Making B2B sales is one of the most complicated jobs on Earth. Companies spend billions of dollars a year on marketing and advertising and sales training and consulting and hiring salespeople and everything else that goes into that ultimate moment of getting a customer to sign on the line to buy a new product or service or solution. But what if I told you that one of the biggest elements in your success as a salesperson or business owner…is just a simple 3-letter word?
That’s right! So much of what happens in business decisions boils down to one little 3-letter word – and that word is Fit.
The fit is the most powerful and underrated force in business. Customers decide to buy from you based on whether your solution is the right “fit” for their business. Companies hire new employees who they believe will be the right “fit” for the company culture and the right “fit” for the team and for the job description. Businesses decide which clients they want to work with based on how good the “fit” is for what they offer.
This is a simple but powerful insight and it can help you get better at sales if you understand the concept of “fit.” Here are a few ways that understanding the concept of “fit” can help drive your sales success:
1. Prospecting for fit. Which prospective customers are you seeking out? Are you doing enough research upfront to make sure the fit is good? Or are you being too indiscriminate in which companies you approach? One of the first goals of marketing is to make sure that your product or service is being targeted to the right niche audience and the right customer. Your sales efforts will be more effective if you are having conversations with people who are more likely to be interested in the first place. Do your research, do your homework – figure out what your ideal customer looks like, and then go talk to those people. Just like the old saying in woodworking: “measure twice, cut once” – you should be spending at least twice as much time on researching your prospects and figuring out which ones are likely to be interested, as you spend on making cold calls.
2. Build confidence and inspire trust by showing that you’re the right fit. How can you talk with your prospective customers in a way that builds confidence and that shows you’re speaking their language? The fit is about trust and shared understanding. The best salespeople are great at building relationships, but they also have specific industry knowledge and expertise that helps them speak authentically and build trust with their prospective customers – if you understand the problems that your customers are facing, you should be able to talk shop with them; show that you know the ins and outs of their business.
3. Fit can be versatile. How can you adapt your sales process to be more versatile and show why your solution is a good fit for a variety of problems or operational challenges? Just because you’re concerned about “fit” doesn’t mean you should let yourself be limited or pigeon-holed; fit can be as expansive as you want it to be, as long as you have a compelling proposition and are focused on solving the customer’s problems. For example, your solution might be a fit for multiple industries, or it might be a fit for various types of teams within an organization – as long as you can sincerely demonstrate value, this can be a winning sales strategy.
4. Pay attention to cultural fit. Just like companies want to hire employees who will fit in with the company culture, it’s important for salespeople to adapt their style to fit with the culture of the prospect’s organization. Get a sense for the culture of the prospect. If they are easy going, you be easy going; if they have more of a “stiff” formal culture, keep the joking to a minimum and stick to just the facts. By all means, don’t be fake or insincere, but pay attention to what kind of organization you’re dealing with – different companies have different cultural styles and predominant personalities. A tech startup might be more laid-back than a financial services company; a family-owned agricultural company might be a bit more formal than a graphic design studio; an insurance brokerage might be more “buttoned up and by the book” than an engineering firm. Don’t overdo it, and don’t succumb to stereotypes, but be cognizant of how there might be some slight cultural differences with different companies – and adjust your approach accordingly.
5. Qualify your inbound sales leads for fit. Just as you need to do your research upfront before contacting new prospects, you should also add a step to your process when dealing with inbound sales leads. Whether it’s a phone call or an email or a response to an ad, anytime a new prospect contacts your company as an inbound inquiry, you should stop for a minute and spend some time to assess whether or not they are really a good fit for you. This pre-qualifying of new sales leads and new inquiries can help you to save a lot of time and money – by avoiding bad fits. It can be tempting to move forward with a new prospect no matter what, even if the fit isn’t quite right – especially if the business is slow. But in the long run, your business will be better off learning to say “no” more often to new prospects. Not every prospect is the right fit. Some of them might have unreasonable expectations, some might not be ready to buy, some of them might turn out to be jerks. Whatever the reason, there is such a thing as a bad sale, and there are times when the customer is NOT always right. You won’t be able to sniff out every one of these “bad fit” customers every time, but hopefully as you gain experience in your career, you’ll get better at determining which customers are definitely NOT right for you – and that will free up time and energy that you can invest in the RIGHT customers.
The fit is not the answer for everything, because there are lots of complex factors and long-term processes that go into closing a successful B2B sale. However, when you step back and look at the big picture, it’s kind of amazing how important and underappreciated the simple concept of “fit” really is – people want to hire and buy from people who are the right fit, who know their culture, who speak the language of their organization and industry. No matter what you sell in the world of B2B sales, paying more attention to that 3-letter word will hopefully lead to lots of big-figure deals in your future.