so if we are to have success in growing our business. I believe the difficulty stems from a handful of predictable forces that that are not always understood and are hard to overcome. These forces have nothing to do with innovation, technology, or quality. They are based upon human nature, group sociology, and individual psychology.
In today’s segment, Part 3, I’m going to share with you 5 types of resistance that we will all face in winning business from new customers. I believe that by understanding these ‘headwinds’, you’ll face them with understanding, confidence and persistence so that you may overcome them in a professional way. This list may not be exhaustive, and you may have others that you’ll add to your own list. But hopefully this list will get you thinking about the challenges we face in attracting new customers so that you can find solutions that work for you.
A favorite quote of mine is by Charles Kettering, a successful engineer, inventor and business leader in the early 20th century: “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” By knowing the ‘problems’ we’ll face as we strive to grow our business, I hope that we’ll be well on our way to overcoming them.
5 Types Of Customer Resistance
- Too Much Noise: There is so much marketing and sales noise today that it is very hard to get our messages heard. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with people trying to sell us something. Email, Internet, social media, mobile devices, direct mail, billboards, TV, radio, etc. Consider this statement: “The typical consumer is overwhelmed with unwanted advertising, and has a natural tendency to discard all information that does not immediately find a comfortable (and empty) slot in the consumer’s mind.” Jack Trout, “Industrial Marketing” Magazine When do you think this statement was made? Would you believe 1969? It’s true. Even before computers, mobile phones and tablets, society was overwhelmed by marketing noise. And nearly 50 years later, it’s truer than ever. As marketing professionals, we have an uphill battle in building awareness, understanding, interest, belief and trust with our audience. Fortunately, in B2B, we don’t have millions or even thousands of prospective customers. We often have just several hundred or maybe a few dozen companies that we are trying to reach. And, yet, it’s not easy to break through all of the noise.
- Reputation of Salespeople: We’ve all had a bad experience with a salesperson at some point in our lives. Pushy. Manipulative. Maybe even dishonest. Most likely, we’ve had numerous experiences with bad salespeople. These bad experiences create a wall of resistance that is hard for us to break through – even for honest sales professionals working for excellent companies.
- Resistance to Change: Organizations don’t like to switch vendors. Unless an incumbent vendor has made a big mistake or there is an internal mandate for change, maintaining the status quo is simply the path of least resistance. Maintaining things just as they are creates a powerful force that is often hard to overcome. Even if your product is higher quality or a better value, the natural tendency for customers is to stick with a current vendor. Think about the last time you had to change your bank, cell phone provider, or car insurance. It was a royal pain, right? Unless we are particularly annoyed with a vendor, our first instinct is typically to stay put.
- Fear of Being Burned: Caveat Emptor: ‘Let the buyer beware’. Many (most?) of us are hard-wired to be skeptical of new products, companies, brands or salespeople with whom we are unfamiliar. We can all recall a time when we purchased something new, and the reality didn’t quite match the marketing hype. It’s bad enough with this happens to us in our personal lives; a bad outcome with a new car model, a new house from an unfamiliar builder, or a new vacation spot. However, in business, being the person who chooses a new vendor which doesn’t work out can have significant career consequences. The most common approach is to let somebody else try something new; we’ll wait and see how it works out for them.
- Herd Mentality: Most people feel comfortable following the crowd. We’ve all followed the old wisdom, “Eat at the restaurant with a lot of cars.” Companies are no different. There is safety in numbers. This is why it’s so powerful to be a market leader. It’s much easier to sell your product when you have a large customer base, and are perceived as the dominant brand. This phenomenon is why there tends to be only two or maybe three major players for every product or service category. Companies are even more prone to this than individual consumers. B2B decisions are often based upon the input of a number of individuals, and the more people involved in the decision – the more likely they will follow the crowd.
Whew! That’s a lot of resistance that we have to overcome as marketing and sales professionals. It’s a wonder we have the strength to get up and go to work each day. Well, don’t despair. The 5 types of resistance outlined above are simply that, ‘resistance’. They create ‘headwinds’ that we must overcome. But, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to overcome them. To the contrary, the organizations that are the most successful at winning new business understand these challenges and have developed creative solutions which allow them to succeed.
I’ll close with a short list of tips from Part 2 – Implementing The 7 Elements. By following a few suggestions outlined here, we can be more successful in winning new business:
- Begin With A Clear Marketing Strategy
- Have A Clear, Concise Marketing Message
- Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome
- Tie Everything You Do To One Of The 7 Elements
- Be Professional In Everything You Do That Touches The Customer
- Build Authentic Relationships
I welcome your feedback as to what has worked in your business. I’m constantly learning from other successful people and organizations. This is a never ending journey for me. Like many difficult endeavors in life, the most successful among us strive for perfection knowing that they’ll never get there. Most importantly, I hope you find my ideas thought-provoking and helpful.
If you missed my earlier blog posts or my white paper, here they are should you care to read them:
The 7 Elements: A Strategic Framework For Winning New Business in B2B
B2B Business Development: Part 1 – Implementing The 7 Elements
B2B Business Development: Part 2 – Implementing The 7 Elements
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