Are you staying relevant in your customer’s eyes?

We are living through a period of rapid change in the sales environment. Many senior sales professionals are discovering their old sales approaches are no longer delivering results.Causing many highly experienced individuals to see their valuable careers running off the rails.
Change and adaptation to today’s sales world is vital.

Discovering the specific attributes your customers truly value is key to your sales success.

If you’ve been involved in the sales industry for any length of time chances are you will have been exposed to several different and at times complex sales methodologies.
Starting way back in the 1960’s Xerox developed their “Needs Satisfaction” approach improving selling significantly, which also influenced Neil Rackham’s popular (Spin Selling). In the meantime, Bob Miller & Steve Heiman were focusing on logic and analysis to develop a “win-win” sales approach that is alive and well at the Miller-Heiman Corporation.

For decades sales people had been trained to focus on demonstrating features and benefits – “educating their prospective customers”. This developed into a consultative type solution sale, where sales people approached customers from a different perspective. They were taught to focus on finding their customer’s ‘pains’ and then tailoring their product or service to meet these needs and present this as the solution.

Moving forward, in 2002 Mike Schultz and John Doerr’s founded RAIN Group with a research based approach to selling based on in-depth customer feedback.

The next big disruption in sales methodology came in 2011 with the publication of The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson who proposed that “solution selling” was dead and disrupting the customers buying process, uncovering un-recognised needs and then fulfilling them would lead to sales success.

The debate between these different methodologies continues to rage on. Whilst acknowledging that previous methods still have some valuable aspects, they are now no longer fully aligned with many of your customers buying processes.

Unfortunately, many very successful sales people have seen their careers in decline over the last few years as they have not been able or willing to adapt to this new sales reality.

The reality is Customers are in control not sales people.

Today’s customers have access to 90% of the information they need to make a purchasing decision. They come to the table armed to the teeth with analysis, peer reviews, competitor pricing models and all the social proof they need.
In many cases they no longer want or need a sales person wasting time educating them on their products, services or the marketplace. They are already on it.

Similarly, customers are more advanced and adept at identifying their issues or challenges and often start the buying/sales process with a good idea of how to resolve them.

Hence many of these older consultative solution led sales approaches feel out of sync with a customer that is already quite far along in the buying process before they ever need to engage with you.

Often there is not a ‘pain’ at all. They are not broken and don’t need fixing! They are already very successful and their focus is on growth and achieving their future key objectives.

With all these changes in buying behavior we might ask…

How can I stay relevant and valuable today in a customer’s eyes?

Firstly, sales people need to acknowledge this change in the starting point.

Customers who previously were happy to engage in an in depth conversation over their issues and then have you work up a solution are now expecting you to

a) rapidly digest their situation and
b) quickly demonstrate you clearly understand their needs.

But this doesn’t mean you’ll win the sale this is now just the entry price to get you on the starting line!

Secondly, sales people need to understand that customers are looking for different attributes from salespeople today than they were five years ago.

A very interesting survey conducted by the US based Rain Group identified some fundamental differences between high achieving sales people and those coming in second place.

Let’s look at what the customers valued most:

  1. Educated me with new ideas or perspectives.
  2. Collaborated with me.
  3. Persuaded me we would achieve new ideas or results.
  4. Listened to me.
  5. Understood my needs.
  6. Helped me avoid potential pitfalls.
  7. Crafted a compelling solution.
  8. Depicted purchasing process accurately.
  9. Connected with me personally.
  10. Overall value to the company is superior to other options.

It’s interesting to note that of these top ten attributes only the last one involves the organisation all the others focus on the individual.

Which underlines the critical role the sales person plays and how vital their performance is on who will win the sale.

So where are we heading next in the world of sales?

This month I really want to encourage you as a sales leader or sales professional to stop and take stock of where you are in your sales management and sales approaches with clients.  It’s a great time for adaptation to the new sales environment. New technology is making highly mobile and fast CRM adoption a must. Together with new inbound marketing techniques it’s an exciting time for development of your sales approach. The need for individuals and companies to embrace these changes is paramount as you want not just to survive but to Thrive in the new sales reality.

Here’s a link to some assessment tools to help you to bench mark where you currently and discover where the opportunities for development might

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