Like it or not, before you engage with them, many buyers already have researched and positioned your brand in their minds. The reality is that buyers move back and forth through a buying process and come up with budgets in an ad hoc approach. The nice and neat process of the past is dead. Your sales process must anticipate that buyers will jump around or enter the process at advanced stages. Some assessment and evaluation of the way buyers have changed is critical to improve the effectives of your sales organization. Henry Ford once said that consumers could have a Model T in any color as long as it was black. Obviously, Ford would have not survived if they didn’t change that policy. High performing organizations regularly challenge their assumptions and validate that their processes are valid and appropriate for the changing environment. Changes include not only elongating sales cycles, but how buyers buy, that is, how they research, compare vendors, shortlist, and make the decisions. There are a number of contributing factors such as the role of the internet, but one is the most obvious and the most influential: the recession. Selling is harder than ever and organizations need to listen and understand their buyer to compete.
Two of the most obvious changes are:
More Informed Buyers: The balance of power has shifted to the buyer. Thanks to the Web, buyers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Before you engage with buyers, they already know your brand. Statistics suggest that 90% of shoppers research online before they buy—and over 50% rely on user reviews before making a decision. You need to make sure that your information can be found not only on your site, but to the degree possible on other sites that provide credibility and validation of your claims. Your positioning must be crystal clear and your competitive advantages must not be buried in long list of features if your organization is going to move into the short list or even be considered.
The Buying Lifecycle: Looking at buying from the buyer’s perspective; the buyer shows that the buyer may still go through five phases:
Sellers need to understand that buyers can move halfway through the buying cycle without a lot of direct seller interaction. Buyers walk in the door with information or misconceptions from other sources. Listening to seller needs and questions will help you make an accurate assessment of where they are in the process; this is critical to determining how to customize your presentation.
Buyers still don’t like being told what they need to buy so guiding their discovery of options and your value proposition is critical. Buyers are accustomed to getting instant responses to questions they have. Buyers turn to the internet as their source to answer their questions and to determine what alternative solutions are available. They evaluate which sellers they should be spending time with.
A successful sales team is interacting with more customers than ever before and the pressure for a quick close is likely to backfire. Asking the right questions, accurately assessing where buyers are in the cycle and encouraging them to explore and learn more is the approach that will result in the buyer closing when they are satisfied that they have made the right decision and are ready to move forward.
Remember the old seminars and “X Ways to Close”? That approach is not successful and not appropriate for many types of selling situations. Your sales team must be trained to execute a process that has been designed for your product or service if you are going to meet your goals.
Take a moment to consider how your sales organization has evolved over recent years. Focus on the processes, procedures, and messaging and not the specific personalities. Then take a moment to consider how the buying process has changed. Have you calibrated your sales process to match up with the current realities? Have you optimized your processes for maximum impact?
Flannery Sales Systems helps organizations develop and implement a repeatable sales process. Improving the effectiveness of your sales organization is the key outcome we provide to clients. We would welcome an opportunity to explore your needs and understand where your team could benefit from improved skills and sales processes. Flannery Sales Systems works with a broad cross section of industries and we are confident we can enhance your results.