To better understand this process, BTS has extensively surveyed leading sales organizations we work with to identify key moments in the sales cycle. From that research, we have identified three key moments that leaders say are critical but that their teams often struggle with: delivering insights, building credibility, and performing time-constrained discovery.
Each of these moments is important, and each is frequently ineffective. For instance, when sales reps attempt to deliver insights, they often have one figure prepared in advance. This may grab attention, but it does not promote engagement. A better approach is to highlight trends that will affect the potential customer moving forward and then to illustrate how what is being sold can offer an ongoing solution.
Building credibility can suffer for the same reasons. Many sales professionals utilize Insight Selling or the Challenger model, trying to make a bold impression up front by bombarding executives with insights. Making an early impression is important, but our research suggests that ongoing engagement closes more sales. That is possible only by deeply understanding a client and industry and their unique long-term solution requirements. It requires listening as much as presenting.
The previous two issues are why time-constrained discovery often presents a problem. Executives are busy people, and sales professionals often barrage them with questions and demand their limited attention. As a result, sales meetings might feel more like interrogations. Building relationships is much easier when sales professionals respect a client’s schedule and ensure that every meeting has value. That might mean deviating from a sales script, but it also means that clients will feel more respected.
Identifying how to improve a single sale is relatively easy, especially with hindsight. Improving an entire sales team and revitalizing an ongoing sales process is a lot more difficult. Our research has identified several strategies teams can take to resolve the sticking points in the sales cycle.
Develop Insights Organically
Insights are a dime a dozen. Most marketing organizations are equipped to provide dozens of eye-catching facts and figures. The problem is that these are generalized insights with limited relevance for specific clients. They would rather learn about trends that directly affect their business than ones that affect entire industries or economies.
Instead of relying on readily available information, sales teams must focus on understanding potential clients in depth. Once the client’s needs and wants are better understood, it’s possible to devise insights that are significant and surprising. Clients feel they are receiving something of true value, and they might realize they are not getting a stock sales pitch.
Focus on Boosting Credibility
Sales reps often focus on being impressive. This is great for grabbing attention, but it does little to build trust. Clients see a salesperson who is knowledgeable, but not necessarily someone they want to form a partnership with.
The way to overcome this barrier is somewhat counter-intuitive. Instead of leading with a blockbuster stat that a client does not know, focus on what the client does know. This helps to boost the sales rep’s credibility by demonstrating he or she knows the industry and understands the client. In turn, that makes whatever is being sold seem like a practical solution rather than an unproven investment.
Aim to Be Immediately Engaging
Time is of the essence in a sales meeting. Busy executives don’t have the patience for chit-chat, and they have even less time to spend on an hours-long discovery session. Drawing out the process is only an annoyance and can make the sales rep seem unprepared. The way to value everyone’s time is to understand what kind of buyer the client is and to adjust the discovery process accordingly.
Some buyers are looking for products and need relatively little information to make a final decision. Other buyers are looking for a solution and need more information about the options and benefits available. Respecting that each of these buyers is unique and needs different levels of information delivered in different ways can empower sales reps to make the most of the limited time at their disposal.
Every sales rep should have a foundation of training and a strong grasp of basic sales models. To thrive, however, they must go beyond what works for most clients and discover what works for individual clients. That requires a careful understanding of each step in the sales cycle and honesty about what is not working. Targeting just a few areas for change improves everything that comes before and after.
Want a better understanding of how the buying process is changing and how salespeople can move their customers’ past decision traps and toward purchase decisions? Download the BTS whitepaper, “From Pony Rides to Rodeos: How A Customer Decision Vortex Can Make You Miss Your Sales Forecast” to learn more.