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How sales can be successful in the modern age

Are today’s B2B customers empowered? Or are they overwhelmed? For the purchasers of complex solutions, such as enterprise software applications, high-end industrial equipment, or medical technology, information overload can bog down even the most enthusiastic prospect, even at the beginning of their customer journey.

The struggle

The truth is, even though more information is available than ever before, it can be a struggle to sift through it and find the value and relevance specific to your organization and situation. Combine that with the fact that in most industries the number of available solutions has increased, and the buying committees that oversee a purchase have also grown. So prospects are dealing with more information, more solutions, and more people, trying to manage a process that is more complex than ever before.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 65% of the customers they surveyed said it took them as much time as they had budgeted for the entire buying process just to get to the point of speaking to a sales rep.[1]

What might this overload mean for the sales process?

Well, for those companies who effectively respond to it, it can translate into more sales. The goal is to help guide your prospects through the buying process, but in a neutral way, rather than focusing exclusively on your product.

The Harvard Business Review calls this approach “prescriptive selling.” Identify the obstacles that prospects buying the type of solution you sell would typically encounter, and offer them guidance for proceeding.

The obstacles 

The obstacles vary, depending on where the prospect is in his/her journey. In the early stages, obstacles tend to be focused on information – too much, the wrong kind, difficulty knowing what’s important and what’s not. In the middle stages, the issues are usually with people – lack of consensus in the purchasing committee, disagreement on the scope of the project, or even whether the project is necessary. In the later stages, there can be too many options, or a lack of understanding on how the different solutions compare.

The experience of your sales reps can be invaluable in helping prospects find their way through. Maybe they’ve seen the process get hung up at the same point for many customers – for example when finance gets involved, or operations. Your reps can flag this as a potential hurdle, well ahead of time, and advise prospects on how to handle it smoothly.

Sales in modern age

To switch to a more prescriptive way of selling, start by mapping the journey that your customers take, including all of the obstacles that they might face. Then plan your responses, with a focus on helping them advance, rather than highlighting your products. A “prescription” might be to offer an assessment to gauge a prospect’s readiness to implement a solution or type of equipment. Or it might be as simple as suggesting they bring finance in now, instead of waiting until later in the process. The goal is to make their lives easier, and at the same time position your organization as the expert in solving their problems.

Smarketing

A strong alignment between marketing and sales offers many benefits. Therefore, we’d like to invite you to attend our free Infusinar: SMARKETING

Join Living Stone’s Gunther Walravens and Anne-Mie Vansteelant at “SMARKETING – How sales & marketing can work together to improve results” on Thursday October 19, at Living Stone. During this session you will learn how a strong collaboration between sales and marketing can help your organization:

  • Increase ROI
  • Improve close rates
  • Boost morale
  • Prioritize leads
  • Share data and trends

 

[1] “The New Sales Imperative,” by Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson, and Cristina Gomez, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017 issue. 

Bart Verduyn
Bart Verduyn
Managing Partner

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