A radical change is occurring in the world of B2B sales. With 65 percent or more of the buyer’s journey having happened before a buyer ever speaks with a salesperson, it is clear that the era of lead, qualify, pitch, close is rapidly fading. With buyers who have already educated themselves on their issues and, through the internet, potential solutions, the only way for sales organizations to survive is through a full understanding of the buyer experience, and through insight selling.
It is up to sales management to steer their sales forces in this direction and, for many, it will be a major change.
Buyer Experience versus Sales Funnel
Traditionally sales have been viewed as a sales funnel, in which leads come in at the top, travel downward through the sales process, and emerge as closes at the bottom. Today, however—and certainly into the future—this funnel is being replaced by the buyer experience. It is up to sales management and sales forces to understand that experience, and play into it.
Actions taken to find out as much as can be discovered about buyer experience is a vital part of gaining an edge in your market. Exploratory research should be conducted through direct contact of both potential buyers and current customers. The idea of the insight selling is to find out what their concerns are and what would motivate or did motivate them to buy. You should also take the time to discover where it is they search for information about purchasing products: particular web sites, social networking services, or specific blogs. And in the case of current customers, acquiring data on their actual steps and research done that resulted in their purchase the product from your company. Such research can and should be conducted by both Sales and Marketing; both bring their elements of knowledge into it and will know what questions to ask.
That research can then be put to work placing marketing messages where potential customers will find them in the early stages of the buyer experience. The idea is to interest buyers in your products and services as early in that experience as possible. The goal, of course, is to lead them to your door.
“Insight” in the Insight Selling
The research conducted in learning all about the buyer experience then provides salespeople with the beginnings of the insight they need for insight selling. It gives them general information on how companies within the industry are functioning, the primary issues they are trying to solve, and what buyers would be looking for in your product or service.
But that’s only part of the story. The rest of it will be learned through new sales techniques and sales reps listening, understanding and acting on specific data about that company. Given that a sales rep has the ability to do this—and also given a deep product knowledge—the rep then has the capacity to precisely address a prospect company’s issues and propose your company’s product as the solution.
Changes in Sales Process
It will be found that understanding the buyer experience and insight selling broadens and make more precise a company’s sales process. Where before the sales cycle was based on a lead coming in, being qualified, being pitched and being closed, there are now numerous marketing steps prior to that lead arriving that can and should be done. Then with insight selling the sales process further expands to include such as gaining insight into that specific company, obtaining knowledge about that specific buyer and any other relevant decision-makers at the company, gaining a clear understanding of what issues the prospect needs solved related to what you are selling, and the specific benefits to their company that would result in their purchase. The proper lead and opportunity management will set you in the right path towards a close.
For insight selling to truly succeed, the right technology must be utilized. We will go in-depth into that subject in the next article.
Where yesterday sales took an expert pitch, today it takes insight. As the era of insight selling progresses, sales management must make the needed changes to bring it about in their own respective organizations.
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