According to research by Blanchard Companies 60% of teams are failing to achieve their business objectives. The business landscape is ever evolving. If sales teams are to stay relevant they need to be mindful of the changes taking place around them and the biggest shift in buyer/seller relationship is customers are doing their own research.
Sales teams need to engage informed buyers differently and anyone doggedly clinging to the old paradigm will be left behind
There was a time all you needed to communicate services to customers was slick marketing materials and a polished sales pitch. Buyers didn’t have access to information unless it came from other sales reps with a similar approach. If the customer was receptive to your presentation they would likely buy from you with little additional input or process.
These-days customers have formed a concept of what they want or need using information from peers and experts who don’t have the bias of wanting to sell them something. Armed with knowledge - from sources more trusted than the supplier of the service or product - these customers are often far along in their buying cycle before they even meet a rep. To compete in the ‘new normal’ sellers need to consider how their insight adds value to the buyer’s proposition and ultimately gain their business.
In a market full of customers with more information than ever before sales reps can disrupt a client’s thinking by building trust, credibility and – as is becoming increasingly important - sharing relevant insights.
An Insight is information or a ‘story’ a seller tailors to a buyer’s challenges and opportunities based on credible research and relevant experience. When a compelling story is shared it encourages the buyer to think about their needs in a new way, showing them alternative paths to vanquish challenges or seize on opportunities. When imparted correctly a good insight allows sellers to offer their product in a new way that doesn’t rely on the hard sell.
Sales teams can be trained to identify how and when to share insight by viewing the sales process through the lens of the three principles below (Schultz and Doerr).
The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it. - President Harry. S. Trueman
It’s one thing having insight it’s another delivering it effectively. In today’s business environment, where customers are swimming in information served up by an infinite number of parties proclaiming expertise, it’s not enough for sellers to highlight their credentials and lecture the buyer on their vision. To effectively challenge the buyer to think through what’s wrong or what’s missing from their approach, sitting them down and telling them to be quiet for 20 minutes while you rattle off a presentation won’t cut it.
However according to Dario Priolo this is still how many sellers are taught and it’s an approach that can damage sales results. Sellers trained to deliver insight through a presentation led approach run the risk of:
Sales teams need to create and shape opportunities in a way the old ‘top down’ approach of interacting with a buyer simply doesn’t cater for. In this day and age a sellers’ best chance to change the way a customer thinks about their needs or a solution to their advantage they need to employ a lateral communication approach.
Buyers have doubts, questions and their own defined thoughts and opinions related to their business. These can only be teased out of a client in conversations not presentations.
The information flows both ways in the conversational approach. Buyers and sellers asking questions of, listening to and sharing insight with each other builds trust, credibility and understanding.
Sellers must be sensitive to how buyers process information, manage through resistance, and keep the buyer tracking with their point of view. Buyers may not instantly buy in to a thought provoking idea, even a novel one. In a presentation setting that idea has one shot at triggering new thinking. In a conversation the seller can float the idea to the buyer as an open-ended question, check with the buyer for validity or support and look and listen for both verbal and nonverbal cues.
Favourable responses trigger the seller can dive deeper into their insight, continuing to check along the way to ensure that the buyer is tracking and addressing questions or concerns along the way. Cool responses alert the seller that the customer isn’t tracking with their idea as its being presented and their approach needs to be modified.
If sellers can draw on the right skills at the right time, depending on what they do know, or don’t know about a buyer they can use delivery of insight to reframe their customers thinking.
As buyers become better informed and better prepared, competition becomes more intense, and sales teams will need more skill than ever to succeed. Presentations have their place in the sales process, but insights are best shared through conversations and great storytelling.
Andrew Sillitoe is a leading thinker in the field of strategic team coaching. His experience of working with elite sports teams and business teams during the last 20 years has helped shape the unique team coaching methodology. He has coached hundreds of teams across the globe to become strategically aligned, focused and more effective within their organisation.