A recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier. What does that mean for the sellers who are following the old tried and true approach to the sales funnel? It means the approach is no longer true. Clients are so far along the buying process by the time we get invited to the table that sellers are being forced into more RFP pricing wars. There are four ways that sellers can change the way they approach the sales funnel.
1. Reimagine Your Ideal Customer
The best practice historically has been to do a great job of segmenting your customers based on who they are, what they need from you and how you are a good fit for those needs. It sounds like a solid plan. But, today’s rainmakers aren’t waiting for their customers to figure out they have a need. They are looking for two important attributes that determine who goes into their pipeline.
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.
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 thank 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 have.
Jane Gentry leverages her experience with Fortune 500 clients to help mid-market companies grow revenue by solving key sales issues like: process, pipeline, leadership, relationship management and hiring. She speaks worldwide on topics about sales growth and leadership. Her clients include companies in manufacturing, medical, professional services and technology.