In a recent post on Salesforce.com, Shelley Cernel notes that today’s typical B2B buying decision involves getting up to 6 decision makers to agree. Jumping through so many hoops can be daunting – a detail which might explain why only 20% of salespeople are deemed valuable by their clients. Your encounters with your prospects can be more successful if you follow a couple of important rules.

You probably know plenty about your prospect’s business on the surface. For example, you know the line of business they’re in and the type of customers they are targeting. But do you know the important details? Cernel talks about understanding pain points. These points will be different with every prospect and they change over time.

For example, the landscaping services vendor who has had control of her market area for the past 3 years might suddenly be facing a new competitor that is trying to win over existing customers. Or the local copy shop may be struggling with a drop in demand because fewer clients need printing services.  These prospects and clients may be in the process of launching a new product or service to improve their competitive position. It’s your job to figure out what’s happening at their place of business and determine how to add value. The best way to do that is to have regular conversations with these people. You can’t understand what they need without listening carefully to them.

Once you’ve determined a client’s key pain point, the next step is to hone your message. If you bring your standard pitch to a prospect without addressing what’s important to him, he’ll quickly show you the door. This practice is all too common in the sales world which explains why only “ 20% of sales people are currently seen as valuable by their buyers.” Cernel cites a Corporate Visions report which indicates prospects are impatient and want to make a decision. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 buyers will go with the first rep who brings “value and insight” into the conversation.

You know you want to be one of the valued sales reps in the top 20% so review the process you’re using to uncover and address client pain points and you’ll be on the road to success.