Has Buying Changed and Has B2B Selling Adapted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

b2b

My articles begin with analogies so we'll start by asking, has baseball changed?  

Games take longer, there is role specialization, starting pitchers rarely complete games, hitters are stronger, pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90's and there is a trend towards either hitting a home run or striking out.  But it's still baseball.  It is still played the same way.  The changes are superficial.

And in the context of how it affects salespeople, has buying really changed?

If you believe what is so frequently written by digital marketing folks, then buying has changed dramatically.  But just because a digital marketing person wrote it, does that make it true?  

We must discuss buying in the context of buying from salespeople so we will begin by differentiating facts from claims. Let's begin with what we know for absolute certain.

B2B buying can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Point and Click Transactional Purchases (navigate to a website and buy it)
  • Talk and or Meet with an Expert (salespeople)

For transactional purchases, salespeople have been eliminated so to that extent, sales has changed dramatically!

For other B2B purchases, salespeople still have significant involvement - for now.  Prospects search Google, visit websites, learn about products and services, and even get a sense for pricing.  For their part, salespeople who regurgitate the same information that prospects can find online are simply redundant, fail to provide any value, and won't be around for long.  It is imperative that salespeople provide value by actually being the value and from that perspective, one of the salesperson's responsibilities has changed.

It is more difficult for salespeople to reach decision makers of larger organizations as they are better protected than before and tend to rely more on group decision making.

When the onset of the pandemic introduced virtual selling to the masses, more buying options than ever before became available because the business that is 3,000 miles away is suddenly no further away than the one down the street.

The way that buyers find salespeople has changed.  They may use the aforementioned Google search, but are just as likely to find a trusted source from an expert Blog, through LinkedIn, or Facebook.  While marketers will use that as proof that outbound selling is dead, that proclamation is propaganda, not fact.  Inbound marketers generate a lot of interest and leads on which to follow up but the quality of those leads is questionable and inconsistent and there are big problems when handing them off to salespeople.  Salespeople who still do their own prospecting by phone schedule plenty of quality meetings to keep their pipelines full.

So how buyers and sellers find each other has changed, decision makers are more effective insulating themselves, and there are more buying options.  What happens after that?

The digital marketing folks say that the buying journey is 57% complete when a buyer first reaches out to a salesperson.  Most ineffective and underperforming salespeople agree that prospects seem to know what they want and all they have to do is quote prices, prepare proposals and take orders.  Of course that's why they are ineffective and chronically underperform.

Today's buyers are self-educated and salespeople mistake that knowledge for readiness. Salespeople tend to take the path of least resistance and the knowledge they mistake for readiness lulls them into the quote, proposal and order taking mode.  As a result, they don't follow their company's sales process or worse, the company's sales process has been modified to reflect buyers being ready.  If the buyers were truly ready at this point they would actually buy but the additional options prolong instead of shorten the sales process.

The top 20% of all salespeople have not fallen victim to the false sense of security offered by poor quality inbound leads or the myth of the buyer journey being 57% complete.  They leverage new tools and technology to take a more consultative approach, follow their sales process, nicely challenge prospects who seem to be ready, uncover the reasons and consequences that led them to buy, get them to think differently and get prospects to see them as subject matter experts. They qualify more thoroughly than ever, talk with and/or meet decision makers, and close two to three times more business than their underperforming, order-taking colleagues.

Buying has changed to the extent that it's easier to start the process and reach out to potential vendors.  Selling has changed to the extent that most salespeople are less effective and top salespeople are closing a bigger percentage of the business than ever before.

This can all be fixed.  How?  

A Sales Team evaluation identifies the issues.

A Custom Sales Process helps salespeople to meet the correct milestones with the proper people at the optimal time for the right reasons.  Integration of the sales process into a CRM application that is designed for how you sell and who you sell to is crucial.

Sales Leadership Training and Coaching train your sales leaders to coach up their salespeople.

Sales Training that demonstrates a consultative approach, utilizes role-play and models what great selling looks and sounds like. 

An integrated approach to sales development changes everything.  Isn't it time?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, crm, inbound, buyer journey, outbound

How to Know if You Are You Really Selling Consultatively

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 03, 2019 @ 20:06 PM

consultative-2

Most of the CEOs and sales leaders I speak with agree that their sales organizations need to be more effective at taking a consultative approach to selling. At the same time, they insist that they talk about it often and that their salespeople are doing OK with a consultative approach.  OMG's Sales Force Evaluation usually reveals that they aren't doing much more than talking about it, as their scores for the Consultative Seller competency are quite low.

How can you determine if you or your team are being effective at using a consultative approach?  I created this list of outcomes that would be true if your consultative approach was working effectively.  You and/or your salespeople are :

  1. Having much better, very different conversations
  2. Experiencing prospects who are much more engaged
  3. Witnessing your prospects becoming emotional
  4. Watching prospects take shortcuts to give you their business
  5. Being thanked for your help by your prospects
  6. Realizing that price is no longer an issue
  7. Finding it easier to get and keep the decision maker engaged throughout the sales process
  8. Seeing your sales cycle becoming shorter
  9. Getting excited over higher win rates
  10. Finding your competition becoming irrelevant
  11. Bonus - Closing occurs naturally.

Speaking of closing, Graham Hawkins shared a post on LinkedIn which listed all of the known closing techniques. He noted that his close rate is through the roof and he doesn't need to use any of those closes any longer because when you are selling consultatively, the sales close themselves.

He is completely correct because the top 5% of all salespeople in the world have mediocre scores for closing (55%) and very strong scores for consultative selling (77%).  Looking at this data another way, only 24% of the top 5% are strong closers but 60% are strong at selling consultatively.

If you're truly selling consultatively, you won't have a problem with the buyer journey either.  Whether you call it the buyer journey or the buyer-seller journey, there are things you need to consider.  

The buyer journey is a slippery slope. The journey is completely separate from the sales process,   When salespeople align with the journey, they become facilitators, and when they facilitate, they are the same as everyone else and become commoditized.  When salespeople use a consultative sales process, the buyer journey is completely neutralized.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, buyer journey, win rates

What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 @ 06:07 AM

sales process

If you were on vacation the past two weeks, this is what we were discussing:

June 30: The Top 10 Reasons Your Great New Salesperson Could Fail 
July 1: The One Sales Question I've Been Wrong About for Years 
July 2: The One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling Part 2 
July 7: Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers 
July 8: Top 21 Keys to Making Your Sales Force Dominate Today 
July 10: The New 21 Core Sales Competencies for Modern Selling   

The following article first appeared in the July Issue of TopSales Magazine.

I’m a baseball lover, die-hard Red Sox fan, and proud father of a 12-year-old baseball star.  Having founded Kurlan & Associates in 1985 and Objective Management Group in 1990, the only surprise should be that it took so long to combine the two passions and write Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, in 2005.

Baseline Selling

Companies have terrific results when they implement Baseline Selling, and last week a well-known expert asked, “What is the big secret that makes Baseline Selling so powerful?"  He thought it would make for a great article discussion, so let’s attempt to answer that question by starting with a few questions of my own.

Is it the sales process that makes it so powerful?  The big difference between the sales process in Baseline Selling and other sales processes is that rather than having outcome-based steps, time-based steps or task-oriented steps, it has customizable milestone-centric steps.  You might think that a step is a step, but there are huge differences.  With time-based steps, you may have achieved a certain number of calls or meetings, but you may not have actually achieved the desired outcomes.  With task-oriented steps, you may have completed the tasks, but you may not know whether you are any closer to having a new customer or client.  With outcome-based steps, you may have achieved the desired outcomes, but as with time and task-based steps, you may not know what will actually happen next.  With a milestone-centric process, the sequence of steps is extremely important because the steps build off of each other, and as each milestone is achieved, a salesperson gains more evidence, thus leverage and confidence that they are closer to the sale.

Sales Process Grader

Is it the methodology that makes it so powerful?  Nothing is more important in today’s selling than the conversation that takes place between the salesperson and the prospect.  While other methodologies are based on relationship-building, strategy or tactics, the Baseline Selling methodology is based on the conversation that continues across each stage.  Milestones are known only to the salesperson, achieved within the conversation, and invisible to prospects.  The methodology then, is consistent with the conversation that moves the process from step to step and stage to stage.

Is it because of uncovering compelling reasons to buy?  Unlike needs-based, buyer-journey, or pain-based approaches, the compelling reasons as to why a prospect would move their business to you, or buy this product, service or program in the first place, provides the salesperson with leverage.  It allows the salesperson to build a case using the prospect’s reasons, and helps the salesperson to position the solution in such a way that resonates with what is most important to the prospect.  On the other hand, a need may not be reason enough to change.  The buyer journey includes the salesperson at a point where it is difficult to move backward to gather the necessary information, and pain only works when there is a known problem and a desire to fix it.  While pain could be the source of a compelling reason, the desire to take advantage of an opportunity could just as often be compelling enough for a prospect.  In that scenario, the salesperson seeking to find pain would conclude that in the absence of pain, the prospect should be disqualified.

Is it the concept of SOB Quality?  Before we can discuss SOB Quality, you really need to know how that concept was developed, what it refers to in baseball, and how it translates to selling.  Watch this impromptu 3-minute video for my complete explanation of SOB Quality. 

Now you should understand just how accomplishing SOB allows salespeople to differentiate themselves from their competitors, internal adversaries, and become trusted advisors.  SOB does not exist in other processes, methodologies, sales strategies or tactics.  The closest anyone has come, since this was introduced in 2005, is The Challenger Sale; however, that describes a certain type of salesperson, whereas in Baseline Selling, achieving SOB Quality is simply a milestone that any type of salesperson can achieve.

So what is the big secret that powers Baseline Selling?  While all four of these concepts are important to Baseline Selling, SOB brings selling to a whole new level.  It causes prospects to think, “We need to work with Dave.  He gets it better than anyone else, he asked great questions, he got us on the right track, he helped us realize that we were approaching this the wrong way and we’ve never had a conversation like before that with anyone else!”

There are hundreds of experts offering dozens of processes, methodologies, approaches, strategies, styles and advice.  It’s all good.  All you have to do is choose one that meets the following 10 criteria: 

  1. It resonates with you.
  2. It’s easy to understand, teach and learn.
  3. It’s easy to customize and apply.
  4. It works today and will work tomorrow.
  5. It’s time-tested and proven.
  6. The methodology was designed for the process.
  7. The process is intended to be integrated into your CRM or pipeline management application.
  8. The process and methodology are rich enough to offer layered or stepped learning and application.
  9. The trainer has lived and breathed the process and methodology.
  10. The trainer understands your goto market strategy.

 Most of the executives, who reach out to us for help, tend to incorrectly believe two things:

  1. They already have a sales process - They have some steps, but steps don't make an effective sales process.  It's effective when it's predictive of outcomes, every salesperson follows it, and every sales manager coaches to it.
  2. They have good salespeople, but just need some tips - They may have some good salespeople and some of them can be coached up.  A company has good salespeople when they all overachieve stretch goals.
Image Copyright: sirikul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales methodology, solution selling, Relationship Selling, customer focused selling, buyer journey

Content not found
Subscribe via Email

View All 2,000 Articles published by Dave

About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile

Subscribe 

Receive new articles via email
Subscribe
 to the Blog on your Kindle 

 

 

Most Recent Articles

Awards  

Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs 2021

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

2020-07-20_14-45-52

 

2020-Bronze-BlogIndi

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers

Top100SalesInfluencersOnTwitter

Hubspot Top 25 Blogs

 

2020_Top20_Web_Large_assessment_eval