2013 has arrived, and in full swing after the holiday blur and fiscal cliff shenanigans. Sales and revenue goals are probably top of mind, gearing up for 1st quarter activities. Being in marketing for several decades, I’m struck by the shift in the sales mindset. Both on the giving and the receiving end.
Knowledgeable Prospects Change the Conversation
According to Harvard Business Review, solutions-based selling is part of an old playbook that no longer works. They reported on a Corporate Executive Board study that surveyed more than 1,400 B2B customers. The study found that 60% of a typical purchasing decision (researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarked pricing, etc.) was done before they reached out for an initial discussion with a potential supplier. So if you or your sales team is using a traditional solutions-based approach with this type of prospect, you’ve turned them off. What techniques are high performers in this new paradigm? They:
- Used a different qualifying criteria to evaluate prospects by targeting businesses specifically in a state of immense change
- Approached different stakeholders, especially those who are skeptical
- Focused on how to buy rather than what to buy
Coaching Your Sales Team
HBR went into more detail on strategies that take advantage of how sales conversations have changed.
Strategy #1: Avoid the Trap of Established Demand
High performers place little value of typical and traditional purchasing predictors and focus on two criteria:
- Agility — the ability for the customer to act quickly and decisively when presented with a compelling business case. Those prospects mired in decision trees and political structures have an uphill battle ahead, thus requiring more time and effort to complete a successful sale.
- Emerging Need — organizations who are examining the status quo either thru pressures like regulatory changes, leadership turnover, and market consolidation are looking for insights and disruptive solutions.
Strategy 2: Find Mobilizers not Advocates
This may seem counter-intuitive, but advocates tend to follow traditional processes. Advocates coach a salesperson through the hoops and hurdles typically laid out in an RPF or bidding process. A mobilizer drives action around a corporate purchase or initiative. When the high performing sales rep finds and leverages connections with individuals who are motivated by organizational improvement. These individuals are constantly looking for good ideas, passionate about sharing new insights, or able to push back on these ideas to ensure thoughtful and measured implementation.
Strategy #3: Coach Customers on How to Buy
With the vast amounts of data available during a purchasing decision, it’s easy for a prospect to get lost in complex solutions. In a typical RFP presentation, one company took a radically different approach. They followed the rules and compiled all the data the prospect requested. Rather than regurge their RFP document, they led the conversation and changed the playing field. They enumerated all the things missing from the RFP and the questions the prospects should be asking. You could imagine that got someone’s attention. Since they reshaped the evaluation process, they won the deal.
So as you refine your 2013 sales plan, how can these insights help you manage your sales and marketing teams?