When I meet with CEOs and the heads of marketing and sales, the conversation always leads to this question, âWhy is selling so hard today?â
Executives in corporations are frustrated with the level of complexity that has crept into the selling process. This new reality makes the sales cycle longer and more expensive for companies. The end result is that selling organizations are finding it harder and harder to meet their numbers.
So what are the causes and what can companies do to stem the tide of complexity in the selling process?
Your buyer has changed dramatically. Information is much more available, which provides much better intelligence for your buyer. For example, in the past buyers could not find pricing without talking to a salesperson and spending time being qualified. Now, pricing models are all over the Internet, and social media has made it much easier to find out pricing by talking to current customers.
So the need to meet with sales professionals has diminished in the eyes of many buyers. They can move through their decision-making process and often the selling organization is contacted at a much later stage in the process. The complexity of coming âlate to the partyâ for a sales rep is often compounded by the fact that the buyer needs to make a decision fairly quickly so the opportunity to âplay catch-upâ is not there.Â
With the uncertain economic climate that all companies face today, the level of scrutiny for taking on new projects that require the acquisition of new products and services is at an all-time high. There is tremendous financial pressure placed on all decision processes and salespeople are often ill-equipped to enter into such a complex and difficult discussion. The level of financial/business acumen and the skills needed to really get to know a buyer often places sales professionals out of their depth. Presenting features and benefits of a product or service has given way to the need for a salesperson to build a business case for the buyer and therefore has placed many sales professionals in a position of failure.
What do you need to do?
Sales managers need to re-engineer the skills and competencies of their sales team to focus on two key areas:
- Teach your sales professionals how to be agile thinkers. The dynamics of selling today require salespeople to think on their feet and work with information given to them on the fly by their buyers. Salespeople must be able to work with potential buyers to truly understand the business challenge they are trying to address to position your product or service in the best possible light. Also, itâs very important that you give salespeople the room to make decisions and donât box them in with too many selling requirements or parameters.
- Teach your sales team to ask a lot of questions. The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is the most powerful tool salespeople can have.Â Probing skills are at a premium now. Sales reps who ask great questions will beat out competitors who rely heavily, or solely, on product or service knowledge to win the sale. Asking questions helps paint a complete picture of the buyerâs needs and motivations and allows salespeople to focus on the most important features of their products or services. Plus, asking a lot of questions shows buyers you are interested in getting to know them, their company and their business challenges, which allows for a quicker development of trust.
Work with your sales team to develop these two areas of focus and you will see an immediate improvement in performance.