If you follow articles on the topic of sales, you most certainly have come across at least one (though likely many more) about the many ways in which buying behavior has changed and suggestions on how your approach to selling must also change.
Thanks to technological developments and a general shift in attitudes regarding how customers make purchasing decisions, sales today is different and more difficult than it was even just a decade ago. Win rates are down and sales cycles are longer, among other factors.
When I speak to executives at national meetings or in one-on-one consultations, I tend to find one of two things happening:
A. They have failed to recognize (or refuse to recognize) the changes in what today’s buyers demand, so they keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results -- which is nothing less than the definition of insanity! Or,
B. They know that change has occurred, but they have no idea what new skills their team needs to possess for success in the “new age” sales. They’re literally stuck in a place of knowing they need to do something, but not knowing what that something is.
If you fall into the second category, I’m glad. You’re halfway there!
Acknowledging change is critical. We just need to approach how you’ll adjust your sails for success in the modern age.
(For the sake of this discussion, assume I’m speaking about your strong to elite salespeople -- roughly the top 25% of the average sales force. The bottom producers have additional issues that limit their success.)
Top producers can achieve even greater success by the manner in which they approach selling. There are four critical requirements:
1. Be capable of articulating and illustrating value.
One of the biggest changes to sales -- any sales -- is that today’s markets are extremely crowded. There are more companies selling what you sell than ever before. Anyone who has lived through ordering products from the Sears catalog vs. searching Amazon’s dizzying number of options on millions of items can attest to the change in competition in the market. Every space of our market is noisy and full of nearly identical products and services. Differentiating yourself is critical, and it’s a challenge.
Now more than ever, salespeople must have the ability to sell value by asking the right questions of the prospect and uncovering their compelling reason to buy. This means turning away from feature and price-focused discussions and toward expressions of value -- value that the prospect defines, not the salesperson.
2. Consultative Approach.
You can only “illustrate” value and lower resistance with a consultative approach to selling.
Consultative sellers change the conversation, change the prospect’s perspective, and win more business. They possess a solid foundation of business knowledge and insight, are good listeners, they ask good questions, they maintain the right tone, among other key characteristics.
At the heart of a consultative sales approach is business acumen -- the understanding of how business works and where the problems and opportunities lie which helps you to tailor your solution and differentiate your company from the competition. Today, less than half of all salespeople have the attributes of consultative sellers. That needs to change, and it can.
Process is the next step. Value and a consultative approach will not work unless they are integrated into a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process.
Most executives will claim they have a sales process in place, but our sales process grader, sales force evaluations, and sales candidate assessments reveal otherwise. In fact, on average, only 52% of working salespeople have the attributes required for following a formal sales process. You simply cannot succeed without putting a formal sales process in place.
4. Social selling.
It takes between 10-15 attempts to reach a decision maker, and even then conversion rates are low. The old techniques like cold calling and smooth talking are ineffective. Today prospecting requires a mix of touches and certainly social selling is at the top of the list.
Salespeople must be able to leverage their social networks, get introduced, and reach out to prospects on social media channels, particularly LinkedIn (and Twitter if they can keep up with it). Emails and follow-up phone calls work in concert to build familiarity and credibility. Today’s selling is all about building relationships, not just pitching products and services.
I’m not just giving this lip service: 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling outsell their peers who don’t practice it. It works, plain and simple.
Salespeople possess, on average, only 38% of the attributes of a social seller. Is the same true of those in your organization?
If you want to dramatically change and improve your sales numbers, it’s time to ditch outdated selling tactics and revolutionize your approach to meet the expectations of today’s savvy buyers. Here’s the three-step process we recommend:
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.