You have done everything according to the book. You followed your company’s sales process. The discussions with your prospects were interesting. In your view, they opened up and listened to the solutions you proposed. They always asked for a pricing proposal.
And still… after taking your prospects through your proposal, more often than not, there is nothing. Your opportunities stall. Your prospects are turning you the cold shoulder. Is this what you are facing? Then, it’s time to take action. Here are the three main reasons why your opportunities stall and what you can do to prevent that in the future.
- You sell with the seller’s perspective. This is a less interesting approach for your prospect. The questions you ask in the discovery phase follow a pattern that suits you as the seller. The moment you discover dissatisfaction of any kind, you hook it, amplify the root cause and discuss the impact on the prospect’s business. Then you align your solution with the acknowledged customer need and demonstrate why it is better than the competition’s. Be aware that your sales approach and the questions you ask are not new to your prospect. In fact, they hear these all the time, also from your competitor sales reps. In a way, it bores them, although they may not always tell you that.
Instead, you need to sell with the buyer’s perspective. In this way of selling, you have their company’s business objectives in mind. Your focus is on how you can help their business to grow and prosper, to accelerate and outperform their competitors. Selling with the buyer’s perspective means that you recognize and respect where your prospect is in their buying process. Buyers find changing suppliers complex and hence many refer back to their status quo. Instead, they figure out how they can deal with external and internal pressures with the current suppliers that they trust. Still, they are willing to meet with you if you have something of value to offer. Buyers spend a staggering 83% researching online, offline, and meeting with peer groups, all with the purpose of finding new ideas, insights, business models, and different ways of doing things. When they meet with you (the remaining 17%) ensure you meet their expectations. Not pushing your agenda but helping to push theirs.
- You act as a self-oriented salesperson. As a salesperson, you talk about the kind of things that a salesperson “should” talk about, like your company, your products, and your solutions. In this way of selling it is natural to work towards that moment, where you feel you can close the deal. This is probably the most tempting phase where you need to pinch yourself and slow down. Are you closing the deal because the outcome is a commission check or have you actually helped the prospect with getting closer to their desired outcome?
Instead, act as an other-oriented business person. In the new way of selling you are less self-oriented and more other-oriented. Buyers are business people and expect you to be able to talk about business. They are looking for ideas that help them gain a strategic advantage. If you believe you can deliver that, then start talking their language. What is the Euro or Dollars-delta between changing and not changing? You are asking them to make a cost-investment (changing to you as the more expensive solution), they are wondering what the return of that investment would be. Be ready to be challenged on what you see as the risk for them of not changing. In the end, changing suppliers goes with a solid business case, including strategic benefits with top and bottom-line key performance indicators. Today’s savvy buyers create the value realization plan before they commit to an investment. Make sure you help them with building that business case for change.
- You think you compete with the incumbent competitor. One common mistake salespeople make is meeting with only one or two people of a prospect’s organization and believing they are competing with the incumbent competitor. It is not a matter of who is bigger, better, more customer-centric, or greener.
Instead, your toughest competitor is the customer. You are competing with one or many stakeholders and their preference for sticking with the status quo. The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4, two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders have different roles, are in multiple functions, and are located in several geographies. Your job is to find out who these stakeholders are, what their agenda is, and who is influencing who? To prosper and grow, a company is constantly looking for ideas that would help them with achieving their profit targets. In addition, they are constantly confronted with external and internal changes. Adapting to these changes and achieving growth and profit targets are often high on the boardroom agenda. Their challenge is that not everyone at the senior management team agrees on how to adapt and the growth strategy. You need to help them with figuring out what is best for the organization. Help them with building a consensus for change.
Your proposals stall because of one or all of the above reasons. Change is difficult for buyers, but is it difficult for you to change the way you are selling?
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