Conquering the Toughest Selling Job
By Rowen Untivero

It is very frustrating to hire and teach salespeople detailed product knowledge, compensate them monthly and still see them fail to close significant deals. Eventually we end up letting them go. Then we hire again! Any better suggestions?- Al, President of a business selling to companies
If it is any consolation, youhave no monopoly of this predicament. Similar frustrations are suffered by companies in many industries that rely on salespeople to do Account Development and to a certain extent Account Management. In all fairness B2B (Business-to-Business) Selling is the Diamond atop the Mohs “Scale of Mineral Hardness” with Talc, Gypsum and Calcite at the bottom.  Toughness implies not so much of hard work but something that involves both skill and strategy. Sadly, providing product knowledge alone does not cut it. On the other hand, those who survive purely out of long-standing relationship with a key customer contact lose grip and foothold upon the changing of the guards at the customer’s side. Let me elaborate on both of these further.
By simply knowing one’s products, the tendency of salespeople is to send product or service proposals that automatically get forwarded to office trash bins or quite nonchalantly, to digital oblivion. In some cases, salespeople get to deliver presentations to non-policy makers that are quick to judge the audition sans harsh words of talent shows.  Subsequently, the only revealing signs of customer indifference are unreturned calls and unacknowledged messages.
In instances a proposal or presentation did strike a melodious chord, still the poor salesperson loses leverage. If power comes from knowledge, then prematurely sending proposals and making presentations is in effect passing the power over to the customer. Consequently, the powerless salesperson is deemed an unnecessary element from the customer’s viewpoint. Unbeknownst to the salesperson, he is then removed from the chess board, like a pawn that gets eliminated during the first skirmish. Tragically, the customer then continues the process, perhaps even awarding it to a preferred supplier, someone other than the poor hard-working but ill-informed and unequipped salesperson.  Unintentionally, the salesperson’s company has sent him to fail right from the get-go.
Success in B2B Selling requires not only competence with the product but more importantly understanding the customer’s motivations. In a B2B setting, this is undoubtedly complex in relation to how decision factors are arrived at and by whom.
Some salespeople merely rely on the loyalty of their long-term primary contact. For as long as this contact is in place, the revelry continues. Once this contact is removed from the chessboard, by way of retirement, transfer or any other human asset movement, then checkmate! All of a sudden, no more deals.
Indeed, relationship matters, It is almost half the battle won in B2B selling, provided one is covering all the essential people and not just P.O. (purchase order) releaser chasing. Frankly a messenger can do that at less expense.
Not discounting the importance of product knowledge and long-term customer contacts, a lot more is required to win consistently and to enjoy a greater share of customer business.  On top of this list is “situational understanding”. Whether a salesperson is trying to defend incumbency, expand business with a customer, switch customers from a competitor, recover a lost account or even acquire a potential category user, a clear situational understanding of both the business dimension and specifics of account organizational people dynamics is downright essential. Only with this knowledge can a salesperson be capable of using the right strategy. After all, strategy cannot be formulated without situational understanding. To secure accurate and reliable information, conversation control and discovery skills are imperatives. Analytical tools that automatically link to the appropriate strategy option given situational specifics, which can be set up in little time, will certainly provide undue advantage versus competition. To execute successfully, excellence in persuasion and influencing skills are indispensable.  Should execution roadblocks appear, obstacle handling and tactical negotiation aligned with strategic negotiation will become necessary. Now your salesperson is adequately armed to conquer the toughest deals!

  Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company. Untivero is the developer of original Mansmith Frameworks such as the “13 B2B Strategies” and “People-Role-Factor-Planning Matrix” and “B2B Account-Level Planning Tools” among others.  He has been injecting much practicable science into B2B Account Development and Management sales management, negotiations, selling and general management for more than three decades. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to You can also visit