It’s been quite a ride since mid-March, and as sales leaders, you likely are still trying to make sense of a marketplace that can often be nonsensical.
That said, protecting your current book of business, as in any previous market downturn, likely represents the first, and best, place to start.
Given, however, that you count on relationships which require visibility, and often, face-to-face interactions, in order to be successful, it’s time to turn your attention to new techniques which resonate in a virtual sales landscape.
It starts with a true understanding of what the client is looking for, how they define service, through their lens, and delivering with excellence -- when that lens is attached to a computer.
Through our conversations with sales leaders, and in our own experiences, here’s what we consider to be the defining characteristics of a next-generation approach to account service.
Digital is king: You might be surprised to learn that even B2B buyers have become increasingly comfortable with the concept of procuring your offerings through eCommerce. A recent McKinsey study found that the desire to order off a mobile app has grown more than 250 percent. This places an increased emphasis on spiffing up your customer-facing digital experience, to ensure that they can complete phases of the buying journey without human intervention.
Quality matters: Though product quality is typically outside of the reach of the salesperson, it ranks as the No. 1 concern among buyers. In our own study of B2B procurement, we explored how quality influences buying decisions, and how the buyer leverages the quality argument to negotiate. What we found was surprising: Nearly two-thirds of buyers said that products or services which performed as promised would likely justify a higher purchase price.
So, what does that mean for salespeople? Though your team may not be able to control quality, they should have a thorough understanding of what buyers expect from your product or service, so they can be sure to present the appropriate solution.
There’s no “I” in customer: A colleague of ours suggests that salespeople, too often, are leads in the “Narcissistic Opera” – they say, “Me, me, me, me, me” too often! Today, with budgets tight and the time that we have to woo buyers even tighter, your salespeople need to truly focus only on the customer – how they make money, what they care about, etc. Sharpen your key points. Lead with empathy. And exchange the generic patter for real solutions that show you truly understand your buyer.
Go higher and deeper: Now is the time to coach your team to be what we call a “system-thinking” seller – derived from the scientific idea that parts operate differently when integrated into a whole. In sales, that means your interactions with buyers should include an exploration of your solutions in the broader context of the buyers’ business. Probe deeply, ask thoughtful and insightful questions, and use curiosity in conjunction with active listening and analytical ability to demonstrate knowledge of the foundations of your buyers’ business. One recent study found that 84 percent of customers became frustrated when they didn’t think a salesperson was responding knowledgeably to their questions or concerns.
No gimmicks needed: Many salespeople have expressed concern that without the usual trappings of relationship selling – things like swag, snacks, and samples – they believe they’re not truly able to connect with buyers. It turns out, buyers never really wanted those gimmicks anyway. In a recent survey, we found that tchotchkes were next to last in a list of 10 attributes in salespeople that buyers were looking for.
Instead, stuff in your virtual tote bag these keys to success: Be transparent and clear about things like pricing and product availability. Respond quickly to requests for special pricing, customization, or if issues arise with the order. Maintain pricing integrity, since sudden discounts can signal distress within your business. And offer honest solutions to your buyers’ demands – understanding that they’re not just looking for the right answer, but they’re looking for what works.
What are you doing in your sales organization to ensure your sales professionals can connect with buyers in the changed sales landscape? If we at The Brooks Group can be of assistance to you, please reach out.