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How To Sell To Smart People?

GatsbyMag

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I run a business where I sell b2b, particularly to executives responsible for multi-million dollar companies.

I've made a number of sales but I really need to increase my volume of sales to be profitable this year. I find that it's easier to sell B2C because typical consumers seem to be very emotionally driven so you just have to tailor your messaging around that. However with executives, they appear to be more logical and are always thinking "is this worth my time?". I almost feel like I'm selling to a different breed of human.

I recently purchased a number of copywriting and sales book that have emphasized the "transference of emotions" when selling, however I don't think these sort of tactics will work in B2B. I was wondering if anyone on this forum has a similar experience in B2B sales, and if so, how do you get through to executives/VPs/COOs etc.? How are you able to get their attention via email/inmail/cold calling so you can get them interested in learning more? Are there any book recommendations for b2b prospecting? And are they really as different and difficult as I'm making them out to be?

For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that my product is near perfect and is the ideal solution for my prospective clients.
 

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Andreas Thiel

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Not in a business where I am in the driver seat, but I have witnessed repeatedly that emotions and benefits over logic and features were what actually worked, even with the top executives of a traditional blue chip company.
There should be a lot of long copy and design polish and the terminology should be appropriate for big business (business casual, I suppose), but when it comes to the message I would not dare to be too logical.
Also, simplicity worked better than showing that you yourself are smart. If you accidentally get a decision maker to feel stupid, that is never a good thing.

...
I recently purchased a number of copywriting and sales book that have emphasized the "transference of emotions" when selling, however I don't think these sort of tactics will work in B2B. I was wondering if anyone on this forum has a similar experience in B2B sales, and if so, how do you get through to executives/VPs/COOs etc.?
...
 

ApparentHorizon

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I run a business where I sell b2b, particularly to executives responsible for multi-million dollar companies.

I've made a number of sales but I really need to increase my volume of sales to be profitable this year. I find that it's easier to sell B2C because typical consumers seem to be very emotionally driven so you just have to tailor your messaging around that. However with executives, they appear to be more logical and are always thinking "is this worth my time?". I almost feel like I'm selling to a different breed of human.

I recently purchased a number of copywriting and sales book that have emphasized the "transference of emotions" when selling, however I don't think these sort of tactics will work in B2B. I was wondering if anyone on this forum has a similar experience in B2B sales, and if so, how do you get through to executives/VPs/COOs etc.? How are you able to get their attention via email/inmail/cold calling so you can get them interested in learning more? Are there any book recommendations for b2b prospecting? And are they really as different and difficult as I'm making them out to be?

For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that my product is near perfect and is the ideal solution for my prospective clients.
Read Spin Selling.

There's just as much emotion in B2B as in B2C.

The difference is in the tactics you use.

For example, tell a CEO you only have 3 widgets left, so he should buy before they're all gone, and he'll laugh you out of the room. (You can slip this in from time to time, if they're procrastinating on a decision. Not as a leading point, however.)

Tell him this widget will make his shareholders happy and he'll be praised for his foresight, and he'll lend you an ear.
 

Maxboost

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For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that my product is near perfect and is the ideal solution for my prospective clients.
If this were true, you would not need to sell it. The customer would come to you.

It seems like you are trying to deceive people into buying your product instead of selling a product or service that people need.
 

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I run a business where I sell b2b, particularly to executives responsible for multi-million dollar companies.

I've made a number of sales but I really need to increase my volume of sales to be profitable this year. I find that it's easier to sell B2C because typical consumers seem to be very emotionally driven so you just have to tailor your messaging around that. However with executives, they appear to be more logical and are always thinking "is this worth my time?". I almost feel like I'm selling to a different breed of human.

I recently purchased a number of copywriting and sales book that have emphasized the "transference of emotions" when selling, however I don't think these sort of tactics will work in B2B. I was wondering if anyone on this forum has a similar experience in B2B sales, and if so, how do you get through to executives/VPs/COOs etc.? How are you able to get their attention via email/inmail/cold calling so you can get them interested in learning more? Are there any book recommendations for b2b prospecting? And are they really as different and difficult as I'm making them out to be?

For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that my product is near perfect and is the ideal solution for my prospective clients.
There's still emotion and it's just like selling to consumers. You're selling the benefit instead of the product, but the benefit is different than what it is for the consumer, and may be different than what you think it is.

Example: I sold a bunch of units to a guy recently on pretty thin margin for him, and when I got him talking, it turned out that what he felt was missing from his product line is items with high ring that get easy growth in top line revenue. I almost didn't even offer to him because I didn't want to "waste his time" and I know he usually needs me to give hime 20 points. He's comfortable getting 5% instead of his usual 20 because at the quarterly corporate *ahem* measuring contest everyone is talking about top line.

It's helpful to find out who's downstream from your customers to find out what their real incentive structure is. A business owner will be different than a corporate buyer. I guy that works on his own cash and a bank line will be different than someone that has equity investors, etc, etc.

If you have any customers that actively engage with you, do everything you can to figure out what they're really facing in their downstream.
 

Kinematic

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Sell to smart people the same way you sell anything to anyone. Appeal to their needs!

When the heads at Target realized they were getting beat by Amazon in same-day shipping they had a need. They started looking for solutions and long story short, they ended up acquiring Shipt for ~$550m.

The point is that the guy behind Shipt (Bill Smith) was able to demonstrate to the leaders at Target that what he was offering was just what they needed to remain competitive with Amazon.
 
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GatsbyMag

GatsbyMag

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If this were true, you would not need to sell it. The customer would come to you.

It seems like you are trying to deceive people into buying your product instead of selling a product or service that people need.
I don't understand your reply.

Emotional persuasion is common practice in sales and marketing. Why would I just tell the facts about how my product is better when the customer is more receptive to a story?

And no, my product is not perfect for my customers' needs. I don't think a perfect product exists. But I do know my product is the best product for my customers' needs.
 

MTEE1985

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Not to get off topic (though maybe it’s exactly on topic) how are you defining “smart people”?

When I was in the golf business our members all had 8-10 figure net worths and were owners/executives of massive companies...my biggest takeaway from years of interacting with them? They are normal human beings.

You sound like you have a limiting belief that you either can’t sell to these executives or it is somehow different. It isn’t. Treat them and their time with respect and you’ll get the same in return.
 
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GatsbyMag

GatsbyMag

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Read Spin Selling.

There's just as much emotion in B2B as in B2C.

The difference is in the tactics you use.

For example, tell a CEO you only have 3 widgets left, so he should buy before they're all gone, and he'll laugh you out of the room. (You can slip this in from time to time, if they're procrastinating on a decision. Not as a leading point, however.)

Tell him this widget will make his shareholders happy and he'll be praised for his foresight, and he'll lend you an ear.
This is perfect. I'm going to buy Spin Selling right now.

There's still emotion and it's just like selling to consumers. You're selling the benefit instead of the product, but the benefit is different than what it is for the consumer, and may be different than what you think it is.

Example: I sold a bunch of units to a guy recently on pretty thin margin for him, and when I got him talking, it turned out that what he felt was missing from his product line is items with high ring that get easy growth in top line revenue. I almost didn't even offer to him because I didn't want to "waste his time" and I know he usually needs me to give hime 20 points. He's comfortable getting 5% instead of his usual 20 because at the quarterly corporate *ahem* measuring contest everyone is talking about top line.

It's helpful to find out who's downstream from your customers to find out what their real incentive structure is. A business owner will be different than a corporate buyer. I guy that works on his own cash and a bank line will be different than someone that has equity investors, etc, etc.

If you have any customers that actively engage with you, do everything you can to figure out what they're really facing in their downstream.
I love the part about finding out the real incentive structure of the customer. I really should have considered that, but sometimes it's difficult when you don't know who the decision maker is - I guess that's something I'll have to find out from the prospect.
 
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GatsbyMag

GatsbyMag

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Not to get off topic (though maybe it’s exactly on topic) how are you defining “smart people”?

When I was in the golf business our members all had 8-10 figure net worths and were owners/executives of massive companies...my biggest takeaway from years of interacting with them? They are normal human beings.

You sound like you have a limiting belief that you either can’t sell to these executives or it is somehow different. It isn’t. Treat them and their time with respect and you’ll get the same in return.
My definition of smart is that they are more logical / have greater IQ. Hence they don't care about stories as much or aren't as affected by the enthusiasm you have towards your product like everyday consumers are. I feel like they want you to get straight to the point about what your product does.

From the replies I'm already receiving, it seems that I'll be fine as long as I stay focused on the problem(s) I'm helping them solve, the benefit(s) of my product and be respectful of their time.
 

Maxboost

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I don't understand your reply.

Emotional persuasion is common practice in sales and marketing. Why would I just tell the facts about how my product is better when the customer is more receptive to a story?

And no, my product is not perfect for my customers' needs. I don't think a perfect product exists. But I do know my product is the best product for my customers' needs.
As MJ says, if you had the cure to cancer people would go to you for it. There would be no need to sell or spend money on marketing. It's the perfect solution to the problem.

You say you have problems selling to "smart" people which implies that they can smell through the bullshit you are trying to sell which may or may not be true. You might have a great product who knows....

You are having problems with selling probably because you are targeting people who are not in the market for your product. You cannot sell, persuade or trick people into giving you money if they are not in the market. You can't sell a Lamborghini for $30k to a person on welfare. No matter how good the deal is, some people will not or cannot buy. I am finding this out the hard way as well.

Your problem is most likely prospecting. Find the right clients for your product.
 

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GatsbyMag

GatsbyMag

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As MJ says, if you had the cure to cancer people would go to you for it. There would be no need to sell or spend money on marketing. It's the perfect solution to the problem.

You say you have problems selling to "smart" people which implies that they can smell through the bullshit you are trying to sell which may or may not be true. You might have a great product who knows....

You are having problems with selling probably because you are targeting people who are not in the market for your product. You cannot sell, persuade or trick people into giving you money if they are not in the market. You can't sell a Lamborghini for $30k to a person on welfare. No matter how good the deal is, some people will not or cannot buy. I am finding this out the hard way as well.

Your problem is most likely prospecting. Find the right clients for your product.
This is a better response, you've summed up my problem better than I have. Thank you.

If you have any suggestions on how to prospect better or any book recommendations please let me know. Thanks again!
 

Maxboost

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This is a better response, you've summed up my problem better than I have. Thank you.

If you have any suggestions on how to prospect better or any book recommendations please let me know. Thanks again!
Who's buying your product? what demographics are they in? work from there..Don't waste your time selling to these "smart" clients. I would spend 80% of my time making sure my current clients are happy so they refer your services to their friends/family and doing the selling for you.

While you are building those relationships and trust you can upsell and offer other services...
 

Fotis

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As MJ says, if you had the cure to cancer people would go to you for it. There would be no need to sell or spend money on marketing. It's the perfect solution to the problem.
How would you reach your market without marketing? Even if you demonstrated the cure (demonstration is the strongest form of proof) you'd still need a way to reach your prospects.

Unless you're confusing marketing (getting the right message, to the right audience, via the right medium) with persuasion which is different.

***

@GatsbyMag three suggestions:

Dan Kennedy uses the same emotions you use B2C, to sell to "smart people" (they aren't that smarter, they're people with their own biases that, at the end of the day, makes them do stupid things) like CEO, CFO etc. Even multimillionaires fall victims to greed. And, he has tons of examples to dissect the "Aw, I sell to sophisticated people" argument. So don't project your own beliefs to your market, this can cripple business

Secondly, check Bob Bly, the copywriter. He writes mainly B2B so he's gonna have some products out there.

Thirdly, AWAI also has some B2B products that can probably help you.

***

Remember, they're still people - not Mr. Spock.
 

Maxboost

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How would you reach your market without marketing? Even if you demonstrated the cure (demonstration is the strongest form of proof) you'd still need a way to reach your prospects.
Its in MJ's book unscripted. When was the last time you saw a commercial/ad/endorsement for Uber, Tesla, and In/Out? These companies have a producracy . Your customers will do the selling for you.

If you had the cure for cancer, everyone will be knocking down on your door as everyone would tell everyone, you would get free publicity on TV/internet/media, free endorsements from celebrities, etc. All you would need to do is cure a handful of people with cancer and your product will explode over night. You would not need to spend more than a few dollars.

When was the last time you seen an ad for MJ's book? Yet here you are on his forum.....
 

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IBM had a famous Ad with a famous line.

'Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM'

Do you know it?

More importantly do you understand it?

It is emotive yet aimed at corporate IT Directors, Managers etc . Not exactly thickos' are they?

Your product/ service will either make the buyer look good in front of their boss or cover their back if the shit hits the fan.

Because the corporate chap you are talking to just wants to either keep his job or be promoted at the end of the day and after the logic bit of your presentation he or she will be thinking in one of these modes. Future promotion, pat on the back or a$$ covering should things go wrong.

Dan
 

Fotis

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Its in MJ's book unscripted. When was the last time you saw a commercial/ad/endorsement for Uber, Tesla, and In/Out? These companies have a producracy . Your customers will do the selling for you.

If you had the cure for cancer, everyone will be knocking down on your door as everyone would tell everyone, you would get free publicity on TV/internet/media, free endorsements from celebrities, etc. All you would need to do is cure a handful of people with cancer and your product will explode over night. You would not need to spend more than a few dollars.

When was the last time you seen an ad for MJ's book? Yet here you are on his forum.....
For every one company you mentioned (and every other one you have in mind) you can find 10 + less known companies/businesses who are doing great financially and using marketing.

My disagreement with your statement wasn't accepting that a fictional cure for cancer will enjoy a tidal wave of free publicity - it will.

But, unless the OP has the equivalent of "cancer cure" for his market, there's no reason to avoid marketing. Plus, if his product gave my company a competitive edge, I sure as hell would keep it to myself. I went through all the trouble of getting persuaded...investing in his solution...trying it out... and then I would create more sophisticated competitors? Not gonna happen in my world.

Did MJ use ads for his books? I have no idea (I live in Greece) but let's say no. If he used them (Amazon ads have tons of potential right now) he'd reach more people, faster.

It reminds me of the whole "free traffic versus paid traffic" argument. Sure you can grow your biz with free/organic traffic. But, if you know your market and can get in front of their eyeballs with paid methods, why not do so?
 

Maxboost

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But, unless the OP has the equivalent of "cancer cure" for his market, there's no reason to avoid marketing.
But thats what the OP said


For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that my product is near perfect and is the ideal solution for my prospective clients.


It reminds me of the whole "free traffic versus paid traffic" argument. Sure you can grow your biz with free/organic traffic. But, if you know your market and can get in front of their eyeballs with paid methods, why not do so?

You are missing the whole point and throwing a red herring into the conversation. To paraphrase what I said earlier, you shouldn't sell or market to people who don't want to buy your product. These "smart" people that the OP talked about are probably not in the market.

I learned the hard way, its a waste of time and resources to market to someone who is not in the market.

If you have a producracy, these same people would come to you when they are ready to buy.

Did MJ use ads for his books? I have no idea (I live in Greece) but let's say no. If he used them (Amazon ads have tons of potential right now) he'd reach more people, faster.
He doesn't need the money and he said that numerous times.







 

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When chasing a larger client, we have had some success sending a lot of info to the top dog. Then working our way into the lower tiers and up. Once 2 or 3 people bring our name up to the top dog, we often get the call direct from them. He / she will claim they already heard of us and everyone will look good. We also hold our top dog in reserve to use the 'owner to owner' lunch to try to establish a long term relationship.

In short, they are just people too. Depends on the LCV for your business as to how much time and effort you can spend. One of our best clients took 4 years to get into. Determine LCV and what you can spend on acquisition. Then create a custom plan to show them value. Then be direct. If you hit a hurdle, do and end around working from the bottom up.

Also, when you do get the sale. At some point down the line, offer lunch. Then ask them why they went with you. Valuable info!
 

ClaverCasley

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As MJ says, if you had the cure to cancer people would go to you for it. There would be no need to sell or spend money on marketing. It's the perfect solution to the problem.
If you had the cure for cancer, everyone will be knocking down on your door as everyone would tell everyone, you would get free publicity on TV/internet/media, free endorsements from celebrities, etc. All you would need to do is cure a handful of people with cancer and your product will explode over night. You would not need to spend more than a few dollars.
A long exact words from Unscripted:
Selling and all of its cousins (marketing, copywriting, negotiation) are the most important skills, no matter what your business is. These skills can be banked for life.

Remember the cancer corollary. Having the best product in the world is worthless if you can’t initiate sales. If you can’t persuade the marketmind to buy in your seed stage, the productocracy’s grass roots never happen.
You forgot that most cancer patients too are actively looking for cure, and imagine they once fell into 'cure for cancer' scam. Marketing helps. But:
Unless you're confusing marketing (getting the right message, to the right audience, via the right medium) with persuasion which is different.
 

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