The power of the internet and social networks continues to change how business is conducted and gives buyers an infinite aray of choices. The competitive pressure to provide value at low cost is proof that a flattened world has changed how the transfer of goods is transacted.
On a recent webinar, I heard the Sales VP say that he saw it as the “consumerization of B2B”. That’s when he knew his team needed to start leveraging social as part of their sales activities. If your business strategy doesn’t reflect an attunement with this changed world, and subsequent alignment to it, you will find your salespeople locked out of opportunities.
When is the last time you closely evaluated what prompts your prospects to purchase a product or service? It could be from you or from another provider. I can say with absolute certainly that they don’t buy the features. As the sales leader, are you sure your team members really understand what drives the close (or the loss) of a sale? Experience (and research to back me up) tells me that it is very likely that they don’t. Consider this:
- Over half of all salespeople close at less than 40%
- Only 52% can access the key players in decision making roles
- 40% do not understand the buyer’s pain
Though disappointing, these statistics don’t surprise me at all. Salespeople aren’t being trained how to be consultative sales advisors. They are taught to pitch features, but that doesn’t close deals. Little real scrutiny goes into understanding why some deals close and others never get off the ground.
The buying process has changed.
How products and services are purchased today has fundamentally changed. Until a few years ago, the producers of the products and services held the cards. Buyers were at the mercy of salespeople educating them about options. Obviously, a sellers perspective was biased. These days, it is the vendor who is “last in the chain” according to Axel Schultze, CEO at of social media software provider Appearoo.
Buyers educate themselves in the early stages of determining what products/services might fix what ails them. They gather information from a variety of sources, which includes your own company website. Sellers who simply regurgitate the feature story look like what they are – amateurs. If you expect to win, you need to bring to the table something the buyer doesn’t already know – information that adds value to their business.
Message matters. What does yours say about you and your company?
To make the sales challenge even harder, according to an eBook on WittyParrot_eBook_Expert_Prospecting_Tips_2014, one in every two B2B salespeople are left to their own devices to generate leads. Buyers, unfortunately, easily block their prospecting efforts. As result, salespeople now turn to social networks in an effort to reach prospective customers. Known as social selling, you might think that what you knew about selling was no longer relevant. However, social selling is simply the tactical activity used to network, prospect, cultivate referrals, generate leads and conduct pre-sales call research using online tools.
Using social networks is NOT a shortcut to immediate sales. Integrating social media into a repeatable sales process takes thought, discipline and consistent effort. In other words, it takes work. But sales success relies on much more – the basics of good selling. Using online tactics may help secure the sales meeting, but a sellers ability to communicate relevance and value through their message and presentation is where the opportunity progresses, or stalls out.
“The greatest inhibitor to sales effectiveness is the inability to communicate a value message.” – SiriusDecisions, 2013
Scripts and canned speeches about features and benefits fall on deaf ears. Ditch the pitch in favor of selling the problem. If you don’t know what business problem you solve for the industries that you serve, well, to pardon the pun…you have a problem. It is not what your widget does, it is the problem it solves for a buyers business that makes the difference. That means you need to roll up your sleeves and learn about the prospect’s business. You have to know how what you sell can help them.
How you communicate your message to each prospect you try to engage is also extremely important today. Boiler plate emails and phone calls earn an automatic delete. This isn’t solely my opinion. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) surveyed 5,000 executives and decision makers that interact with salespeople and discovered that 86% of these executives said that the salesperson’s message had NO commercial impact on them whatsoever. So while sellers pat themselves on the back for cranking out 1,000 emails each week – 86% of them did nothing to further a sales result!
Stop doing the same things over and over again expecting different results.
I’m not saying stop sending emails or making phone calls. Quite the contrary. Those are important sales tools. What I am saying is change WHAT you say and HOW you approach prospective customers. Selling is extremely rewarding – and for top sellers, high profitable – but it does take work. If it were easy, everyone would make it their chosen profession. If you want to stand out, you have to change what you believe works in selling today. Until you adapt how you do things, you will struggle, become frustrated and burn out. What’s the point of that?