How to Sell to B2B Clients

By Bob Morrell on February 27, 2014

As a B2B salesperson you will often try to build your relationship with one person, or a small group of buyers, but in many B2B firms your proposal will be re-pitched to a committee who will consider the advantages and disadvantages of changing supplier or buying in your additional service or product line for their own use or to sell on to their customers.

How The ABC-Type Model Can Help You.

This states that there are three different types of people in the world.
A) those who are ruthless, egocentric, target-driven, and money-focused.
B) those who love people, those who like everyone to get on well.
C) process-people: those who are obsessed with the way things work, the processes that are used, the procedures, the detail and the financial implications of all decisions.

If we assume that these three types are going to consider your proposal you need to tailor your interaction and the language and benefits in your proposal accordingly.

‘B’ people will very often have to take their decisions to a higher authority for validation so make sure that the ‘B’ is able to sell your proposal to an ‘A’ or a ‘C’. We once offered training to a Midlands based regional newspaper. The Manager who wanted us was a clear ‘B’ but she had to get it passed by a Financial Director who was a complete ‘C’, guess what? It never happened, because she wanted the benefits for the many, he simply wanted to balance his books.

If we are dealing with a process person we have to map out in careful detail what the financial implications are of the proposal, the ramifications over a number of different areas of the business that will be affected by the decision and how it is going to benefit the company in the long term. Many accountants, Financial Directors and Engineers are ‘C’ types and they can become MD’s of companies and as such they can often struggle with some ‘people’ related issues.

Of course, you get combinations: ABs, BCs, ACs and combinations of all three. The best salespeople are slightly egotistical, good with people and have good organisation and process skills. Sadly these are very hard to find!

It is a useful exercise to consider turning up to a meeting with a family owned company, owned by a father, mother and son. The father is an ‘A’ and the company carries his surname in its title. The mother is a ‘B’ and wants to make sure that everyone gets on. The son is a ‘C’ and makes sure his father has a business for the future that he will inherit and which is financially strong.

During the meeting, the founder says ‘I’ and ‘me’ a lot. His wife talks about ‘us’ and ‘everyone’ and the son is very concerned with ‘it’, the company and what your product will do. Taking the part of a juggler, you must sell to all three, making sure you apply equal weight to each family member; moreover, this is the only way you can get an outcome that all three will be happy with. This is hard to achieve and quite often during these sorts of meetings, when you are faced by a panel, one person starts to dominate and the other people may leave the meeting; hopefully the dominant one who stays is the one who is the key decision maker!