You Didn’t Forget How to Sell. Your Buyer Changed How They Buy
Why B2B Sales Needs to Change
Incredible advances in computing, software functionality, connectivity and data science are fueling dramatic leaps in business productivity. At the same time, they are also creating a series of gaps. The obvious one is the gap between those that adopt new technology and those that don’t. History teaches us that businesses that adopt and harness the power of new technology, rapidly separate themselves from businesses that don’t. The less obvious gap, and the one that is actually more problematic today, is the increasing gap between your business and your customer.
Selling in a Digital World
Do any of these comments sound familiar?
“Our sales reps aren’t making enough calls”.
“We’re not generating enough appointments”.
“We need to train our reps to sell larger deals”.
“Marketing isn’t generating enough leads”.
“We know all of our customers and prospects. We don’t need to market to them”.
“We’re still exhibiting at the major trade shows but we’re not generating the leads we used to”.
“Word of mouth is how we built our business but the phone isn’t ringing like it used to”.
If you answered yes to any or all of these, you’re not alone. Today, the average B2B purchase process is 70% completed before a buyer engages with a sales rep. With the click of a mouse, buyers have access to information that was previously the sole domain of sales reps. Complex products that once required the explanation of experienced sales pros, can now be marketed directly to customers via content marketing in the form of white papers, videos and webinars. Sales reps who have historically based their value on their customer lists and proprietary knowledge, are learning that content marketing and digital demand generation have changed that value proposition, allowing marketers to take over much of what sales used to do. Advances in technology have radically and irrevocably changed the way sales works-or doesn’t-in business today.
Yes, we’ve had a decade plus of marketing automation and sales enablement and programs like “ABM: Account Based Marketing”, feel like old news. Here’s the reality though…fragmented by interoperable technologies and data sets, with little or no orchestration, most B2B sales and marketing efforts are still struggling. Badly.
Here’s the Good News
Today, digital solutions for sales and marketing; fully integrated digital marketing programs, marketing automation, data analytics and sales enablement tools, are accessible and cost-effective.
Here’s the Challenge
If you’re not mapping your sales and marketing strategy to the way your buyer buys (not the way you’d like them to buy) these investments will be wasted.
Here are 5 tips for selling in today’s digital world.
- From Interest to Invoice: From the earliest stages of a purchase process, through to developing a shortlist, to sending out an RFP, your prospective customers leave digital footprints reflecting their interests and needs. To turn prospects into customers, you need to enable buyers throughout their process, which requires a sales and marketing strategy that goes from interest to invoice. Collecting 1st party, permission-based data that helps you understand your prospects needs is essential for sales success today. Armed with this understanding, you can then align the rest of your marketing and sales processes based on your knowledge of how your buyer buys.
- Understanding Your Buyers “Jobs-to-be-Done”: Buyer persona’s and simplistic buyer journey models no longer work. Today a more rigorous understanding of your buyer’s “Jobs-to-be-Done” is required. This process, pioneered by Harvard Professor and author Clayton Christensen, has been used extensively in product design and development. JtBD is increasingly being used in sales and marketing today, to provide a deeper level of understanding on the problems buyers are trying to solve and to craft marketing and sales processes tailored to help them.
- Market Your Products. Then Sell Them: Many business-to-business companies have historically relied primarily on sales and never developed a product marketing strategy. With customers upwards of 70% through their purchase process before engaging with sales, product marketing is essential today. This requires well-crafted digital programs, targeting prospects and in-market buyers, that solve buyers jobs-to-be-done. These programs then help guide the buyer through the sales channels they ultimately choose. Your prospects have already gone online and looked at both your company and your competitors before they engage with a sales rep. The battle is won or lost in product marketing today.
- Power in Sales Today Comes From What You Share. Not What You Know: The days of the seller having an information advantage in the process of selling are over. Your customer knows more than your best rep will ever know about your market, your offering and your competitor’s value proposition. Effective selling today is about the timely sharing of contextual information that helps buyers as they go through their purchase process and their related jobs-to-be-done. This might entail a deeper insight into company strategy. It might mean the sharing of a white paper or video. It might mean sharing a related customer experience. Or it might mean putting together a rationale that a prospect can take to their boss in order to move a purchase process to the next level. Your customers are looking for solutions that match their needs, not a series of facts about a product or service and how it may or may not match up against a competitor’s offering. Make sure your reps are sharing first and enabling the buyer before they start selling.
- From Always be Closing to Always Be Learning. Sales is going through a radical transformation today and is a practice that requires ongoing learning. From presentation and communication skills training to product training and objection handling, sales reps should always be training. Provide your sales teams with realtime data and analytics on customer activity and engagement. Set up an ongoing curriculum that focuses on customer case studies, product, communications, and presentation training. Do peer reviews of successful sales, examining the steps in the process and train your reps to apply similar approaches with other prospects. Do the same thing on “lost business”, cases where you missed the mark and a customer left or decreased their business. The online tools for training today are incredible. Sales training shouldn’t be something that takes place at an annual sales meeting. It needs to be an ongoing process and one that also encompasses everyone in your company who touch prospects and customers…from interest to invoice.