How the Nature of Sales has Changed – Top 5 things to Know
Saying that Sales is no longer about Selling may seem an odd statement to make from someone who has spent nearly 30 years in various Sales Roles. When I started out Sales was presented as the Art of Persuasion and I was trained on the tips and tricks to make someone buy.
The fundamental nature of Sales has changed so radically from this and now anyone involved in Sales must have a very different approach.
Here is heart of the matter and if you only take one thing away it should be this;
Sales is NOT about persuading someone to buy, is it the process of helping a potential customer to make a decision.
Once this concept is accepted it fundamentally changes the mindset and approach. It reverses the thinking from the products and services we have to offer, to the things that are important to the customer and how we can help them.
There are a number of factors that are influencing B2B sales today.
How has the Nature of Sales Changed – Top 5 things to Know
1. Access to Information
Buyers now have access to a vast array of information and advice about any potential purchase. Think about us as we buy a new TV. We will do the product research, read reviews, articles, visit multiple supplier websites, speak to friends, ask advice on social media. So when we arrive at the retailer we know what we want – the conversation then is about the price and service. B2B buying is similar and customers now have a much clearer idea about their potential solution and options before they speak to a supplier. In this context the Selling Process is very different, it is often about helping the customer to validate their thinking and testing their understanding.
2. Prospects will First Contact a supplier late in their Buying Journey
Typically a Prospect will make the first contact with a supplier when they are 60% of the way through their Buying Journey. They will have identified their problem/issue, looked at a number of potential options and may have already taken a view on the best one. They then contact a supplier to complete the evaluation of their options and negotiate the best possible deal. The traditional view is that the best place for a Salesperson to start the conversation with a prospect is early on in their buying process. In this way they are able to shape and influence their thinking and hopefully position their product/service in the best way. This is at odds with they way customers now buy so the approach needs to be adapted. We need to build strategies to help the customer go back and confirm their thought process to date.
3. The Trust Gap
There is a big challenge here. In multiple surveys Buyers identify Trust as the number 1 factor they desire in a Salesperson. However other research has demonstrated that only 3% of buyers consider Salespeople to be trustworthy. The modern salesperson has to be able to bridge this Trust Gap. This can be done in a number of ways, but the starting point has to be a recognition that this is what your buyers are looking for and your Sales Process needs to focus on building this Trust.
4 .Decision Making is Emotional
How many time have you been speaking to a potential prospect and thought it was all going well. However despite thinking that everything was all in-place and the logical decision was to go ahead and place an order it did not happen. This is because in Business 70-90% of the decision is based on emotion. Essential does it feel right to do business with this company. It is the responsibility of the Salesperson to build a vision and to help the prospect feel it’s to their advantage to work with your company.
5. The MAN no longer exists
I was always trained to look for the person with the;
It’s still important to address these areas, however the challenge today is that the responsibility for these rarely sits with a single individual, indeed the larger the company making the buying decision the greater the number of people involved. For companies with 100-500 employees an average of 7 people are typically involved. From a Sales perspective this makes the process of managing these stakeholders and ensuring that they are aligned with your proposal increasing complex.
So as our potential customers change the way they go about making purchase decisions we need to keep adapting the way we approach the Sales Process. The starting point must be that often buying is not easy and customers are looking for those suppliers who can help them through this process and help them to successful achieve the outcomes they need.
We work with companies to help them improve the way they sell and help their customers to buy. If you would like to know more about the services we offer and how this can be done for you please contact us.
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Over the last few weeks I've spoken to many smaller businesses and business owners about "Sales" and one thing that keeps coming back is how many people feel they don't have the confidence they would like around selling.
I think in part this is the fault of the Sales Industry that has in the past created the image that Sales is some form of Dark Art that only the highly skilled and accomplished can pull off effectively.
Much has changed luckily since these days and "selling" is no longer like this. The sales process is much more about curiosity, understanding, engagement and adding value.
However it raised a question for me that I want to address with some useful content and blogs.
"What things would help to build confidence for someone who knows they need to sell but has not had formal Sales Training?"
I have some ideas but would welcome the thoughts from others who might be in this situation.
Please contact me if you are interested in discussing this further.
I attended one of my first Business Networking events today organised by Biscotti. It was great to meet other small business owners. One of the attendees told me a story of how they had hired a Sales Person which turned out to be a disaster. They asked for my advice on how to avoid this.
I guess for Small Businesses without HR departments and the resources to undertake extensive assessment centers and personality profiling this is a common question.
My advice from recruiting many Sales People was that I had to think carefully about the skills and competencies needed to be successfully and make sure these were documented. Then to build competency based questions that gave the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate these with real life examples. e.g "Given me an example of where you were able to get through a gatekeeper to speak to the decision maker, how did you do it and why was it successful."
The second part of this is important to see if they understand why what they did worked and therefore if they are likely to replicate it in the future. Don't be afraid to dive deeper with multiple questions to clarify and test the initial answers.
Once the Sales Person has been selected and in their first few months it's important to come back to what was discussed in the interview and the competencies to see how they are performing and make sure they stay on track.
I would welcome thoughts from others out there who have similar experiences, especially with smaller businesses.