Think People Before Thinking Sales

A fundamental aspect of B2B marketing activity is to ensure that when buyer and seller come face-to-face, they are both fully equipped with the information they need to make the most of the first conversation.

For the meeting to be valuable the buyer will have conducted background research to understand how the supplier can meet the scope and specification required, and discovered where added value can be achieved. In addition the seller will have completed research to ensure that they are better informed than the competition, and be able to provide value to the buyer.

The magic dust doesn’t settle there, it happens during the meeting. It is far easier to naturally move the conversation into new and potentially valuable areas through conversation, human contact, invention and creativity during a face-to-face conversation.

It takes the right people, properly informed, in the right place, at the right time to produce the right outcomes for both parties.

During the pandemic, this actual face-to-face interaction ha been extremely restrictive, for obvious reasons, whether it is the most basic thing of conferences, exhibitions and tradeshows being cancelled, or going online for sales demonstrations, it has resulted in the inability of that ‘spark’ to happen. To interact and get together in a setting that creates and encourages novelty innovation and sales success.

The industry has tried many alternatives, digital conferences, virtual networking, remote demonstrations etc. with varying degrees of success, but nothing really replaces the human interaction.

Also hindered by the lack of international and domestic travel, another key aspect that we have noted is the difference between ‘order takers’, ‘relationship managers’, and actual business development people in the B2B space.

The squeeze really has been on the order takers and the relationship managers. If a business is in a suitably powerful position in the supply chain then just taking orders and matching customer need is fine. However, that has been far from the case, particularly in the energy space, added to which we have the situation where relationship managers find it very difficult to sustain and grow relationships for the reasons already mentioned.

This brings us back to the key area of business development, the actual hard graft of following through on leads, creating opportunities and finding ways of stimulating the growth that ultimately a business needs to succeed. This is hard when it is done in the virtual space, as opposed to when it is done in the actual world. Business development people have had to be extremely resilient and very tough. Despite the great opportunities brought by technology, marketing automation, audience segmentation and direct messaging through LinkedIn it is still very much a huge numbers game.

If you are to support the needs of your business development team then you need to involve them throughout the planning and activation stages. If a campaign is designed to generate qualified leads then you need to ensure that business development is sufficiently equipped to nurture those leads through the buying process. The reassuring conversations that would normally happen between business development and a prospect now happen in the digital world and materials need to be ready to support these conversations when required. This is going to have to develop and it’s not going to be short term.

Do you understand the psyche of your people on the front line? Right now you are supporting your business development colleagues in what is a fundamental aspect of business growth. Think people before thinking sales.


Peter Lyall

About the author

Peter Lyall became a BBN Executive Board Member in 2019. He is a certified management consultant and has taught brand strategy and communications at Henley Business School, Robert Gordon’s University, Aberdeen University and Edinburgh University. His own education includes an MA from Edinburgh University and an award-winning MBA from Henley Business School. In his work with Fifth Ring since 2005, Peter has worked with over 100 companies in the oil and gas sector.

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