By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A few years ago I spoke at a sales conference. On Friday afternoon a motivational speaker whipped the audience into a frenzy. After that session a fellow presenter offered his opinion of likely outcomes of the talk that had just been delivered:
- Attendees would resume normal breathing within minutes or hours. By Monday the motivational talk would be a distant memory with minimal residual impact.
- Attendees that bought the speaker’s CD might listen to it before making calls. He wondered if enthusiasm absent new skills would result in better or worse calls. Inept sellers would make bad calls more enthusiastically. His inclination was the ultimate result would often be worse calls.
The benefits of motivation are limited if people lack the requisite skills needed to perform. When telling sellers what to do without telling them how, prepare to be disappointed.
Responding To New Buying Behavior
As described in Rethinking The Sales Cycle (McGraw-Hill, 2009) B2B selling has been turned on its ear by buyers leveraging the Internet and social networking to bypass or delay seller interactions. Having done research buyers are better informed if and when they contact sellers. Organizations have been forced to accept that Marketing has become more responsible for nurturing inbound inquiries into leads at the top of the funnel.
Nobody questions the fact that a great deal of DIY buying is ongoing, yet companies struggle to achieve top line revenue growth. Few B2B vendors selling complicated/expensive offerings have formed a coherent enterprise strategy to address the following issues:
- Most people researching offerings on websites are “lookers” rather than buyers.
- As with opportunities initiated by salespeople, entry points with “lookers” mean longer sales cycles that require getting access to higher levels. Each person a seller talks to until they reach Key Players can so “no” but can’t say “yes.” Lower entry points result in lower win rates.
- Traditional selling approaches conflict with how knowledgeable buyers want to buy. How has a seller’s role changed when contacted by buyers that have done research and how can sellers better align with them?
- Accepting a large percentage of “leads” from inbound sources means vendors have limited ability to target companies that meet criteria and therefore have a higher probability of buying.
- Inbound leads should be considered buying, not sales cycles. Knowledgeable buyers have an idea of how they want to buy. How do sellers merge how buyers want to buy with the steps necessary to make recommendations?
Devising Enterprise Responses
It has been remarkable to watch a disparate group of buyers coalesce and dictate to vendors how they want to buy. Their response has been a backlash from decades of vendors and sellers being the keepers of information about offerings they selectively provided to buyers. Many felt manipulated by sellers that set expectations that could not be delivered and therefore don’t want their influence when determining their requirements.
Achieving top line revenue growth is too important to rely upon individual sellers to change the way they interface with new buyers. A coherent strategy to get Sales and Marketing on the same page both for nurturing inbound inquiries and proactively making outbound contacts and empowering sellers to align with each, seems to be table stakes to succeed in today’s environment.
Vendors that realize the futility of allowing departments or individuals to make ad hoc responses to new buying behavior have an opportunity to enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage by providing better buying experiences.