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By: Alice Heiman
Categories: Building Relationships, Closing the deal, lead generation, Referrals, Sales, Sales leadership, sales relationships

One of the things I enjoy most is talking to smart people who care about sales. Recently, I was on the Salesman Podcast with host, Will Barron. We had a fun conversation and I shared my opinion on some controversial sales subjects. Click here to listen or read further for the main points of the podcast! 


Will 

Which is more important for someone who’s selling a complex B2B product: 

– Positioning yourself as an individual and an expert who is useful to have around?  

– Or positioning the product against the competition? 

Alice: 

I believe you should focus on positioning yourself and your team. That’s really where it starts. Start with building a relationship. People want to buy from people they know, like and trust. They really don’t care what you sell if they don’t know who you are, or know that you care about them, their goals and what they want to accomplish. Build relationships, show you understand and care, and add value.  

Will: 

How do we go about positioning ourselves before we have that first meeting to start developing this knowlikeandtrust relationship?  

 Alice: 

One of the problems that we have right now is that the world is so small, yet sooo big. We, as salespeople and business owners, make the mistake of assuming that everyone knows who we are and what results our product can produce. Unfortunately, unless you work for a company like Google or Amazon, most of the people you are calling have no idea who you are. That means, in order to position ourselves, we need to start by building awareness. Building your personal brand and the company brand is an important part of getting information out there to build awareness. But, as an individual, building your own brand is absolutely critical. What I see is that many salespeople and business owners are not taking full advantage of the power of building their own personal brand.

Building your personal brand as an expert in your industry requires you to stay on top of industry news and share that news. Stay on top of what’s happening in your company so you know how to position yourself in the market and stay on top of what’s happening in your customers’ industries and be aware of what impact trends may have on your customers. Having and sharing this information will demonstrate your expertise.

Will 

Do you think that business owners, entrepreneurs, and salespeople mess up by not spreading a wide enough net or focusing in multiples areas? 

Alice 

Yes, what I see is that people are casting too wide of a net. They’re not targeting their audience narrowly enough and they’re not diving in deep enough. It’s not enough to know your customers, you need to know your customer’s customers.  

Let’s go back to positioning for a moment. If you are going to position yourself effectively, you need to have a strong and meaningful value proposition. But, most salespeople aren’t able to craft an impactful value proposition because they don’t fully understand their customers’ situation. What they understand is their product. They need to have a wider understanding of their industry and their customer’s industry. We need to give them more training. We train on our own company and products but rarely do we train them on their customers. 

Will: 

Why do you think that salespeople focus on products, features, and benefits? Do you think it’s because it’s comfortable, or because we don’t know enough about the industries and the verticals that we’re working in? Or is it because we’re unable to make the connection between a physical feature or benefit and the end result? Is it a symptom that we haven’t done enough research into our verticals? 

Alice: 

It is a symptom of sales in general. It’s amazing how many companies don’t hire the right salespeople for their selling process or have ridiculous expectations. Sometimes we hire people who don’t have a lot of experience in sales. Sometimes we hire people who have been in sales a long time and may not do things the way we do them. When we hire them, we assume this person knows how to sell, they know how to get positioned for a sale. They might have exceeded their quota at their old company. Now, in this new position, they are in a brand-new situation, and they don’t know how to get positioned. We need to give new hires the sales training they need to work through the sales process and shorten the sales cycle.  

Getting positioned better will shorten your sales cycle. Whether you win or lose the deal, the better positioned you are, the faster it will go. Our goal is to get positioned and move the sale forward. But, what I see is that sales leaders don’t give their reps everything they need. They don’t hold reps accountable for learning about the industry, the customer’s industry or how those industries interact.  

If we want them to be successful, we need to teach them:

– How to care about the person they are selling to, whether or not they win the business.

– How to learn about the customer’s industry, goals, and their customers’ customers. 

– How to get the information they need.

Will: 

Once we’ve done a bit of data collection, what is step two in being able to position the product, qualify people quickly, and get a yes or no from them to speed up the sales cycle? 

Alice: 

Step two of getting positioned, if you have all the knowledge you need, is to share that knowledge with the right people, in the right way. There are many ways to do this. You can use social media, emailing, calling, events, or trade shows. All are great, but you have to build awareness before you can start selling. Some key things people need to remember are: 

– It takes 8-12 attempts to get someone who doesn’t know you or your brand to respond.

– You have to have a message the prospect cares about.  

– You have to be knowledgeable and add value.

Will: 

If we have SDRs spamming the crap out of the C-Suites, trying for any kind of response, is that hurting the opportunity that we have to do business with them? 

Alice: 

This is very controversial, but here’s my opinion. I believe companies are hurting themselves because they aren’t differentiating themselves from the competition. My question is “Where do you want to be positioned in the marketplace? As someone who’s spamming everyone or as someone who cares about individuals, about their goals and about whether they get what they want?” 

The number-one way to get positioned is to get an introduction. Would you rather have to cold call 100 people or have 10 people give you referrals?  

We are doing it all in a crazy way. We have senior salespeople who have relationships, know these people and could easily be getting referrals, that are not. Then we have SDRs, BDRs, MDRs out there cold contacting people and not getting much of a result. Again, it’s controversial, but there are better ways to do it.

That’s what I do. I help people figure out how to get positioned in a complex sale, shorten their sales cycle and make selling easier. 


If you want to learn more about how to position yourself to make the sale, then click here to listen to the full podcast or schedule 30-minutes with us!

Alice Heiman
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Alice Heiman

Founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC
Alice Heiman has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales leadership programs, coupled with her top-down approach to creating long-term change, set up sales leaders and sales-managing business owners to get consistent and sustainable growth.
Alice Heiman
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