Justin looked at his pipeline for the second time, wondering which of the opportunities in the “Proposal Stage” he should follow up with a call today. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel confident with either of them. The last conversations with all of these prospects were below average. They did not seem to be very interested, and most of the calls ended with them asking: “Why don’t you send me your best rates, and I will have a look at that?”. He now realized he shouldn’t have sent these proposals. He should have handled these conversations differently.
Do you recognize Justin’s situation? Do you also feel trapped in stalled opportunities, and as a result are your closing ratios dropping? Let me tell you one thing; you are not alone. Thousands of salespeople worldwide feel what you feel; Prospects are not too keen anymore to take calls from salespeople. As a result, they respond differently than before. But you cannot blame the prospects. They have moved on, and you probably have not. They are buying differently, and you are still selling as before. If this is you, then read on.
Of course, you have to fight back. But, do not expect a magic trick or watertight scripts that make prospects sticking to you like glue. Instead, be ready for hard work. The changes you need to make are more fundamental: Deep inside, you need to change
- Your mindset as a salesperson
- The role you want to play during customer conversations
- Your focus on who you are competitng with
MINDSET: 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. 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 grow and prosper and 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. 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 to find 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. That is the new value you offer.
- YOUR ROLE: 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. Be ready to be challenged on what you see as the risk for them of not changing. Share insightful information like trends you see and your prospect should be aware of. Will their current setup deliver the results they are looking for? In the end, changing suppliers goes with a solid business case, including strategic benefits with top and bottom-line key performance indicators. Stop selling and start helping. Help the Change Champions you found with building a business case for change.
- YOUR FOCUS: 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. Your prospects do not think like that. They are comfortable with what they have and you sound just like any other competitor.
Instead, you compete with ‘hidden competitors’ within the customer’s organisation. 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 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today. These stakeholders have different roles, are in multiple functions, and are located in several geographies. Your job is to determine who these stakeholders are, what their agenda is, and who influences who? A company is constantly looking for ideas to help them achieve its profit targets to prosper and grow. 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 in the senior management team agrees on adapting 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 how difficult is it for you to change the way you are selling? To become a Sales Champion, you need to dig deep and make fundamental changes in the way you sell.
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