“Sell the problem you solve, not the product”. Get that right, and our stuff suddenly becomes a whole lot cooler.
Easier said than done, which is why we are passionate about our sales development platform and writing sales blogs dealing with the different aspects of selling.
We’ve delved into the murky world of neuroscience to understand how our mind can trick us and weaken our sales pipeline, and why sleep gives us a competitive sales advantage. More recently, we looked at our obsession with sales playbooks and sales plays. To better understand why, for many of us, our sales playbooks are failing us, and why many sales teams struggle to manage a value-based sale.
We are continuously looking at the sales tools we give our sales teams to find better ways to help them be more competitive. In our sales blog, why our sales playbooks must focus on the buyers’ journey, we focused on how to strengthen our sales playbooks and sales plays.
Now we turn our attention towards how we can help our sales leads and clients make better purchase decisions as they move their buying journey.
How well informed are sales leads and contacts about their situation?
In our sales blog, why do sales forecasts slip? we considered the importance of having meaningful conversations. Also, how our mind works to create the meaning, we give to information being communicated by us and those that are receiving it.
Having meaningful conversations is a conversational and sales skill because it is all about the questions we ask and the insights we discover. The people we converse with and the behaviour that is driving their actions.
We are all guilty of assuming how the person on the other side of the sale feels, thinks and will act. We have become preoccupied with our world of selling products and our sales journey that we have forgotten buyers too have their struggles to move along their buying journey and make good purchase decisions.
If you were to ask me what is the main reason, we fail to earn trust and win more business; I would answer, “it is our obsession with our own sales journey”.
It is not about us and our sales process
It is not about us and our sales process; it is all about those who will buy whatever we intend to sell.
Information buyers receive from what we are communicating, information and insights they already have, their experiences, everything they know, their mind uses to construct their reality. I discuss this further in the sales blog – Why do sales forecasts slip?. It is surprising how easy it becomes to recognise one or more of the five behaviour styles we discuss when working with each of your sales lead contacts.
To be effective qualifying a sales lead, we must take the time to understand their behaviour style to appreciate better who we are dealing with, their behaviour and their state of mind.
One challenge we face in business to business sales is not always being able to directly connect with those in authority who have the budget to approve the project.
Whether we can or cannot connect with the ultimate decision-maker, those in the decision-making process may also not be well informed about their situation. Have a biased view that creates further challenges we, the sellers need to manage.
Within larger businesses, often, the ultimate decision-maker will have limited insights and information about the situation and challenges those further down the managerial hierarchy, staff, partners, clients, and so on, are having to manage.
Step into the buyers’ situation, what would you do?
Good managers rely on their managers, and will often search out information for themselves. It is the reason why good managers are often walking the shop floor getting a feel for their business. Many are looking for subtle signs and signals where a dissenting voice may be within their business or partner businesses. These dissenters are some of the most important people good managers; also salespeople search out because they can see challenges and risks ahead that others may not have seen.
The best salespeople recognise that if they can find these dissenting voices, they have the opportunity to uncover an opportunity to build a value-based sale. Providing this type of information to those in the buying process will earn salespeople more trust with buyers they are helping.
Do this well and good salespeople’s’ reputation travels ahead of them reaching those who may hold the ultimate authority to make the purchase decision.
Do this well, and good salespeople build their reputation for being trustful, sympathetic, and courageous because focused on helping buyers better manage their buying struggles.
It is this reputation that in time may allow salespeople to influence the buying process, sometimes without ever having met the ultimate decision-maker.
Focus on our buyers’ struggle to buy
Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, at Gartner, sums up the buyer challenge perfectly. “As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling; it is our customers struggle to buy.”
Gartner identified six B2B buying “jobs” that customers must complete to their satisfaction to successfully finalise a purchase decision:
- Problem identification. “We need to do something.”
- Solution exploration. “What is out there to solve our problem?”
- Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
- Supplier Selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”
Does our sales behaviour earn buyers’ trust?
Rachel Botsman, in her book, Who can you trust? How technology brought us together – and why it could drive us apart, referred to trust as the currency of our interactions with our audience. It is a confident relationship with the unknown.
The skill to earn trust, influence and move others, to build a value-based sale goes beyond money. It requires good salesmanship to develop trusting relationships to close a solution sale when forecast.
“If I trust you, it is because I believe you are going to take my interests seriously… Ultimately, it is about me knowing I can depend upon you and that you will follow through… We need to think of trust as trusting someone to do something.”
Earning trust is a skill we must keep improving if we are to influence and move others. Building a value-based sale and to consistently forecast accurately, goes beyond money, which our sales processes that we are all guilty obsessing. It requires good salesmanship to develop trusting relationships to close a solution sale when forecast.
The challenge for us sellers is that most of our sales processes are inward-facing, focused on moving our product, service or solution. They focus on the financial transaction rather than the conversations and interactions required to earn trust and build a value-based sale.
If buyers are struggling to buy, we need to help them make better purchase decisions. To do that, we must focus on their buying struggle and help them move along their buying journey to earn their trust.
Are we helping buyers overcome their struggles?
The pressures of sales mean we can become preoccupied with our challenges how we will consistently achieve our quota plan. Fact is, these pressures are part of our job. Buyers have their challenges, so stop obsessing about them, focus on the people who have the authority to make an influence and make decisions to give you what you want.
More precisely, make their struggle dealing with and managing their six buying “jobs” your obsession with securing a successful sales outcome.
Focussing on helping our prospects and clients manage these “jobs” is an important step towards building a value-based sale. The jewel in the crown, the tour de force, pièce de résistance, whatever we want to call it – is the additional sales and revenue we will generate working to help buyers make better purchase decisions.
Forbes wrote an article called Don’t Spend 5 Times More Attracting New Customers, Nurture the Existing Ones. We probably have all seen research that it cost more, five times more in the Forbes article, to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. They press the point home highlighting that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95% according to research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company.
In the sales blog – Do your sales playbooks focus on the buyers’ journey? explores how we can better support buyers move through their buying journey. According to CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner, their research predicted by 2018, there would be 10.2 people involved in the decision process.
If we are to help buyers through their buying journey, it follows we need to support each person involved in the buying journey, either influence or make good purchase decisions for their business, today and into the future.
How can we transform buyers’ struggle into a competitive advantage?
We turn buyers’ struggle into our competitive advantage by helping them make better purchase decisions and move along their buying journey, completing their six buying “jobs”.
By focussing on helping buyers understand their situation, problems and available solutions, we help them avoid making a poorly informed purchase decision. With so many people becoming involved in the decision process, those in authority to say “Yes!” become more dependent on others to make faster, better decisions.
McKinsey & Company, in their article, Three keys to faster, better decisions highlighted siloed thinking or a consensus-driven culture can cause companies to make poor decisions.
Many studies have shown, greater diversity brings greater collective wisdom and expertise, along with better performance. Our opportunity, as sellers, is to earn our sales leads’ and clients’ trust to become part of the buyers’ collective wisdom.
The three most important characteristics of a good decision are:
- To be aligned with the company’s strategy,
- To have a clear value creation agenda,
- And the decisions are taken in such a way that they can be fully and effectively implemented.
Our opportunity to earn trust is to support buyers better manage these three characteristics for making good decisions. To better support and help buyers overcome their struggles. We do that by taking a structured approach to discovering information and insights to understand their situation better and buying journey.
The most successful salespeople focus on contributing to buyers’ collective wisdom and expertise supporting buyers through their buying journey.
What is Smarketing’s role helping buyers’ move along their buying journey?
Gartner’s research findings highlight that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. The selling challenge gets tougher when buyers are comparing potential suppliers. The amount of time spent with anyone sales rep maybe only 5% or 6%.
Our challenge is how we secure buyers’ attention and earn their trust opening the door for our sales reps to help them. In other words, the selling theory is very different from reality when considering Gartner’s research that buyers only spend 5% to 6% of their time with sales reps!
The reason for this shift in power from the seller to the buyer is because quality information through digital channels has made it far easier for buyers to gather information independently. Which means, we, the sellers, have less access and fewer opportunities to influence buyers to make better purchase decisions.
Smarketing is the process of integrating the sales and marketing process of a business. The objective is for sales and marketing functions to have a common integrated approach. Sales leadership must capitalise on the smarketing initiative if we are to improve our chances of securing quality sales rep time with buyers.
In other words, we need to influence buyers to move along their buying journey long before they start talking to our sales reps.
In the sales blog – Are your sales plays helping you close deals? I introduce the concept that Smarketing must consider sales play and the playbook is a baton passed to sales reps in a relay race to win a deal.
It is not about having the best…
A value-based sale is not about having the best solution, products, or service. It is about providing buyers with insights about their situation they were unaware. Aligning those insights with products, services and solutions, we deliver to solve their priority business challenges and goals.
To help buyers validate that we are the best partner of choice and support them getting all stakeholders on board.
In other words, Smarketing and the baton, our sales playbooks and sales plays, must focus on helping buyers complete the six B2B buying “jobs”.
No longer should we consider sales and marketing two separate functions allowing important tasks to remain competitive slip between the division. We must consider ourselves one function, not in organisational terms, but how to help buyers move through their buying journey.
Smarketing must focus on those tools and activities that provide information and influence buyers to manage their buying struggles better before they have ever contacted us. We also need to incorporate this into the baton we pass onto sales reps, which is the sales playbooks and sales plays, to better support buyers, make better purchase decisions.
We must provide the platform helping sales reps support buyers to complete their buying “jobs” to their satisfaction and successfully finalise a decision to purchase that includes our solution.
Pulling it all together…
We should not be obsessed with moving our solutions, products and services through our sales pipeline. Our obsession should be helping buyers move through their buying journey to make good purchase decisions.
Sales and marketing must work closely with one another. We need to become Jedi Masters at sales qualification so we focus our time on those prospects we can help to overcome their struggles making a good purchase decision. Effective qualification requires having the right conversations to earn buyers trust.
To support salespeople have the conversations, include a sales prospecting tool they can share with buyers to help them with their buying journey struggles.
The Conversational Solution Sales Scorecard and Training Platform, is such a tool that will better guide salespeople to help buyers to make good purchase decisions. By moving our focus away from ourselves to helping buyers, we will strengthen our sales pipeline, better manage a value-based sale and improve our forecast accuracy.