If you’re like many of the CEOs, Business Owners and Presidents we work with, one of your key frustrations is trying to understand why it’s so much harder for your sales team to drive consistent, predictable, sustainable revenue growth.
Like Sisyphus, just when you think you have your sales organization under control, things fall apart and you are back at the bottom of the hill.
1. What's changed?
2. Why is selling so much more difficult today?
Here are a few key ways selling has changed in the past five years:
People and businesses are changing
The people you want to sell to have much more information and it’s easier to get. The level of pricing transparency and product information available means potential clients have much better intelligence. Just a few years ago potential buyers often agreed to see sales people from several different companies and then used these meetings to gather information and gain different perspectives on the market as well as your product or service.
Now that it’s easier to get that information (and it gets easier and easier every quarter) two things have changed for your sales people.
1. First, it’s much more difficult to get appointments because potential buyers don’t need sales people for product and market information as much as they used to.
2. And second, when your sales people actually get an appointment the buyer is much further along in their decision process and is looking for someone who can really understand and help them implement and integrate your product or service into their environment – just showing up and talking about features and benefits will get your sales people tossed out pretty quickly.
Thinking thinking thinking
There’s less money to spend and your potential customers are doing far more due diligence about spending it (how to spend it, where to spend it, why not to spend it). Even while balance sheets look stronger than ever and many companies are sitting on tremendous piles of cash, potential buyers are being much more conservative with how they invest it. And who can blame them?
The best hedge against economic and regulatory uncertainty is to maintain higher levels of cash. So every buying decision – particularly new projects and investments – will get greater levels of scrutiny and due diligence than just a few years ago. Your sales people need to take the time to truly understand the business impact your product or service can have and help the buyer discover that benefit by asking more questions, better questions, and questions that cover a broader range of issues. Tired old sales tactics such as pin-down questions – “do you want to order today or next week?” – simply won’t work in this deliberate buying environment.
The rules of selling have changed
No more showing up and collecting orders. Selling is harder and your sales team needs to master the art of consultative selling. They need to ask more questions, better questions, questions that cover a broader range of issues, and questions that add value to the entire process by helping a potential client think about their business differently. Your sales people need to be flexible thinkers who can adjust, adapt, and truly work with the potential client to drive toward a better understanding of the business issues and challenges (even when they discover business issues and challenges that your product or service cannot address).
As a leader what can you do about it?
It's time to ask yourself some tough questions. Do you have the right sales people to get your business where you need it to grow? Are your sales people capable of adapting to this more demanding sales environment? Do your sales people have the consultative selling skills required to succeed? If not, where do they fall short and are they change-ready? Are your sales managers focused on the right things to drive consistent growth in this environment? Are they change-ready and capable of leading the transition? If not, where do they fall short and what should you do first to address it?
How to Master the art?
Until your sales people master the art of selling consultatively as a means of differentiating themselves and articulating your value proposition you will be perceived as a commodity and sales success will often come down to price. Until your sales leaders understand what behaviors and tactics need to change and how to facilitate and lead that transition, your goal of driving consistent, predictable, sustainable revenue growth will remain elusive.
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to focus their time, energy, and sales efforts on their best prospect and client opportunities on a consistent basis. Our simple Sales Focus Worksheet will help you do just that.