Sales reps face a more challenging buying climate today, as compared to a few years ago. Several new factors outlined in this article have shifted the balance of power in favor of the customer. The new reality is customers are smarter, they purchase solutions as part of a committee, and they use the web as a resource for information before interacting with a sales rep. But, like a good Judo master, with the right technique you can leverage these new conditions to your advantage.
Top Three Shifts in Buyer Behavior
The change in buyer behavior affects the selling landscape today. Here are a few of the shifts in buying behavior:
The customer is consuming information like a goldfish that hasn’t been fed the whole time you were on vacation. They are well over halfway through their education process before they engage a salesperson. In many cases, the customer knows more about the problem and alternatives than the sales rep. All of their research has resulted in the customer having strong opinions, making it more difficult for the rep to control the process.
They Buy in Packs
Top-down selling is a thing of the past. Today’s rep needs to satisfy the requirements of 5 – 7 people to wrangle the deal to the finish line. Each one has unique information demands and things they care about. Well over 50 percent of the conversations involving your offering happen without the presence of the rep, which makes it much harder to control the outcome.
Customers like to keep reps at a distance, preferring to communicate online for most of the sales process. This way, the rep can be controlled and prevented from influencing decision makers through the customer’s organization. Reps are not fans of online selling. Around 50 percent of reps believe it has a negative impact on selling, and 30 percent believe it has an extreme negative impact on selling. Reps like to shake hands.
How You Can Regain Some Control in Selling
The result of not adapting to the new reality is evidenced by the extreme drop-off between the first and second customer meetings. Forrester Consulting found that 75 percent of opportunities never make it to the second meeting. Highspot quoted a 93 percent drop-off after the first encounter. In short, using most of the tactics that worked a few years ago aren’t working in today’s buying climate.
So, how do we wrestle a little bit of control back from the customer?
To succeed against multiple well-educated buying groups, the rep frankly needs to be more capable, and better armed. This can happen over time, as experience is a great teacher. Or, it can be accelerated through a combination of buyer centric sales training and precision sales enablement.
Prescriptive Selling Approach
The secret is adapting both sales and enablement functions to match these buying behaviors, such that the rep can proactively lead the customer with the right tactics and content. Customers actually prefer a more prescriptive selling approach, as it brings new information and guidance into their decision process. They often need clarification and help with priorities, as they try to make sense of the tsunami of information they’ve ingested in the research phase.
Contextual Selling Approach
Aligning the sales content framework to sales tactics, based on the primary driver yields the best results (and offers the best chance of controlling the process). If the rep can effectively discuss the customer’s challenges and motivations, the customer is more likely to believe that the rep offers a solution. The more time the rep can spend in problem-oriented discussions and discovery, the better they can tune messaging to resonate with the customer’s mindset and impart influence.
This contextual approach to enablement requires a more analytical approach to sales training and readiness. Driven by a structured methodology, the analysis of the sales engagement creates a set of requirements for precision enablement that creates a natural feedback mechanism between sales and marketing.
Build Momentum with Buyers
One thing that hasn’t changed in the world of sales is the need to build momentum. This is where buyer-centric sales and enablement deliver the greatest value – eliminating friction through the buyers’ process. A well-enabled buyer-centric sales approach like Modern Sales Foundations arms the rep with specific value points for each buyer in the chain, and for each stage of the encounter.
With much of the sales process conducted online, having near-instantaneous access to precision content can be used to build momentum. Organizing content by sales profiles (problem – people – process…) enables reps to have the right guidance and materials at the ready, such that they can exert more control over the process.
Only by recognizing things have changed, and leveraging a more buyer-centric sales and enablement approach, can the sales and marketing teams regain control and excel in today’s challenging sales environment.
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