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How Can Children help Sales Executives Regain Control On their Sales Process (B2B)

December 2, 2013 2 comments

In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to interact with sales leaders in India, China, Singapore and Australia. One thing that everyone agrees is that selling, and more importantly, B2B selling is getting more and more challenging. 

Buyers are getting more and more intelligent as they are able to do all the research even before inviting any sales teams in for discussion. This also means that most of the interaction tend to lean towards order fulfilment or what I call “Selling to Specs”. This is a zero sum game with no clear winners at all.

  • The customers tend to believe that they know what they are doing due to all the research they did before connecting with the sales teams. 
  • The sales teams are hard pressed to show value in every interaction with their customers despite not knowing the real challenge that they are trying to help with. 
In the end, the sales teams end up fighting each other on the basis of price and delivery terms and lose profitability.
 
In my experience, I have also seen that most of the customers end-up buying something that they thought will help them solve their challenge but end up with a solution that either partially solves or doesnt solve their challenge.
 
This is due to the fact that most of the times, the challenges that they set out to solve are only symptoms and not the real challenge.
 
They are too close to their own business that they are unable to realize this very important fact. 
 
This is where, sales people need to rediscover their hidden childhood virtue of being curious and inquisitive.
 
Sales executives who are curious and inquisitive enough to question the specs that their customers shove at them, are able to discover insights that have the potential to completely change the direction of their interactions with the customer. By their inquisitiveness, they can help their customers uncover their true challenge and in doing so, win their trust and business. 
 
This habit of being curious and inquisitive has been missing in the sales profession for sometime now. The question is how did this happen and what can we do about it. 
 
Why did this happen:
 
This is the probably the first time in our recorded history that the customer could potentially know more about the product/service that the sales executive is trying to sell, in which case, the only thing that is left for the sales executive do to, to gain a tactical advantage and retain control of the sales process is to find information that his/her customers do not know yet and use that to control and move the sales process.
 
This sounds very simple and the obvious thing to do. However, as with our customers, we are too close to the sales process and under too much stress to close the sale that this doesn’t look obvious to us. 
 
What can we do about this: 
 
  • Train ourselves to be curious and inquisitive, ie, re-learn to be child like. 
  • Learn and practice the art of observation. We need to learn to observe not only our customer in action, but their customers in action, their competitors, their substitutes, try and delve deeper to understand the reason behind the specs that the customers have given us.
  • Learn the difference between information and insight and keep looking until he/she uncovers new insights.

There are different techniques that employ the same process albeit in a little more polished way. One such methodology is “Challenger Selling” or applying the principles of  “Design Thinking” in the sales process. 

One approach that i have found very useful in this scenario is to look at our customers business and their interaction with their ecosystem (including customers, employees, partners, suppliers,etc). If I am able to understand their interaction with their ecosystem and some of the challenges that these members of the ecosystem have with our customer, it provides a very interesting perspective and has immense possibilities for new insights to emerge, which potentially could provide a good discussion point and create a totally different discussion than the one that the customer intended in the first place.

This is exactly what you want as a sales executive. This again puts you in the driving seat and instead of matching specs, you are now in a position to define the challenges along with your customer and pitch in how you could play a part in solving these challenges.

In most cases, some of these challenges can be addressed by your product/services. The other part of the challenge that you are unable to solve, you could either suggest someone who could be of help or allow your customer to figure this out. 

Irrespective of which methodology you use, the ultimate aim should be for the sales teams to learn to uncover insights that their customers are unaware of about their own business/process/challenge and use these insights to drive their sales process and continue to remain relevant and in control. 

Do you agree with my views. Share your views and opinions as comments and we can continue our conversation. 

You could also connect with me at twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+

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