After spending 20 plus years selling enterprise software, Brian Burns is now working with leadership teams. He helps them create and dominate their market segments. His approach is based on an exhaustive study of hundreds of eight, seven and six-figure deals across several industries and geographies. He has discovered that the majority of salespeople are Selling Backwards.
Selling Backwards means that the focus is on the outside of prospect looking in. Instead of obsessing over messaging, positioning, presentations, demonstrations and closing, what is really effective is matching the selling process with the prospect’s decision process. Basically, Brian is teaching what is going on inside the prospect’s organization and how they make product selections. Then, he shows salespeople how to guide/control the decision and how to keep the selection moving and in their favor.
We spoke with the host of “The B2B Revenue Leadership Show” and “The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling” podcasts about sales trends and challenges, changes over the past 20 years, and much more. Read the interview with Brian below and see what other things he has shared with us.
COVIDEO: You are the host of “The B2B Revenue Leadership Show” and “The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling” podcasts. What’s the main goal of your podcasts?
BRIAN BURNS: I want to help salespeople sell more and do so in an authentic natural way. I spent my whole career seeing salespeople struggle and did not see any real recourse to help them.
COVIDEO: How does it feel to deliver the ‘brutal truth’ about sales to your audience? What’s their feedback on it? Do you remember a situation when they were shocked or affected by your episode?
BRIAN BURNS: For the most part, it is very rewarding. I get mostly great feedback, but once in a while, I will get a hater who does not give it a chance. I always found it weird that someone would spend time complaining about a free thing instead of just looking for something that fits them better.
COVIDEO: You have more than 20 years of sales experience. What are the challenges or obstacles that have never changed during that period?
BRIAN BURNS: It is and will always be hard to start new opportunities and keep deals moving. Today, the sales environment is super crowded and overwhelming. Sales continues to be misunderstood and poorly executed.
COVIDEO: Over the years, you have created your own approach when working closely with other companies. There is one thing you’ve discovered about the majority of salespeople, and it’s called Selling Backwards. Can you explain what that phrase means?
BRIAN BURNS: Selling Backwards is focusing on what the outcome is for your clients instead of you just caring about getting the order. Once the focus is on what the client wants to achieve, you get to build trust.
COVIDEO: Can you tell us what makes your podcasts successful? What does your audience get from listening to them?
BRIAN BURNS: I talk about what works today and I empathize with what salespeople are facing. Most podcasts focus on just saying do it my way or just work 10x harder and everything will work out. Salespeople want to hear the brutal truth and not talked down to.
COVIDEO: At the beginning of 2018, everybody was talking about how artificial intelligence (AI) will transform selling. According to recent research, 78% of sales teams have increased their focus on anticipating customer needs thanks to AI. How do you see that trend developing in the future?
BRIAN BURNS: I’m very excited about A.I. because I feel it will be helpful to both salespeople and clients. A.I. will tell us who is most likely to want what we sell and how to best approach them.
COVIDEO: When talking about trends, we can’t leave out Millennials who are bringing constant connectivity as a key factor in sales. How much will their high expectations reshape the selling process? Would you say they will have a positive effect on the way sales representatives do their job?
BRIAN BURNS: I think they are a very positive part of selling today because they have their own approach and they understand the social media/wireless technology.
COVIDEO: People are talking about collaborative sales as the solution to achieve better results. All business processes are constantly changing and progressing, and sales are not an exception. One size just doesn’t fit all anymore! Connecting across different departments – what are your thoughts on that?
BRIAN BURNS: I feel that the more you focus on helping the client achieve their outcome the more success you will have. Call it a solution or insight into, all that matters is that the client’s business and life will be better because of you and your product.
COVIDEO: We can’t forget to mention customers! Would you say it’s easier to work with customers now than it was before? Does the fact that customers are now better informed about companies and products/services make it easier for salespeople to sell?
BRIAN BURNS: When rapport is built, I find it is easier. Yes, there is tons of information but few really seek it out or really spend the time to read/digest it. It is still up to us to make things easy for them to help move the process forward.
COVIDEO: There is no doubt about it, the sales process will continue to improve in the future! Would you say all these trends will have negative consequences in any way? What should salespeople keep in mind when working in this fast-paced business world?
BRIAN BURNS: I think as long as salespeople put themselves into their clients’ world and understand that clients are going to do what is best for them, they will be ok. Too many salespeople feel that they can just pitch and push, but if the time is not right, it will not matter.
COVIDEO: As a sales expert, you probably have a few of your favorite tools that you use regularly. What are the tools or programs you would recommend to a sales representative in any company?
BRIAN BURNS: I love video and video has changed my business so I post on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube daily. I use Pipedrive and Nudge.ai to prospect and track opportunities.
COVIDEO: There is a serious increase in the business communication of video usage. Do you think salespeople should integrate it into their communication process as well? Why?
BRIAN BURNS: They will be left behind if they do not. This is the year of video, and the traction on video is 10x more than text.
COVIDEO: When talking about the future, do you think business communication will stay the same or will it change somehow? Will the video be a significant part of sales communication?
BRIAN BURNS: It will continue to change. We all want more personalized and easy content to consume. Video is the easiest and most compelling way to spread your message and everyone should leverage it.
COVIDEO: What would be your advice to salespeople on ways to improve their communication?
BRIAN BURNS: To relax and show your personality and show that you care and want what is best for your client.
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