How difficult is B2B selling today? Ask any sales professional and be prepared to settle in for a conversation that will take you on a journey that starts with how customers don’t have time to see them and that price enters into every conversation, and ends with how the organizations they work for demand more performance at equal or lesser commissions. Sound familiar? Then why do some sales professionals and organizations always outperform others? Simple, because they have fundamentally changed the way they engage their customers.
Today’s customer is changing dramatically. They are being tasked with more work, their tolerance for risk has dropped dramatically, and their ability to keep up with the changes in business around them is being stretched to the limits. As such, sale professionals must deliver value in each and every interaction they have with their customer. CEB confirmed in this B2B Loyalty Study:
In this study B2B customers clearly stated they valued sales professionals that made them smarter by offering them valuable/unique perspectives on their business and markets, teaching them about issues that will impact their business, helping them navigate business alternatives and helping them avoid business mistakes. This is much harder than it sounds because to accomplish this, organizations need to change the behaviors of their sales professionals and sales leaders, and also change the fundamental way they engage all of their B2B customers.
Unfortunately, many businesses have done the exact opposite. You heard me correctly. Look at a typical organization’s CRM system. Most measure sales progress based on the seller completing internal activities like customer demos, verifying budget and completing credit applications….Or, how about the organizations that are measuring first call meetings, call duration, call frequency and holding their sales people accountable to make 8-12 calls per day because the data or some six sigma guru determined that if we have 82 new customer interaction per month, or interact with our customers for 10-20 minutes, or we have 20 interactions, customers are most likely to buy from us. Neither of these (or any similar process) confirms the company is delivering value that will make their customers business better, demonstrates we are developing loyalty, or will ensure customers buy from us.
I fully understand that we need metrics to manage our business and to predict the outcomes that are important to us and to our shareholders, but these very same processes are impeding the sales person’s ability to prepare for and have the quality conversations our customers are telling us they need to make their businesses more successful. This leaves our customer no choice but to research business solutions on their own, compare and contrast products and services using internally develop specs and metrics, and make selections based on the lowest common denominator…price. And why shouldn’t they, they have done all of the work. So while most sales people think all customers want to talk about today is price, sales professionals and B2B organizations should realize that they are the very ones commoditizing their own businesses because instead of developing knowledge and capability to make their customer’s business better, they choose efficiency, process and rigor…the exact same control they could get by putting all of their products online. Hmmm, I wonder how may of their customers would buy from them then?