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Marketing illuminates the path to solving a problem. Not just any path – your path. This is somewhat academic in low-consideration consumer products, but lifeblood to high-consideration B2B products and services. To get these prospects to follow your path, you must lead.

These high-consideration products and services are often are mission- and career-critical and so there is an element of trust that sits on prospects’ shoulders during the consideration journey. To earn that trust you must do more than mark the trail with colored stones and leave treats along the way. Demonstrate authority, leadership, and humanity to prove your competitive advantage is differentiating. It gives prospects a strong reason to believe.

Teach them to fish: 5 qualities of B2B prospecting leadership.

What does this have to do with selling B2B services and products? Well, more than you might think. At the heart of the B2P mantra are two fundamental truths:

  1. Humanity. The B2B marketing leader takes the time to understand prospects as both executives and people, with both personal and corporate goals and responsibilities, which sometimes conflict. The prospect persona process provides remarkable insight, and how these individuals come together to make a decision. This quality is essential. Recognizing and embracing humanity leads to empathy, which is the basis of all effective communication. Everything starts here. Or stops.
  2. Honesty. “Speak”, whether in print or in person, with ethics, morality, and a crystal clear vision of what is and what isn’t. A key component of honesty is respect for your prospects and their corporate culture. Don’t embellish your capabilities or denigrate the competition. Layout, in terminology that prospects can understand, how your product or service can address their concerns, that success is a journey and not a slam dunk, and how you, as a leader, can bring a value added.
  3. Commitment. It is critically important that your prospect knows that you are committed to their success, and not just to sell your product. Your commitment to the marketplace emits the confidence that your solution is not just viable, but superlative. Let your prospects see you with your sleeves rolled up and your fingernails dirty. Admit problems and setbacks, and if an aspect is particularly gnarly, fess up. Bring your team of leaders into the conversation.
  4. Partnership. You are here for the long-haul, and provide the tools and insights necessary for success, which may include ongoing training, troubleshooting, and the installation of positive energy. The consideration journey is rarely straight and narrow. Put your arm around your prospect. Show authority and guidance. Use creativity, and sometimes humor, to make your point.
  5. Measurement. Your prospect is very serious about the steps they must take and the answers they must find while considering potential solutions. A leader must understand how the prospect measures success and configures their own measurement system to coincide and complement. It may be uncomfortable, but it communicates seriousness, underscores the other qualities and provides the basis for continuous improvement.

Moving from reactive to proactive leadership.

We are all aware of the conclusion of various studies that the “sales process” is disappearing. Depending on which study you reference, about 60% – 70% of the consideration process takes place prior to engagement with the selling entity. Placidly accepting these results breeds reactive positioning. They don’t want to talk with our reps, so we can hide behind the curtain. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once you take the first step with the prospect persona process you are on your own road to leadership, which by definition is proactive. Which not only gives prospects a reason to believe, it gives them a reason to engage.

Originally posted to the AMA Executive Circle blog.

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