For decades, sales theory has centered on providing solutions to customer’s needs, but every industry across the globe is seeing major changes in customer’s purchase behavior. Building an effective sales team that stays ahead of the competition in the changing sales landscape requires challenging old assumptions about sales.
Customers are better informed and able to seek out information for themselves. When they identify a problem, they seek out their own solutions. A recent Corporate Executive Board study of 1,400 businesses found that most buyers had already made 60% of pre-purchase decisions such as identifying problems, ranking solutions and considering pricing before the first contact with a prospective supplier.
At the point of RFP, the customer has already decided most factors that will affect their purchase decision. The sales team that is able to forge a contact while early decisions are still fluid can possibly steer a decision their way. Even so, customers do not see as much differentiation between competitors as the competitors see between themselves. At the point where a customer has already identified a problem that needs a solution, the solutions focused sales is no longer effective because most buyers are unwilling to take the time to share their needs and preferences in the discovery phase.
Insights over Solutions
When an organization does not yet have their needs well defined, or the business is in a state of flux, there is an opportunity to create value for that organization by helping them define the problems they face. The agile and effective sales team today uses insights to reframe their customer’s thinking and teach them something new that will lead them to your solution. Building a relationship with customers is not going to happen unless you prove that your input is differentiated and of value.
Effective sales teams identify leads that do not have well defined needs and present unique insight to raise awareness of problems, or teach their customers something new about the industry. They take control of the sales process by communicating the impact of business decisions and use constructive tension to incite customer action.
The sales representatives that consistently hit targets will reframe the sales discussion to provide new insight on the business’ most pressing needs. Price is no longer the key focus, but rather what is the value of solving the challenge you have helped them to identify.
The new face of the successful sales team will not only seek to elevate conversation to the decision making level, but will also tailor their message to enlist the influencers that can work from within the organization. Teach these stakeholders how to buy, and how to make a decision, rather than soliciting information on how they purchase. The most effective sales agent will seek allies that are able to mobilize within their organization and prefer to win over skeptics than look for informants.
Building an Effective Sales Team
Building a sales team that is ready to compete in the changing marketplace starts with recruitment. Identifying the candidates with the attitudes and behaviors for success means that new hires can be trained and productive faster, and the sales department will experience less turnover.
Training a salesforce with insight sales methodology centers on identifying the right contacts within an organization to drive corporate action, delivering insights and value that constructively leads the customer to your solution, and creating demand through education. To prepare the sales department for success, marketing material needs to support the insight sales methodology.
Insight sales methodology requires a departure from a traditional sales pipeline approach. To learn more about building an insights-driven sales team, The Challenger Sale by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson is changing the face of sales theory today.