It used to be that a buyer was guided through a purchase decision, start to finish, by a salesperson. But a recent study by Corporate Executive Board, conducted on more than 1,400 B2B customers, discovered that, on average, B2B buyers make nearly 60 percent of a purchase decision–including pricing, solution research, establishing requirements, benchmarking and so on–prior to any contact with a vendor. What impact does this change have on sellers persisting with the old “tried and true” sales funnel approach? Simple: that approach is no longer workable. By the time we salespeople get invited to the table, prospects are so far through the buying process that sellers are being forced into more RFP pricing wars.
Sellers need to change the way they approach the sales funnel–and here are four ways to do it:
1. Your Ideal Customer–Reimagined
Historically the best practice has been to efficiently segment your customers based on who they are, their requirements from you and how exactly your product or service meets those requirements. Sounds like a very solid plan. But today’s rainmakers–intelligently–don’t wait for customers to realize that they have a need. They are on the lookout for two crucial attributes that determine potential customers:
a) By Organization
Today’s exceptional sellers are trend junkies. They are looking for industries and markets that are in flux. In times when the world is changing, companies know that they need to change, but aren’t clear on what the right change looks like. This gives the seller the opportunity to help craft the problem statement. In addition, selling stars have had it with behemoth organizations that have too much bureaucracy and too many stakeholders to make a change. They look for companies that have streamlined the decision-making process so they can make the quick decisions needed to be competitive.
b) By Individual
These sellers are targeting individuals in organizations who are the change agents, those with the clout in the organization to mobilize a new idea. CEB’s research shows that these people often are the ones who push back the most on innovative ideas, but not because they disagree, because they are testing the merits of the ideas. Unfortunately, it’s this push back that deflates the typical seller enough to give up. Rainmakers on the other hand, see this as an opportunity to engage and get the prospect behind an insight or concept.
2. Engage Earlier
According to Forrester, 72% of executives will buy from the company
that defines the buying vision. This is why changing your prospecting strategy is critical. Sellers who help the client define the buying vision can drive a bias for their solution before the traditional sales cycle even begins. And, they are able to create an urgency for prospects to change from their status quo and beat their biggest competitor – no decision.
3. Determine the Value of Change
Today star sellers deliver insight over solutions. They leverage that insight to show the customer why not changing is unsafe, what it will take to get back onto steady ground (be safe again) and what proof they have of the value of the change. Of course, throughout this valuable process for the customer, the seller is also positioning her own solution.
*For more insight on this, check out almost anything from Tim Riesterer at Corporate Visions.
4. Coach your Customer on How to Buy
In most corporate innovation groups, there are processes designed to help overcome internal objection to disruptive ideas. Star sellers think like innovators. They realize that they generally have a better sense than the client as to what hurdles they’ll face promoting disruptive solutions. They look through the lens of the client’s buying process. They consider what the customer must do next and how they can help make that happen. So, rather than tools and processes that are designed to help the seller sell, stars are innovating processes designed to help the buyer overcome purchasing hurdles.
Today’s star sellers are learning agile. They know when to jettison strategies that no longer work. They are learning from past mistakes. And, they don’t let those mistakes hold them back. These rainmakers are still up for risk if it will differentiate them. It is this very agility that is enabling them to see the prospecting funnel from a point of view that makes the old way obsolete. Your customers aren’t buying as they used to. Perhaps it’s time to stop prospecting as though they do.
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