But for me, it’s an exercise in getting to find out what the client really wants and how you can best help them, if you can at all. It’s your job to help your client solve a problem with the best possible results, after all, and you can’t do that if you don’t even know what the problem is. In my experience, discovering, addressing and offering solutions to core problems is a sure-fire way to turn a technology sales lead into a client. So, how do you get to the heart of what a prospective client really needs in just one meeting or phone call? It’s easier than you think.
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Step 1: Prepare
Before you begin with any tech sales lead, you need to learn as much as you can about your prospective client. This can be as simple as a look at their website to find out more about what they do and a quick Google search to see if anything interesting has been happening. Checking out their LinkedIn profile and whether or not they’ve published anything there recently can also give you good insight into the things that are on their mind. Now that you’re prepared, you’ve got your meeting time set, here’s how the conversation should go.
Step 2: Keep small talk to a minimum
While it’s important to build rapport no matter what industry you work in, in my experience in the technology space, chit-chatting about fishing photos or the kids isn’t going to cut it. Sure, a quick how-do-you-do chat won’t be detrimental but remember these guys think in feeds and speeds. The best way to build rapport with technology clients is through competency and knowledge. Show them over the course of the conversation that you know what you’re doing and that you get what they’re doing.
Step 3: Take control
Taking control in a B2B sales conversation isn’t about being domineering or dominating – it’s about giving your prospective client some guidance. Take them by the hand and let them understand how the conversation is going to go. I usually do that by saying something along the lines of, “do you mind if I jump straight into it?” followed by, “how these conversations typically go is I’m going to ask some questions to understand your business and the particular issues you’re facing right now and then we can talk about what I do and whether or not what I do is a good fit”. This reassures the customer that you’ve got a plan and that you’re not going to be wasting their time. The customer is mostly likely going to agree and be ready to hear you out.
Step 4: Get the customer to tell you what they want
Once you’ve got agreement from the client to kick off the chat, you can move on to delving deeper into the reasons they’re talking to you today – i.e. what it is they need from you. You can say something like, “okay, let’s start with the most important thing. What motivated you to have a meeting with someone like me?” What you’re doing – and this is crucial – is getting them to tell you how to sell to them.
Another question could be, “what are you hoping to get out of today’s meeting?” If they try to turn it back around and start pounding you for answers instead, you can say, “I’m happy to answer that but I want to make sure my answers are in context, so can you tell me a bit more about your business or what motivated you to take this meeting today?” Reason being, you might be the most versatile B2B tech marketing agency in town with a laundry list of services you can do, but the customer has something very specific they want dealt with. If you go through all the other things you do and it doesn’t actually fit with what they need, you’ll be hit with all the go-away sales people lines we’ve all heard before. You know the ones: let me think about it. Can you send me a proposal?
What you need to do is take the position of a doctor. Think of it this way: your doctor would never give you a prescription or a treatment plan without hearing what your problems are. Not unless they want to be hit with a malpractice suit. So, for example, if the client answers your question with, “I want to talk to you about marketing,” don’t just say, “Okay, cool, let me tell you about my marketing”, even though your B2B marketing is the best in the business. Instead, you say, “why’s that?” and then you listen. Which brings me to the next step.
Step 5: Apply the Rule of Three Plus
When you get any answer, dig no less than three layers deep. Why? Because the very first answer people give is the easiest, highest level of their problem and it might not even be the truth. If you go three layers deep, you’ll get to the crux of the problem, which means a very workable and appealing solution will present itself. An example of what that might look like for a software marketing agency could be:
Client: I want to talk to you about recruiting software
Tech Torque: What are you currently using?
Client: I’m using ABC.
Tech Torque: And how is that not fitting the bill currently?
Client: It’s not allowing us to do XYZ.
Tech Torque: How is that impacting your business?
Client: It’s costing us so much time.
Tech Torque: Have you calculated the cost of that time?
Client: Yeah, we’re spending about three and a half hours a day having to maintain the data.
Tech Torque: Who’s doing that?
Client: Our engineers.
Tech Torque: So if you put a number on that, would you say your engineers are worth $180 an hour? That’s $500 a day, ten grand a month – $120,000 a year. So, if we can solve the problem for a lot less than that, that will be pretty appealing
Okay, I know that was more than three layers deep, but you can see how effective this line of questioning is to uncover exactly what it’s going to take to solve the customer’s problem.
Step 6: Release control
Once you’ve got control you then need to let it go. Remember, people can smell desperation a mile away, especially from a salesperson, so at this point, you want to lean back and have the client lean in. How? By saying something like, “it sounds like you’re doing a really good job. Why do even you need someone like us?” I won a big job recently after asking this question. The client was truly doing a really good job on their own, kicking a lot of goals, so I said, “what gaps are there that you think are worthy of a conversation with me?” We’re thirty minutes into the conversation by then, which means they’re feeling more comfortable with me and the General Manager was able to answer in specific detail what it was they needed from Tech Torque. Once you get an answer like this, ask, “what value do you think that solution will add?” Guaranteed the client can answer what they’re hoping to get out of the solution, which tells you exactly what’s most important to them and again – how to sell them to them.
Step 7: Ask yourself honestly whether or not you can help them
This point is where salespeople often get caught up in the hunt and excitement of securing the deal. But if you approach the situation honestly and say you can’t help them with what they need for whatever reason, your credibility will go through the roof. You may end up selling them something else. Of course, if you can help them, tell them you can and then ask permission to explain what it is you can do.
Step 8: Play back their pain
Because you’ve spent all this time asking questions and learning the customer’s pain, you can play it back to them in your next series of statements. If they’ve said they are looking for an enterprise data warehouse to be able to collect data and do this to provide reports and dashboards then you’re not going to talk about anything other than being able to collect data, normalise it and produce reports and dashboards. You might be able to do thirty other things but you don’t talk about those for the moment because you want to take a sell today, educate tomorrow stance. Solve the problem now and bring up all the extra things you can do once you’ve secured the sale.
Step 9: Pitch your value
You don’t need to go into the detail about where things are going to go from here. You don’t need to tell them that you’ll be having sixteen meetings and need their team members to do XYZ. You need to show them your value. I.e. people buy from us when… At Tech Torque, I’ll often say, “People buy from us when they’re ready to scale their software and technology business – they’ve got product and market fit and are ready to hit the accelerator and really make some money. Does that make sense? Does that sound like you?” Ten times out of ten, it does.
Step 10: Give the client a deadline
Once you’ve stated your value, you then want to say, “where do you want to go from here?” The client will ask for a proposal. Before you agree to do anything, get an understanding of their timeline expectations – and give them a deadline of their own. For instance, you could say, “if I get a proposal to you by the end of business today, when do you think you’ll have a chance to look through it and get back to me?” When they give you a day, thank them for that commitment and say, “if I don’t hear from you can I follow you up the day after?” Lockdown when you’re going to talk to them and follow up when you say you will.
Ultimately, you want the client to walk away thinking, “this person gets me. They can solve my problem. Let’s roll”. And if you follow this ten-step plan, which works in any industry not just in B2B tech marketing, you will. Once you have, prepare to follow up without being a pain in the arse – find out how here.