Sales advice from 28 top B2B sales experts
There is a reason we idolise certain people in our industries. They have accomplished far more than the average person and have guided many people along the years. So, I wanted to write a blog post that would pay homage to the sales influencers of our industry, B2B sales.
To share their knowledge with the world, I have 50 meaningful quotes from the industry leaders with their advice for new and experienced B2B salespeople.
1. Mark Hunter, Keynote Speaker, “The Sales Hunter”
“Your best source can be boiled down to not one but two things, relationships and your willingness to learn. We become who we associate with the most. So, it only makes sense to ensure time is spent with really smart people and being open to what they have to say. This takes the form of not just peers but also experts you follow on-line. In the end, your goal needs to be to end each day smarter than you began and confident you helped someone else do the same.”
2. Mike Kunkle, VP of Sales Enablement Services for SPASIGMA
“Stop focusing on yourself, your goals, your quota, your commission. Shift the focus to what your customers want and need and use a buyer-centric approach. Stop product-pitching and start talking about your buyers’ problems. Share how you’ve helped others like them solve those problems, the insights and perspectives you’ve gained from the experience, and the outcomes you’ve helped them achieve. Develop the business acumen to have real business conversations with leaders and decision-makers.”
3. Anthony Iannarino, Author of Eat Their Lunch
“Do the work to be able to offer good counsel based on your business acumen, your situational awareness, your deep diagnosis and exploration of the context in which you will provide advice. In short, work very hard to grow from competent to expert.”
4. Aaron Ross, Author of the book From Impossible to Inevitable
“My best sales advice to anyone starting sales in 2019 is two parts: 1) learn how to build your own dashboard and 2) take charge of reaching out for help. Whether you use tools like Outreach, Salesforce.com or anything else, don’t rely on other people to get your metrics and dashboards right – learn how to build or personalize them yourself! This will also help force you to figure out the important metrics and gauges that YOU run your own individual ‘sales business’. You can’t rely on other people to get this right for you.
5. James Muir, VP Sales Eastern US at Marketware, Inc.
“Our goal as professionals is to facilitate action on behalf of our clients. Always remember that as professionals we don’t get paid for the actions we take. We only get paid based on the actions our clients take. The action we facilitate for our clients improves their condition as well as our own in a virtuous win-win cycle.”
6. Craig Elias, Creator of Trigger Event Selling
“Successful salespeople focus on ‘motivated’ decision-makers who have money, the authority to spend it, and influence inside an organization. These motivated decision-makers are typically a VP or higher that has recently experienced a Trigger Event that pushed them into the Window of Dissatisfaction – they are no longer satisfied with the status quo but are too busy to start the process of searching for alternatives. Successful salespeople know that being first in with these decision-makers often results in a 75% close ratio.”
7. Jack Kosakowski, CEO at Creation Agency
“If I could give one piece of advice to salespeople looking to take their career to the next level, it would be really simple. Find the top two people inside your sales organization that are at the top of the leaderboard inside your organization and ask them to mentor you. Ask your sales manager to sit next close to them. Listen to as many calls as possible from them. Ask them to listen to your calls and conversations. Devour the information in their brains! If you want to be the best you need to be mentored and coached by the best.”
8. Greg Greenberger, Partner Program Specialist at Signavio
“Never stop asking for more information on your prospects. We work in an industry where people bombard us with expert advice on how to sell and may work in companies with established sales strategies. But despite all of this, we never truly know all there is to know about our prospects. Or even enough to sell well by just repeating a standardized formula.
Since we don’t work in exactly the same role in exactly the same firm as our buyers, we can never truly know all there is to know about their environment, motivations, and peers’ influence. The most successful salespeople I know are the ones who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know enough about their buyers, and ask them every chance they get to share more while being very open about their own thoughts and motivations.
B2B sales are complex relationships, and the most successful ones are the ones where we invest the time to truly understand each other’s businesses and how they uniquely benefit each other.”
9. Brian Donnelly, CEO at Synapse Information Ltd
“Find where your audience meets their professional peers, i.e. the metaphorical watering holes around which that group gather to share insights and get trusted advice – become part of that circle of trust.”
10. Jamie Shanks, CEO at Sales for Life
“Select accounts in your ‘Territory’ (by Geography, Industry/Vertical), not by subjective buying attributes like revenue and potential spend. These offer you no more relationship competitive advantage then it offers your competitors (or perhaps they have the asymmetrical competitive advantage). Reverse-engineer your advocates and company relationships to map accounts (matching your ICP) where you have the relationship advantage. This offers you increased convertibility and activation velocity.”
11. Alice Heiman, Co-Founder & CRO at TradeShow Makeover
“Be human. You may have to forget everything you’ve been taught about selling to be good at sales, especially if you have been taught all about your company, products and services and how to pitch them to prospects. You are selling to humans who need solutions to fix problems or to get the growth they desire. These humans are complex and just like you, they have a whole world of things to worry about, take care of and delight in. They buy with their emotions, even though they are in a business environment.
A human selling to another human would take time to learn first so they have some ideas about the prospects business, industry and clients. They would also learn about initiatives and challenges impacting the buyers who are seeking their solution. They would become extremely knowledgeable so they could share insights and ask questions to stretch the imagination of what the solution could be and its impact. Humans helping humans. That’s my best advice.”
12. John Smibert, Founder of Sales Masterminds APAC
“The best prospects know that they need their thinking disrupted. The best salespeople know-how.”
13. Marvin Tekautschitz, Co-Founder & COO at WeAre GmbH
“Every prospect has a preference for communicating in a certain way, which is why it is important not to skip any of the available channels at a salesperson’s disposal, as the chance of success grows exponentially when reaching out to a prospect in the way that feels most natural to them. Leverage all paths of approach including social, email and the phone in your campaigns to reach your target with the least friction possible.
Don’t underestimate the power of a personal phone conversation with your prospect. In a time where automation is running rampant, it helps the prospect perceive you as a real person and not as a robot, thereby building the trust that is essential for B2B transactions.”
14. Deb Calvert, President of People First Productivity Solutions
“To succeed in B2B sales, create value in every interaction with every buyer. Ask thought-provoking questions, offer insights and information that’s not available elsewhere, demonstrate a genuine commitment to meeting the buyer’s needs, and collaborate with the buyer to co-create solutions. This will differentiate you from other sellers and make you the ONE seller that buyers look forward to meeting with.
Don’t rush to close because you won’t close if you do. Instead, take time to know the buyer and respond to their unique needs. When you create value and truly engage the buyer, you’ll advance sales faster and make more sales overall. To learn more about creating value that resonates with buyers, read Stop Selling & Start Leading, the behavioural blueprint for sellers based on research with buyers.”
15. David Brock, CEO at Partners In Excellence
“It is ALWAYS about the customer and what they want/need to achieve. The moment we shift our focus to ourselves (which is what happens 95% of the time, we are no longer focused on the customer and creating value with them. We do not make a sale until the customer achieves what they need to achieve in their buying process. We do not build our relationship until they achieve what they hoped to achieve.”
“Do the work. B2B selling is hard. Too many looking for shortcuts, silver bullets, or magic solutions. To be successful, you have to focus on doing the work as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
16. Gavin Ingham, Founder at GavinIngham.com
“Be a 10. In today’s busy world, many salespeople find their energies scattered. Laser-like focus is what gets results. Here’s how: Set your priorities. Dream big. Have inspiring goals. Plan. Identify 1-3 core actions that will get you there. Then, invest your time and energy into delivering on and protecting your winning behaviours – every day. Winning behaviours build world-class habits. World-class habits deliver world-class results.”
17. George Brontén, CEO & Founder at Membrain.com
“Always be learning! Over-invest in your own education and be extremely curious about your ideal customer’s problems and ambitions. Learn how to identify *all stakeholders* involved in a decision and how to guide them towards a decision that benefits them and you.”
18. Phil Gerbyshak, Vice President of Sales Training at NameVector Solutions
“Always add value before you add volume. Whether you are making a phone call, sending an email, or using social media, always focus on delivering some value to your customers before you do anything. Value could be in the form of some insight you’ve uncovered in your research, something you’ve seen with your other customers. Or some insight you’ve gleaned from a recent conference. All too often B2B salespeople just cold call/cold email and add no value, and then complain that nobody wants to talk to them. Add value first, then add volume in a future conversation.”
19. Chris Murray, Director at Varda Kreuz Training
“A business buying decision has so many more layers to it than a personal retail purchase. The person or people involved have their own careers or the companies future to protect – and the thing is, with all the problems that they desperately need to be solved – every salesperson they ever meet just come in asking for money – they never attempt to try and help.
If you want to make a massive difference to your success rates change the word ‘Selling’ with ‘Helping’ – work out how others are benefiting from buying what you provide and then go and help others do the same. Don’t just try and charge for a product or service. Help people and then charge appropriately for that help.
Big question to answer – How does what you sell actually help people and what is it you’re curing?”
20. Richard Young, RVP Sales at Salesforce
“Always understand the path to contract. Who’s involved, when they’re available, signing authorities, how to get to everyone involved. Do your homework on it, and don’t take one person’s word for it, continuously revalidate.”
21. Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centered Selling
“Learn to earn. The world of sales is intense, challenging, fast-paced, sometimes disappointing but always rewarding! The key to your long-term success is making a commitment to daily and ongoing learning. It has been proven that those salespeople who continuously invest in their own professional development earn 3 to 5 times more than their peers. Buyers expect more. You need to do more to be the type of consultative problem solver they say yes to!”
22. Bob Apollo, Founder at Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners
“My top tip for B2B salespeople – particularly in complex, high-value sales environments – is to invest time in discovery and qualification, and to develop the discipline to eliminate potential “opportunities” that are either never likely to buy, or never likely to decide to buy from you… Life is too short to waste it on poorly qualified opportunities.”
23. Nikolaus Kimla, CEO at Pipelinersales Inc
“It’s true that we should engage in marketing and advertising—no question. But why have we forgotten that the most important factor is the human being and the relationship to them? We’re missing out on the people who in some form are knocking on doors, and bringing the good news about products and services.
Today’s trend of passive instead of active lead generation is a dead-end for sales. If we’re not communicators, we’re only receivers.”
24. Leigh Ashton, CEO at The Sales Consultancy and Sasudi
“Recognise that the potential buyers who you communicate with are unique in their own way. Different things will be important to them. They will have their unique beliefs, values and criteria you need to meet in order to make the sale. Therefore it’s crucial that you ask lots of open questions that uncover these important factors before presenting how you are going to help them achieve what they want. Ask as many open-ended questions as you need to gather all the important information and use as much YOU language as possible, for example…What’s important to you in the area of…?
Only when you have the relevant information can you deliver your product or service in a way that truly meets their needs and ticks all their boxes. Always be curious!”
25. Francis Kinder, Head of Performance Sales at TrafficPartner.com
“The biggest mistake one makes when doing a cold outreach is focusing on their products and their solutions. The response rate will be very low! Salespeople should invest more time understanding their potential partner and what bothers them. Presenting solutions, and not a list of services, gets the client. Also, keeping it short and simple (KISS) and ending with a question gets more responses!”
26. David Hendry, Sales Director at Data Protection People Limited
“Be resilient, keep working hard and don’t take knock-backs personally. B2B new business sales is hard, and only a select few make a career from it so make sure you remain focussed and the rest will take care of itself.”
27. Jon Sprank, Sales Director at Adwaiz.com
“Do your research, know your customer, listen more than you talk and ask as many relevant questions as possible, care about their brand and most importantly create affinity with your potential client.”
28. Paul Stephens, Executive Director, UK Sales at Avon
“I receive so many cold outreach emails, the vast majority get deleted after scanning the first couple of lines.
The reason why is simple, as a salesperson I value relationship above all else, and when I receive a mail from someone I’ve never met I respond to the greeting in the same way as I would if I was meeting them face to face.
I am looking for personable without being over-friendly, direct without aggressive…but the ones I am sure to read? The ones that tell me you’ve taken the time to research MY business, not the industry or my competitors. A mention of recent product or PR news or results published recently. It won’t guarantee my business but it’ll get my attention.”