We’ve all been exposed to the notion of the business cycle: customer has need/problem, determines solution to need/problem, makes decision & commitment to purchase, and finally goes through the implementation process. For the B2B salesperson, this cycle must be repeated effectively and efficiently to be successful.

In it's basic form, a sale is an exchange of value. Typically, it's an exchange of money for a product or service that the customer believes to be worth the value of parting with his money. How do you make more customers see the value?

In today's marketplace, with the explosion of information available to the buyer and the demand for greater “value”, selling has become ever more difficult. Value is demanded by the customer earlier and more often in the new business cycle, placing greater demands on the skills of the contemporary salesperson. Simply showing and/or telling the customer they will see benefits from your product/service isn’t enough in today’s sales environment.

Customer recognition of need/problem & Resolution of concerns This was once the sweet spot for the consultative salesperson and a great opportunity for the salesperson to show herself as a subject matter expert. Today, it’s a couple clicks, and customers may never leave their chairs to actually make the purchase. Your deliverables as a sales professional now begin the moment you make first contact with that customer; the expectation is that you will already know something about the customer, their business and that this information has already begun to shape the types of solutions that might apply for them and their situation.

Your deliverable: VALUE. Whether information, the promise of ROI, or in some tangible evidence that the customer can and will benefit from your product or service, the deliverable must be undeniable, and it has to be ready to go now.

This does NOT mean that you make assumptions about their needs. It does mean that based on what you already know and can glean from readily available sources (old school: D&B, BBB, etc.; new school: internet, websites, etc.), you know what types of solutions may be better for that customer at this moment.

Let’s face it: if you’ve been at this for any length of time, their circumstances are likely similar to something you have already seen or experienced. If you’re brand new to sales, find professionals who have been there and done that – don’t reinvent the wheel (another topic for another time…). What you know right this minute and can discover before you meet the customer or pick up the phone informs your approach, questions and potential solutions before you’ve even said word one to that customer.

In short, if you can know it by looking on the web or doing a little basic research, you should. This is the beginning of the value exchange – you are bringing your knowledge, expertise and professionalism to the customer in a manner that makes it immediately known and understood. As you bring this value to the customer, you are earning the right to take the next step with that customer along the path to a decision and implementation, together called ‘solutioning’.

Purchase decision & Implementation Helping the customer to make the decision to work with you, especially after (potentially months of) nurturing the relationship, should become a by-product of the relationship rather than a used-car-dealer hard sell. The days of needing to teach yourself or your sales team the “art of the close” are over. The relationship carries the day, but, of course, not without the continuing requirement for the salesperson and his organization to deliver value as promised. The process of discovery enables the customer to see that buying from you is her best option, due in no small measure to the value you have already delivered and the greater promise of the value to come.

The bottom line: Delivering value starts early in the process, and cannot end unless and until the relationship with that customer is over. Through an intentional and professional discovery process, you enable the customer to buy from you, and the value you’ve already delivered and the promise of even greater value through the implementation of your solution closes the deal for you. No more hard closes or used car dealer salesmanship required. The value exchange, from beginning to end, informs, shapes and indeed drives your approach, resulting in your consideration as a trusted advisor to that customer, not merely a salesperson.

Author's Bio: 

Brad Moore, MBA has over 17 years in sales, sales training and consulting with Fortune 500 companies. He has trained thousands in selling, presentations, customer service, time management and negotiation skills, and has consulted with the big boys when they're looking to land the next billion dollar deal. Veterans and Rookies, including management, have all gained valuable insights that have improved productivity, yielded a better sales process, and increased efficiency. Brad recently finished a year-long engagement with a large national credit union, working with cash management & lending professionals... he helped the organization to record-breaking sales for the 1st half of 2008, developed a cross-selling platform, and implemented new hire training programs for the sales team - a first for the organization.