#TJtalks: Steve Knapp on sales skills, trends and strategy – below is the transcript of the recent Training Journal Podcast
Training Journal 0:00
Hey guys, it’s Jon here. I recently taught to Plan.Grow.Do’s Steve Knapp.
We talked about skills for the modern b2b seller, what they can learn from b2c in the learning space, and also about future-proofing of sales strategy is even possible.
Let’s find out.
It’s really good to speak to Steve, it’s on a topic that we don’t cover that often, which is always nice.
So set that desk fan to the maximum. Get yourself a nice cold glass of water. And enjoy.
Link to the full podcast here 👉🏼 https://anchor.fm/the-tj-podcast/episodes/TJtalks-Steve-Knapp-on-sales-skills–trends-and-strategy-e14mbbj
Let’s set the scene a little bit. Tell me about Plan.Grow.Do.
Steve Knapp 0:34
And it’s a good conversation right now, I think sales in a post-pandemic if we can call it a post-pandemic space, because it’s really critical for many businesses.
And what Plan.Grow.Do. is, is a sales training company that helps sellers, sellers in sales teams and businesses find the confidence the structure and process to sell in what is undoubtedly a changed world.
Recognising that changed world is one of the most important responsibilities that we have as a trainer to bring these things forward.
And I think just to add to that, Jon, if I can, is it’s, it’s not about throwing away the best of a traditional experience, because there’s so much good in the profession of sales that needs to be nurtured.
But it’s actually blending a more modern approach into that toolkit of a seller.
So they ultimately connect with more of the buyers that they want to do business with.
Training Journal 1:51
So obviously, for reasons that everybody knows, we don’t have to go over things have changed a lot in the last year or so.
What are the skills that a modern b2b seller needs? Then how has the last year changed what people need to succeed?
Steve Knapp 2:08
I think there’s a number of dimensions to that, because you’ve got the seller, and you’ve got the leaders of sellers and you’ve got, you know, sometimes the business owners whose businesses and approaches have been very much focused and built around face to face relationships.
And there’s a lot of success out there that’s been built on that face to face. So there’s a lot of habits. There’s a lot of good relationships that are very secure, and very robust.
But overnight, we all know that that ability to leverage that face-to-face relationship, which many still perceive as the most powerful part of a sales, sales outcome is the relationship face to face was just switched off.
So what we see is one of the major skills that a modern seller needs to incorporate into their skill set is this ability to work online, as well as offline, recognising that actually, digital skills really do matter.
Content really matters, as well as the personal relationship.
So it’s not this one silver bullet that you hear people may be suggesting, social selling is the way forward.
What definitely has happened over this last 18 months, is that buyer’s habits have become more entrenched to search for information, search for suppliers online, that it’s really woken up some of the b2b sales companies, sellers, owners to recognise that they have to do things differently.
If you recognise two very important statistics that, you know, salesforce.com tells us that 90% of every decision begins online. Think about yourself as a consumer.
How many times do you start your journey to a purchase online, looking at reviews, looking at content, looking at case studies, this is all part of the modern sales process.
So much so that actually it’s said that 57% of a buyer’s decision is made before they even invite a modern seller to the phone call or to the physical meeting.
And that’s quite stark when you lay that across a more traditional sales approach that is happy to do sales calls the maybe is necessary in a modern environment.
Maybe they’re saving their relationship building to the golf course to the awards dinner.
Much of a modern sellers, sales skills now is about nurturing and building relationships in a digital sense, which for some has been an enormous change.
So I think that’s the skill.
If I was to pick number one, it’s about the blending of the digital content and relationship building into your everyday sales activities.
Training Journal 5:37
Regardless of which industry in which vertical and things like that, we see numerous examples of where business or business people working in a business or business company learned from the consumer space. none more so than in L&D.
How in particular, do you feel that sales teams are learning from b2c techniques, do you think?
Steve Knapp 6:02
I think it’s a great question, because, you know, our buyers are learning from a b2c environment.
So, you know, if we think about the amount of learning that’s available now, digitally online, be that online live, or be that through digital courses.
So yeah, without doubt learning, I get where you’re coming from.
But from a sales perspective, this is entirely the same. A
nd I think what we’re seeing is that we’re learning from the big brands, big consumer brands, in sales, we’re learning how to nurture the lifetime value of a relationship.
Because we’re learning the power of data.
We’re learning the power of lists, we’re learning how to use them, which is more important.
And how do we make timely connections to keep what we call people in “our holding pattern”.
How do we make sure that we’re communicating with our buyers while they’re in either in or not in their buying journey, because one of the things that digital gives us the opportunity to do, and this is what we’ve learned from b2c is that regular contact is really important.
And we don’t have to do that physically.
Read about the Holding Pattern
So we have an advantage in a modern sales environment, that we can use digital assets to stay connected to our customer.
And as long as what we’re learning from the b2c space, is that actually, we’re providing insight versus information, we’re able to then stand out from the crowd and be memorable to our customers.
And one of the pitfalls that a b2b seller will fall into by not learning from the b2c space is they provide information.
And if you just provide information, you end up just being one, one of many.
One of the challenges that we can, one of the opportunities better to say that we can take from the b2c space is how you can actually build meaningful relationships with customers on a personal level at scale.
So I think this is a really important space that we continue to learn.
I think the other space that’s really critical that we learn from b2c is we learn how to leverage customers’ emotions, we learn how to make sure that we provide customer insights.
And we make sure that actually, we’re communicating customer solutions, “people like you” we have helped.
So it’s a real shift, to putting the customer at the centre of all of your sales activities.
Versus a more traditional b2b seller, which is all about the strength of the company. The company is the provider of the product.
And I think that’s where the b2c learning starts to really come in.
It centers, our sales activity around the customer.
And it helps to ensure that we’re providing really important pieces of insight that keep the customers within our holding pattern until they’re ready to buy.
So this is a really big space, and I think it’s been developed over time.
Yeah, my previous experience working for some very large b2b organisations, it was very much focused on the strength of the company.
There was a little nod to the customer every now and again. But I think now if he was to look at the super major companies in the b2b space, they’re far more connected to the customer dynamic than they probably ever were.
So I think we keep Learning from b2c john.
And I think we continue to keep an eye on how technology advances, artificial intelligence starts to become more and more important forecast in predicting all of this is a player that’s coming into sales.
You even hear of examples now about where a salesperson is told by some artificial intelligence, the products that their customers are a lot more likely to buy, and the price they are more likely to pay without them having to do some of the reflection and research.
So there’s going to be a huge continuation in this space, as the b2b and b2c journey from a buyer ultimately becomes one of the same. I think this is a big space to continue to learn from.
Training Journal 10:53
Yeah, for sure.
Let’s talk a bit more about strategy for the final question. Actually.
You mentioned future-proofing.
So strategy is something that I think, if we can, we should do the pandemic. events like the pandemic other global, truly global crises, let’s face it, they’re probably going to happen again.
Or we should at least have them in our minds as being possibly able to happen again.
So what can you really do to future proof a sales strategy in the face of things like this, you know, happening in the future?
Steve Knapp 11:30
I think what’s happened, and as you said earlier, there’s not reflect into the whys and wherefores of the pandemic.
But what I think is done is it’s ultimately accelerated the inevitable.
I think it’s accelerated this move to a blend of digitalisation and traditional sales approach in b2b.
And I think for some companies is caught them on the hop. And for some companies, they were further down a more progressive line.
So future-proofing, for some is about catching up.
And, and I think this is a race that needs to be run very quickly.
So catching up all future-proofing is always it’s always been the case, but it remains very consistent.
It’s about knowing the ideal customer whose problem you solve, it’s knowing where they hang out, it’s knowing how you’re going to connect to them with your content, how you’re going to connect to them, whilst networking, making sure that you’re very clear about who your ideal client is, you know, the problems that you’re solving or the opportunities you’re creating.
And therefore, your relationships and your messaging becomes far more personalised and specific to that group of people.
There is a real risk in any business that is a bit behind the curve here is that they communicate to everybody, we solve everybody’s problem.
Well, that’s not what I’m looking for, as a buyer, I’m looking for you to solve my problem.
And that’s where future-proofing your sales strategy needs to really get specific and targeted.
And that leads to the second point that I probably add about future-proofing.
It’s about being consistent with your messaging and the presence wherever you’re hanging out, be it on LinkedIn, be it on Facebook groups, be it in real live networking rooms, be at conferences, but it’s being very consistent, repetitive in the messages that you want your ideal customers to recognise you for.
So that’s the second I think. If I was to offer a couple more, and this is a really important one that many miss, it’s matching your sales process to your buyers buying journey.
Read about the Sales Process
That’s recognising how your buyer buys.
And recognising your sales process must mirror this, a traditional sales process would have been baked in face-to-face relationships.
We’ve spoken about that already a future-proof relationship as a blend of online and offline because your buyer is online and offline.
So what you have to make sure is that your buyer, your sales process, matches your buying buy your buyers buying journey, because there’s nothing worse as a seller about talking into the void where no one’s listening to you, or just simply shouting, buy my stuff.
One of the things we work with a lot of companies about is connecting their sales process with their buyer’s journey.
And guess what they’re missing.
They’re missing their buyer’s journey.
They’ve got their sales process they’ve put that together, they get that but actually, they don’t understand how their buyer buys, which goes back to the piece about learning from b2c.
And I think the last one how you future proof a sales strategy won’t surprise you.
But what I’ve said so far during our chat is you’ve got to accept at all levels in the organisation, ownership, leadership, sales management, seller that a modern sales environment is now both online and offline.
Don’t be waiting for things to go back to how they were 18 months ago, buyers habits have changed, sellers habits have changed.
We’ve all found efficiencies, we’ve all found more effective ways to have meetings.
I’m not saying face to face selling is dead. No ways. It’s still a really important part in a complex big b2b sale. But what I’m saying is the earlier phases of your buyer’s journey and your sales process, let’s call it prospecting.
That probably is a much, far greater proportion online than offline.
So this is some of the places that I’d look at future proof your sales strategy Jon.
Read about Face to Face Selling is Dead!
Training Journal 15:58
Great stuff Steve.
Well, thank you so much for your time. Needless to say, there are changes all the time in this field. But there’s some really good advice there for not just today and tomorrow, but for the months ahead.
So thanks a lot for talking to the TJ podcast today.