Why Sales Teams Should Think Beyond Traditional Sales

(This article was originally posted in The Huffington Post)

These days, customers want to be educated and influenced through impartial input. At my company, Skaled, a consulting firm focused on finding ways to generate new clients, we’ve moved beyond the traditional sales model. The consumer is profoundly more educated when entering a business conversation than they’ve ever been before. However, only 27 percent of all inbound leads are actually sales qualified. This means that nearly three out of four leads are the wrong fit for a sales deal. This can happen because most of the people who take initial meetings are not final decision-makers, but are rather influencers in the buying process. There’s also often a gap in the information that influencers need to escalate the sale. These influencers don’t have all the facts, and are simply trying to streamline the process for the end-buyer.

In order for us as salespeople to become the most knowledgeable source in the buyer journey, we need to be aware of what both B2C and B2B prospects already know. This includes pricing, a basic idea of what we sell, an initial idea on how they might use it, and an understanding of competing services. We also must be aware of what they want to learn. This includes the macro-level business value gained from the product, how to properly implement the product, and who we are as a vendor.

Prove the Macro-Level Business Value

Instead of talking about how your product will help a buyer’s business, identify trends surrounding the industry and the impact they have on their business. A lot of companies use internal thought leadership in their pitch, but more often than not, they forget to use relevant third party data to tie industry trends to their solutions. The Challenger Sale does a good job of explaining this kind of selling: “The ability to deliver unique insight is arguably the most powerful weapon in the Challenger’s arsenal and the biggest driver of B2B customer loyalty.” It’s what we’ve called consultative sales for years, but it’s rarely practiced (or practiced correctly, at least).

Even before a prospect is presented with a product or service, they should first believe that the issues you solve are important on a macro level. This is a shift for many sales organizations who feel their jobs are to solely pitch the product, and then try to close.

Help Customers Plan for a Solid Implementation

Over the years, I have seen that most buyers are not shopping for products that are direct replacements for something they already have. You will overlap with multiple departments and stakeholders, which requires cross-functional selling.

Even if you do get your customer excited and move the deal to a certain point, what we see is that because the sales team often doesn’t inform the buyer involved in the process, they often don’t follow through. While it may be ideal to find a buyer champion who can help you navigate internal structure and politics, in the end, it’s the sales team’s job to help the prospect by telling them who is typically involved by job type, at what stages, and at what level. Talk about a rollout plan and what buyer company teams are required early in the sales process. Stalled deals are primarily caused by prospects not knowing who or what’s required to buy and fully implement the product.

Show Them That Their Background Is Your Background

If you’re looking to sell to bigger companies, you need to realize that they have very little interest in who your VC is or where you went to school. If they’re a tech company or someone who geeks out over startups, they may care. But as you scale, the companies you partner with are already used to dealing with the big players. They want to know that you have been there and done that with similar clients.

So, when you talk about who you are, mention your role in their industry, how you’ve helped clients of their size, and how you align with their sphere of influence. You will see a large improvement in how they view and react to your sales conversation. The buyer wants to see who you really are. But more importantly, they want to see themselves in the mirror when talking about your clients.

As transparency increases, sales teams will have to further adapt and focus on adding macro-level value while still being able to hold personalized conversations. Sales as we know it is changing, the pitch is evolving, and consumers are gaining more access complete information. How will you handle it?