On the nineteenth episode of The Insiders podcast, hosts Richard Lane and Simon Hazeldine have a chat with Simon Ball, Market Director at Equans UK & Ireland.

Over the past 26 years, Simon has accumulated a wealth of experience in the Facilities Management, Technical Services, Real Estate and Energy sectors. At Equans, he is disrupting traditional Facilities Management sales models in the Transport, Public and Industrial sectors and helping organisations meet their net zero goals.

Operating in a highly commoditized market, Simon shares his insights on the value of getting to know your customers, of challenging textbook solutions and of personalisation to outshine the appeal of competitors.

A consultative approach to beat the appeal of alternatives

Facilities Management is an industry that operates largely behind the scenes. Yet, it has an important impact on clients’ businesses, particularly when it comes to challenges around costs, sustainability goals and the possibilities for optimisation disclosed by digital technology. Simon shared his point of view on the industry and one of its key challenges:

“As an industry, we’re an investment, not a cost, to any business, and it’s an important message to get across. Because quite often where we’re fighting against the lowest cost, slightly commoditized view of service.”

Simon’s strategy to navigate this very competitive space is to challenge his clients with the right questions to help both understand what they need:

“I like sitting in front of clients and saying, why do you want this? Why do you want it this way? Why are you prepared to pay for this in that manner, when there’s an alternative, which could be maybe a little different to the norm? But actually, if you do that, it might be more materially beneficial to your core business.”

Challenging prospective clients in this way, Simon understands their businesses more fully and this enables him to deliver fresh perspectives and encourage them to start thinking in novel and distinctive ways. Indeed, Simon’s passion for innovation is underpinned by how he integrates how sales work in the B2B space:

“My job in sales is to avoid that kind of trap of commoditization and to get to know our customers as well as we possibly can. Ideally, way ahead of any formal procurement arrangement. […] One thing to bear in mind about this industry is that we work in the bid process, and the eventual selection of winning bids can take anything up to a year or more.”

Establishing multiple engagement points with target accounts

Considering the slow sales cycles and complex buyer units that characterize his sector, Simon shares his view on strategy:

“We have such long sales cycles: you might start in a very value-based conversation, and then with personnel changes, it could become highly commoditized. So, it’s important for us to have multiple engagement points with the client at multiple levels to try and avoid that trap, and being told one thing by one person, and then suddenly it all falls apart.”

This advice is valuable also when approaching the C-Suite. Indeed, Simon suggests understanding the position of the people you are speaking with in relation to the CEO, mapping target accounts as thoroughly as possible and gaining traction with individuals in the business that can become precious advocates for your solution, at the right stage of the buyer’s journey:

“My perception of C-suite is that, where they engage, they’re incredibly engaged. They’re very smart, but they tend to rely on their trusted advisors and supporters for recommendations. Some sales professionals will be a little nervous about the deployment of non-sales colleagues within the sales process, but understanding who’s going to ultimately make the decision and understanding what that governance process will look like is incredibly important.”

Sales is a team effort

Wherever possible, Simon prevents any slow-down of the sales process by including his sales associates and technical people as early as possible in the discussion, so that they can establish some level of rapport and understanding with his clients. Indeed, for him, the key to a successful sale is to put the right operators in front of the clients, making sure that their personalities match and their cultures mesh. Combined to a consultative approach, this leads to more meaningful conversations and eventually to building genuine connections:

“We want genuine partnerships, we want trust at all levels. Where we can bring those people in, they really do help to shape an impression of the business. If everything else will be the same with the competition, from price to quality submissions, those little things will make all the difference.”

When it comes to establishing long-term partnerships, trust is everything. Check out our case studies or reach out to see how durhamlane has helped other businesses in your industry overcome their sales and marketing challenges, and to hear more thought leadership in sales and marketing listen to The Insiders podcast.

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