Research from credible research companies like Gartner, Forrester, and SiriusDecisions shows that buyers have completed 57% of their buying process, before reaching out to salespersons. Meaning, customers are quite comfortable doing their own research when it comes to starting the process of making a drastic change, such as changing suppliers. Why reach out to salespeople, if nearly everything you need to know about what they sell, is available on the internet? From a buyer’s point of view, you are irrelevant.
This buyer’s perception should be your wake up call. You need to become relevant again. It is salespeople’s approach and objectives they set for meetings with prospects that is shooting their sales effort in the foot. Traditionally salespeople have been known as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Over the last years, there is a new type of salesperson on the rise: Strategic Business Advisors (SBAs). Both are called back to the prospect’s table time after time but believe me, the latter closes more deals, earns more sales commission, and creates more satisfied customers.
Subject Matter Experts are called in when there is a need for more details and a better understanding of the offered value versus the price to pay. Often, these leads present themselves as a Request For Proposal (RFP). SME’s are the best in their league. They know all features, advantages, and benefits of every offered product, service, and the solution’s as no other. They are knowledgeable salespeople, bringing clarity on differences between them and the competition. They know exactly what the buyer needs to know. Unfortunately, they come too late to the buying process and the buyer has already figured out their criteria for the solution. The prospect has done 57% of the work and in their view, the best supplier matching their needs will win the deal, at the best price. Regrettably for the SMEs, the waiting for RFPs does not pay off.
Research shows they have at best a 35% chance of winning such opportunities. Often there are a few rounds of negotiation and in the end, having to sharpen their pencils too many times, the margins are slim. SMEs are forced to sell at lower prices than they should be. SMEs live too much in reactive mode and are arriving too late to opportunities. The smarter the buyer becomes the more SMEs are in danger of extinction.
Strategic Business Advisors have a different view on how to get their opportunities. They start the buying process. They are the instigators of change and target, in particular, businesses that are quite comfortable with their current suppliers and status quo. If they manage to get these change-averse prospects to change, they know that a closing ratio in the vicinity of 70% is in reach.
SBAs first action is often gaining the trust of prospects by demonstrating early in their conversations that they have the customer’s well-being of their business at heart, not their sales commission. They grasp the prospect’s business situation quite rapidly by using a Sales Enablement Tool. They know they have to talk to multiple stakeholders about their objectives and ideas about what is best for the business. They do not scare away from difficult conversations, as long as they keep the business objectives in sight. SBAs share the risks they see for the prospect of sticking with the status quo, pointing out that not changing, will not achieve the results they are looking for. They possess great business acumen and are great storytellers. SBAs have an opinion and a theory of how a change would help the prospect to grow at a more profitable rate. They pro-actively bring value, share insights, and help define the buyer’s requirements, who now believe a change is needed. SBAs as Trusted Advisors are, in the current environment, more in demand but the supply is low.
These are two different salespeople doing the same job. Which one do you believe is more effective? Which one will survive? Or is this more up to the Buyer? What are you? An Expert or an Advisor?
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