It’s a difficult time for sales people. Not because margins are tight or the economy is still recovering, but because the digital revolution has fundamentally and permanently changed sales as a discipline.
Today’s accessibility of information has shifted the balance of power to buyers, equipping them with much of the detail they need to make an informed purchasing decision before they even engage with a sales person. This means the opportunities of where and how sellers are able to add value to the process have also profoundly changed. And frankly, not everyone has kept pace. Many sales departments and individual salespeople don’t fully understand how to meet buyer expectations in this brave new world, or worse, are still approaching the sale with an outdated mind set.
For example, according to new independent research findings by Loudhouse commissioned by SAP, trust is now rated as the single most important factor when purchasing products or services from vendors – ranking ahead of both cost and experience. In fact, the pre-requisites of a closer working relationship with vendors in order of priority are now trust, experience, insight and then cost.
And it seems buyers are not only becoming more informed, but also more risk-averse. Two thirds of buyers admit the sales process is taking longer as they take their time to evaluate more alternatives. The onus is therefore on sellers to tell buyers what they don’t already know, and to reassure them that they are spending their organisation’s time and budget appropriately.
This power shift away from sales in favour of buyers is not all doom and gloom for sales organisations. Whilst the internet can empower and educate customers, there is no substitute for experience or human interaction. In this sense, technology should enhance and support an enterprise sale, rather than replace the sales process. The good news is that despite feeling harried by traditional sales approaches, research shows that buyers would, in fact, welcome a new form of dialogue based on relevant and meaningful engagement.
So how do you ensure your sales organisation keeps pace with buyer expectations and delivers an excellent sales experience? It’s not as hard as you might think. There are four key benchmarks to achieving sales success in our current digital era.
– The first is personalisation. Businesses must provide more relevant and appropriate content that demonstrates a full understanding of individual buyer needs while predicting their future needs. With the right tools in place this is easily achieved, but unfortunately is often overlooked in favour of old-fashioned, lowest common denominator approaches.
– The second is trust. As with all solid relationships, a successful partnership is built on the sound foundation of trust, transparency and integrity. This means the buyer feels that the seller has their best interests at heart to help them achieve their business objectives and delivers tangible value.
– The third is experience. Vendors must look to enhance the end-to-end customer experience by demonstrating relevant business acumen in the context of a customer’s requirements, delivered with speed, service consistency and seamlessness across channels.
– And finally, sellers must have insight. Business buyers are switching off the “carbon copy” sales patter often delivered by under-prepared and over enthusiastic salespeople. Instead, they expect bespoke, actionable and insightful solutions to address their business problems, and to work in partnership with vendors.
By effectively applying these four tenants to this new and more challenging sales environment, vendors can deliver a superior sales experience for buyers and stay ahead of the competition. B2B and B2C vendors may not want to change, and some may even consider doing so as an imposition. However, continuing to engage buyers in ways that are no longer wanted or make sense are not only counterproductive, they’re unsustainable.
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You can also download the report I mentioned in full here.