I might sound like a broken record when I say this, but I can’t stress enough that people aren’t buying the way they used to anymore. Forward-thinkers keep warning us that things are changing in the business world with the rise of the “empowered customer.” And a 2012 CEB study hammered home that point when it revealed that B2B buyers are 57% of the way through the purchase decision before even talking to a supplier. This isn’t really surprising because buyers can access tons of information about products today on the Internet and social media. They simply don’t need to call the sales guy. So, where does that leave sales? Before we get to that discussion, let me quickly go over some of the biggest changes in the sales landscape.
The Brave New World Of Sales
Traditional solution-selling no longer works. It is obvious customers are already armed with all the information they need to know about the product they wish to purchase. As alluded to above, a recent SAP report illustrates quite clearly how knowledgeable they are, with 80% of buyers knowing what they want before even contacting a vendor.
Modern B2B buyers have less time and even less patience for drawn out processes. Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for focused approaches that help them make the right decision faster. This means the end of pushy sales tactics.
The days of the hard sell are practically gone. The SAP report also found buyers are most frustrated by aggressive, ill informed, unsolicited, and “overly scripted” sales approaches. Therefore, if you’re still living under a rock and practicing the hard sell, rest assured, buyers will never find you there.
The conventional funnel-based mentality is out of whack. With buyers entering the purchase process at a later stage, it can be difficult to know where they are coming from and exactly what is motivating them. Because the buying cycle begins well before the actual sales process starts, it’s time to re-think how to serve customers in the entire buying process the way they prefer instead of trying to control it.
Customers expect nothing less than a stellar purchase experience. Today’s customers want to communicate and/or be approached over their preferred channels. They look for a consistent experience across those channels and they are more open than ever before to receive interesting offers based on their previous purchase behaviors.
How do sales professionals connect to clients during the sales process without bombarding them with questions and/or asking them to engage in ways they don’t want? The answer is, they must think like marketers. This is the future of selling.
How To Think Like Marketers?
To say “think like marketers” doesn’t mean you need to wear the marketing jersey; just put on their thinking caps. The idea that sales needs to have a marketing brain stems from the very fact that modern marketing has evolved—and is still evolving—around the changing needs and expectations of the customers.
Buyers want a seamless and consistent experience all along their purchase journey. Great marketing efforts might get customers hooked, but the sales team must ensure they are happy and satisfied throughout the sales process and even long after the checks have cleared. When effective marketing doesn’t lead to the desired sales experience, buyers will hate it and ultimately the brand will suffer.
John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer – Sell Like a Superstar outlined some terrific ideas on how sellers can adopt a marketing mindset.
Find the right customer. Sellers must ditch the cold-calling and other hard-sell methods in order to embrace what marketers do—know your ideal customers, build relationships with them, and provide services based on their preferences and not according to some pre-formulated, set-in-stone method. The idea is to find customers before they find you, and then delight them with exceptional services.
Personalize the sales process to make it more relevant. Today’s buyers want things customized to their needs. When you know your customers well, you can personalize the sales process and make it more relevant for them.
Become an authority to avoid being left out. Most purchase decisions are made before the marketing folks hand down the leads to the sales people. To stay relevant, sales needs to get involved earlier in the conversation. The best way to do this is to become an authority the customers can trust. How? This leads us to the next point.
Produce valuable content. Though it is marketing’s territory, there’s no reason why sales can’t benefit from it. Especially when buyers rely so much on content to shape their purchase decisions. Jantsch suggests content that answers buyers’ questions is one of the best types of content sales can produce. Think FAQs. Plus, sales content that follows-up the marketing content can provide a better and more complete picture for buyers.
Team up with the marketing department. Finally, the best way to think like marketers is to work in tandem with them. Shared planning and strategizing will not only help sales do a better job of selling, but will also benefit the brand by providing more engagement and a more holistic customer experience.
If brands have learned anything, it is that they will always need to adapt to a changing consumer landscape. In today’s buying cycle, sales needs to overlap marketing by ditching the ways of the past and crawling into the minds of the marketing team. Consumers are armed with information and buying expectations and it is up to sales to deliver or go the way of the typewriter.