In my last post, “Your Sales Process Doesn’t Fit Anymore”, I argued that buyers have changed the way they explore possible changes of suppliers. 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online. The ready availability of quality information through digital channels has made it far easier for buyers to gather information independently, meaning sellers have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions. According to Gartner sales reps only receive roughly 5% of a customer’s time during their B2B buying journey. That is not much. Salespeople are pushed out as an information source and we need to fight back. We need to fix our sales process.
To create the desire of buyers wanting to talk to salespeople is to make conversations super valuable again. Following a sales process designed in the 1990s leads to the opposite. A modern sales process needs:
- to make sense to us and the prospect
- to give you still a control of the conversation
- while being aligned to the customer’s focus on their buying process
Will your questions be different? Yes. Will your objective of the conversation change? Yes. Will the expectations of what the customer gets out of the conversation change? Yes. Fundamental to what questions you ask, and what you and the customer would like to get out of the meeting is knowing where the customer is in their buying process. Not knowing this makes you irrelevant.
Let’s have a look at the scenario where you have obtained a meeting with a prospect. In your initial call, either as a cold or Connect Call, your prospect has granted you 20 min of their time. There is a slight interest in what you have to say. Most likely there are going to be in a Why Change? state, meaning, they are content with their status quo state and see no reason to explore change. Still, they have agreed to meet with you.
You prepare your meeting following the thought-process:
- What would I like the buyer to discover during the meeting?
- What actions should I consider to drive that discovery?
- What commitment should I gain (and hear) from the stakeholder?
DISCOVERY: your biggest challenge is to convince your contact to explore change. To achieve that, you want the buyer to realize that a certain business challenge is bigger than they initially thought and that sticking to the status quo comes with risks.
ACTIONS: To drive the buyer discovery, you have an arsenal of actions at your control. The majority of them depend on your preparation. How well do you know the company’s objectives? What have you prepared as possible insights to help them with seeing different perspectives? Can you provide market-driven risks and opportunities? The thing is that your contact and his/her peers may or may not have been thinking about all the things you address. They also may not have considered the risk of not changing.
Help your contact to see that their current set-up will not deliver the results they are looking for. Make a case for change. Put your Selling with the Buyer’s Perspective hat on. Be on the customer’s side. Think like them. And let them discover something about themselves, their challenges, their set-up, and their objectives. Not always will you be able to achieve that in one meeting. And that is fine
COMMITMENT: You want to hear your contact agreeing with you that to achieve their strategic objectives, a change of supplier might be needed. He/She is really interested to hear more and explore what a change may look like. This is the right time to ask who else in their team would be interested to hear more of what you have been talking about? You need to involve more stakeholders because decisions are never made alone. You may need to go through this process multiple times, depending on how many stakeholders are involved in the buying room. You cannot leave anyone behind. You have a better chance of success if you have influenced more stakeholders that exploring a change makes sense for their business.
When you do this process well, then you have just fixed your sales process when talking to stakeholders in a Why Change? state of mind.
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