As buyers continue to change how they buy, sales people need to keep evolving.
But how - and why?
In short - the salesperson of the future will be the one that adapts his/her selling processes to match the new way in which buyers buy.
There are lots of disrupting influences in the B2B marketplace at the moment - the move to the cloud, social media, globalisation, etc. These issues are disrupting commerce - but the accompanying change in how buyers buy in particular is disrupting and making irrelevant the "old ways of selling"..
The 6 key things all salespeople must do to succeed in the 21st Century:
1. Deploy a sales process that matches with the new buyer’s journey
On average, buyers get 70% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a sales organisation (according to research undertaken by the Corporate Executive Board).
When they do reach out, they reach out to many of us – but there is only one winner and everyone else has wasted their time.
Per the following 2 points - we need to engage earlier to generate more new leads, reduce competition, improve deal margins and sales velocity.
2. Disrupt customers to shatter their status quo
Understanding this new buyer’s journey is the key to early engagement: research says that the “Relationship Builder” is actually the POOREST performing sales profile. Instead the "Challenger" offers up insights that challenge customers' businesses and offer them a better way of doing things.
Buyers want to be educated – they want to hear about the insights we can provide into their business based on the work we do across all of our customers.
Now THAT's disruptive - by showing the customer they need to "unlearn" part of how they run their business, we've given birth to a new buying journey - and we're Johnny/Jenny on the spot to walk with them on that buying journey.
3. Leverage social media
Certainly we need to “challenge” customers to “shatter their status quo”, thus starting them on a new buying journey. We also need to use social media to LISTEN to hear when someone ELSE has shattered the buyer’s status quo, starting a new buyer’s journey.
"Sales Triggers" are the events that happen to buyers to shatter their status quo. The Challenger CAUSES the sales trigger to happen - the Social Seller listens online to HEAR when the Sales Trigger has occurred.
Here's an example of someone who's just had their status quo shattered - and who is expressing this online via Twitter - this could easily be the Sales Trigger that starts them on a new buyer journey:
Research says that 74% of B2B sales people that use social media OUTPERFORM those that don’t so social selling is something that can no longer be ignored.
4. Innovate to reduce the cost of sale
Given the move to customers paying for everything as a service on a monthly basis, we have to dramatically reduce the cost of sale. We need more leads and less salespeople.
Innovation here is important – for example a popular offering from my firm involves teaching field based technical and consulting resources to spot and report back on opportunities. This has immediate payback in terms of leads and customer satisfaction – and removes the risk of mis-hiring a sales person, an exercise we estimate costs nearly $200,000.
5. Align Sales and Marketing
The old days of Marketing generating leads and throwing them over the fence to Sales are dead – Sales and Marketing have to work together all along the buyer’s journey.
As an example - for each stage of the buyer's journey there is specific content that Marketing can generate - which then Sales can execute on:
When the customer is CALM - Marketing can generate a "disruptive insight", which Sales can deliver to the customer, ideally shattering their status quo.
When the customer is SEARCHING AROUND the PROBLEM - Marketing will ensure websites, LinkedIn profiles etc are optimised with EARLY ENGAGEMENT CONTENT to ensure the buyer lands on the right (i.e. our) site. This content is NOT information about solutions and the selling company - but MORE aligned with what a buyer will type into a search engine when they realise they have a problem (e.g. "The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Computer Network Keeps Crashing").
IDC reports that sales teams use only 25% of what Marketing comes up with – so this change is well overdue. Traditionally Marketing produces "late engagement" content - the content needs to change to match each phase of the buyer's journey.
6. Create a seamless and educational sales process
We just discussed how the right content at the right time assists educating the buyer – and this is all very well for achieving the initial sale – but how do we keep customers? What do we need to do to ensure customer loyalty – particularly in this era of (for example) "software as a service", where customers can change providers instantly, with minimal switching costs?
More CEB research shows that – unlike branding, customer service, value for money, etc – it is the SALES EXPERIENCE that provides over 50% of the contribution to customer loyalty. The sales person needs to offer unique insights, and help the buyer navigate alternatives, avoiding land mines along the way. HOW we sell is now more important than WHAT we sell – particularly when it comes to customer loyalty.
Understanding the new buyer's journey, and mapping our sales and marketing processes to reflect this, is the key to unlocking sales and marketing success in the 21st Century.
What do you think - are there other key tips to add to the list? Let us know your thoughts.