Recent Changes in Buyer Behavior
Preference for Digital Interactions
Increased Number of Stakeholders
Access to SMEs
Unprecedented Access to Information
Availability of Options
If buying is hard on the buyer – imagine what it’s like for a seller. Sellers typically must play catch up when they enter the buyer’s buying journey. The buyer already has formed a hypothesis around a solution. This hypothesis is based on the buyer’s current understanding of the nature and scope of the issue, which may or may not have been accurately diagnosed. Sellers must recognize where the buyer is in their buying journey, how far along the buyer is in their thinking, and what has influenced the thinking to date. On top of that, each stakeholder may be in a different state in the journey. Situational fluency is more important than ever.
To create value, sellers need to bring insight that shapes thinking to ensure that the buyer accurately diagnoses the issue, identifies the best solution, and that the solution plays to the seller’s competitive strengths. This may involve reengineering the buyer’s thinking around their preformed vision of the solution. Typically, a seller spends 15% of the buying cycle on deconflicting and decluttering information the buyer used to come to the preformed solution hypothesis. The co-created vision must be compelling, so that the deal does not end in “no decision.”
Activities need to be repeated as new players and stakeholders emerge. Sellers need to constantly check for changes and be agile in responding. Without a clear line of sight on how to agilely lead the buyer through the complexity, sellers may find themselves in a daily state of crisis – reacting to customer changes and competitor moves as they compete for the business. The result is that the seller is passive and reactive as the customer struggles through the buying journey vs. being proactive, guiding the customer through the journey and driving momentum. Given the level of complexity coupled with high buyer expectations, only those sellers operating at the highest levels of effectiveness and efficiency will prevail.
Build Modern Selling Capabilities.
While buyers are savvy, busy, pressured, risk-averse, and more demanding, they still need guidance to make the best business and personal decisions. Even though customers have unprecedented access to knowledge, they face the difficulty of sorting through what matters most and finding the value among all of the options. More information doesn’t always translate into accurate, clearer understanding; customers still need sellers to accurately diagnose their unique situations and identify the best solutions to make an informed buying decision that drives the results that they need.
To be truly and wholly effective and differentiated in the eyes of today’s buyers, sellers need to create value in the buying experience itself — that means helping customers to better understand the true nature of a business issue and how best to address it. It is not about manipulating or controlling the customer; it’s about building credibility, fostering trust, and creating value for the customer, and, in turn, creating opportunities for you as the seller.
Successful selling strategies today are not achieved through one tactic or approach. Rather, it requires a broad set of selling capabilities that are constantly put into practice and refined.
Build Agility. Drive Continuous Improvement.
To keep pace with changes in buyer behavior and remain ahead of the competition, successful sales organizations must remain agile and strive for continuous improvement, never resting on the previous year or quarter’s success. For the largest global sales organizations, continuous skill-building at scale is not an easy task. Identifying the right skills, the right people, the right sustainment path, and the right metrics to measure takes planning and expertise.
5 Keys to Transforming Your Sales Organization
Start at the Top – Leadership buy-in and commitment is critical. But, the demonstration of this commitment is paramount. From the vision they communicate about the change through the behaviors they display, leaders need a clear path and set of skills and activities to lead.
Make it Personal – Every salesperson and sales manager comes to the table as a unique individual with strengths and gaps. Personalization begins with giving the team visibility into their unique needs to create buy-in and engagement — it drives faster improvement. Customized, contextualized content drives immediate relevancy. And, targeted learning paths drive individual behavior change in the field and are achievable at scale.
Focus on Agility – The sales process and methodology a sales organization employs drives consistency and a common language for coaching. But, the selling skills are what drive agility in the moment with the buyer. In a world where change is constant, the most agile sales organizations are the ones that are highly skilled and can stay out in front of their buyers.
Plan with the End in Mind – Sustainment and measurement strategies should be planned for at the beginning of a sales transformation initiative, no matter the size or scope. Knowing the critical business metrics you need to improve should drive the types of behaviors you seek to change. And, sustaining your transformation is the best path to realizing the full potential return on investment. Thoughtfully organizing a plan to keep the new learning alive and drive continuous improvement is worth the investment of time up front.
Use Data to Keep Getting Better – Using real-time data and analytics not only shows progress to achieve goals and business outcomes, but it also allows for in-the-moment adjustments for the most targeted improvement efforts. Commitment, engagement, behavior change, and performance improvement are all measurable elements that should be tightly woven together in a data set that is not only accurate but also delivered in a way that leads to actionable insights for your business.