During the rare occasion of going to the city for some shopping, I stumbled upon a salesperson in a shopping mall selling steak knives. Yes…steak knives! He had a prime position at the entry of the mall – you just couldn’t miss it. There was a small crowd of people watching him, still keeping their distance and all wearing a mask. As if in a trance, the salesman perfectly sliced through carrots and potatoes, demonstrating what his knives were capable of. He even slashed through A4 printing paper, making these knives look dangerously sharp. Still, there were not many buyers. Bystanders loved the demonstration and his confident talk, but somehow the trust wasn’t there to hand over the money in exchange for a set. Where did he go wrong? The thing is…he didn’t. The fact that he didn’t make that many sales was not his fault, instead, it was the buyers’ skepticism that was against him. They did not trust it, although they didn’t even give him a real chance. Again, another case of buyers dumping Sales in the skepticism basket.
It illustrates well some recent findings by Gartner, that in our new digital economy, buyers typically only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers when considering a change. Before this, it was maybe 50%, now slimmed by at least 30%. If a B2B buying group would meet with two alternative suppliers, then any of the three sales reps, including the incumbent supplier, would only have roughly 5% of the customer’s total purchasing time. That’s not a lot and a huge wake-up call for sales reps. We have to stop wasting the customer’s time.
Why have we seen this decrease in selling time? Is the buyer’s trust in salespeople slowly but surely decreasing? Are we being dumped into the skepticism basket?
The answer is, we have been. Not at your fault but more of the salespeople who came before you. They have been leading with their products and solutions and kept asking the customer so many questions, all for their own benefit. The buyers are tired of hearing sales pitches and they switch off. Their bottom line: start delivering value like never before or your 5% selling time will become even less.
How do you gain their trust back?
- The foundation of trust is caring. You show you are focused on them as opposed to focusing on closing the deal. You truly want to understand what is important for their business right now.
- You respect and adapt to their buying process, you recognize that each stakeholder looks at the status quo differently and you acknowledge that an opportunity can only move forward, through gaining consensus for change.
- You are a good listener for individual stakeholder agendas, but you also know how to steer conversations to their common business areas like vision, their strategy, the current state and future state of the company.
- Your aim is not to uncover pain-points and dissatisfaction, instead, you bring new information to the customer’s table, relevant to their business challenges, and possibly change their perspective.
- You observe the stakeholders’ different willingness to change and that is fine. But you also know how to counteract that by showing business acumen, rather than sales acumen.
- Acting more as a business person, you have an opinion on what the company should prioritize next, to deal with the challenges the company faces. Your view is based on one objective: delivering strategic advantages.
- Last but not least, you deliver value like never before, by facilitating meetings between users, influencers, and decision-makers all with one common goal: greater success for the company.
It is time to arm our forces and show customers and prospects that there is a new generation of salespeople in town. A generation that redefines the value of sales. A generation that should not be dumped in the skepticism basket.
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