The digital age has fundamentally changed the way customers can learn about and buy products and services. 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Such well-informed buyers obviously won’t be convinced by a standardised sales pitch anymore. This blog post addresses 8 drastic shifts sales has undergone in the past years and how you should change the mindset of your sales team accordingly.
Sales approaches that have been working for decades are no longer getting the same results. The Harvard Business Review even calls it more dramatically “The End of Solution Sales”. One thing that has not changed over time is “why” people are buying from us: They are still seeking value. What has changed is the context of how they are buying, which is now digital, giving the customer the greater advantage and challenging businesses.
Traditionally, salespeople have been selling by promoting the product’s value, such as features, functions, advantages. They essentially emphasised how much better the product is compared to the competing product. However, intense competition has led to a world, where less products are seen as being unique. And since customers are perfectly informed and more demanding, it is not enough to be a talking sales brochure anymore. Customers are seeking for value beyond the product. They need a partner who helps them to make the right decision. Someone who helps them to increase their revenue. Successful salespeople have fundamentally changed their mind-set from "selling something to someone" to "deeply understand the customer’s need in order to help them growing their business".
Shifts in Sales:
1. From information to insight: Before the internet sales people were the keepers of the knowledge, they had all the information. Consumers spend time with sales people to learn about the products. Today, we are dealing with an informed buyer, who has an overload of information. What they really need are insights, in other words information beyond the obvious. They need help in making sense of all the information.
Tip: Give them insights to make better decisions.
2. From sales presentations to conversations: Sales people tend to make a one-way dialogue when they hold a sales presentation. They are talking about how great the company is, they show testimonials, present the unique product features and after a great speech they are wondering why they could not close the deal, although the customer seemed to like the product. Just because a customer likes your product does not mean they have an actual need for this exact offer. Try to start a conversation. Ask questions, ask for feedback, let issues be brought up. Maybe you don’t have a solution right now, but you might have an idea how to work on it.
Tip: Don‘t talk to the slides, talk with people.
3. From persuading to influencing: Today’s buyers don’t want to be persuaded, they don’t want to be convinced or to be pressured into a decision. Customers seek for a business partner they can trust and you have to prove your capabilities. Persuasion tactics often cause the customer to pull back the request. Instead demonstrate your knowledge and deep understanding about your customers‘ challenges and thereby influence them in their decision making.
Tip: Get inside the customer’s mind and deeply understand what they want.
4. From solutions to collaborations: Everyone can provide solutions, what customers demand are collaborations. They want you to feel and breath like them. Being part of their business. They want you to get inside their head and really help them providing a customised solution. A take it or leave it approach won’t be sufficient anymore, genuinely help your customer to grow their business.
Tip: Deliver proactive innovation as an evidence of partnership and modify your solutions to their needs.
5. From reducing price to reducing risk: It is not only about the price. It is more about mitigating risks. Buyers are afraid of making wrong decision. Therefore, they are willing to spend a little bit more if they feel safe and if you can comply with peace of mind. If you focus on risk mitigation the price will take care of itself.
Tip: Focus less on price and more on reducing risk.
6. From differentiation to anticipation. Nowadays, the differentiation gap is closing. Competing products and services are becoming increasingly indistinguishable and even if there is a difference, it’s not sustainable. It is difficult to win over a so-called unique selling proposition. What customers need is anticipation. They need to understand how the product is developing in the future and what they get from your services in addition to the product. The value-added is not the product, it is what they can expect from everthing that gets around the product.
Tip: Make the customer understand what they can expect beyond the product.
7. From negotiation to quantification: Negotiation gets redundant when you can quanitfy the value you are offering to the customer. Show how they can increase their revenue, reduce costs, what the ROI is and where their break-even is, this will put you in a power position and help you to hold your price.
Tip: Prove that your solution provides more value than the customer is willing to pay.
8. From geographic to social proximity: Don’t think geographical anymore, think social. It’s no longer where you are at, it’s about who you know. Thanks to social media you get even closer to an account than to the person next door. If you don’t know the right decision makers, you will easily find someone who knows them and get access to them right away.
Tip: embrace the opportunities that digital technology brings.
Do you need to adapt your personal sales approach or the skills of your sales team to the latest changes? Call us and ask for our in-house sales trainer team: 0191 481 3800
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