The new ABCs of Selling: Always Be Challenging!

This week, CEB held their annual Sales and Marketing Summit, with 1,200 celebrating all things  and revealing some of the latest research on how to more effectively evolve your sales and marketing for a new breed of buyer.

There were three powerful numbers discussed at the Summit that I believe will have a profound impact on your strategy and success in 2015:
  • 94
  • 5.4
  • 53

Engage me or lose me Forever

Did you know that 94% of customers have discontinued communication with a vendor because they received irrelevant promotions & messages?

Unfortunately too many companies are using outdated product pitches when trying to reach prospects, providing negative value-add to the engagement

A new study by The Economist bears this out; with 71% of business execs saying content from companies turns them off when it seemed more like a sales pitch than valuable information. At the same time, the survey found that 93% of marketers continue to tie their content directly to products and services,

Today, you need to engage buyers with a “teach and tailor” approach to marketing:
  • Teach: Educating the buyer not on features and benefits, but on insight, bringing a timely, unique and provocative perspective on the customer’s business, especially presenting new ideas that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed.
  •  Tailor: Delivering content that is tailored or dynamically interactive to address individual prospect challenges and value drivers.

The key? Delivering buyer-centric value: Putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and making sure that you consider what audiences would need and want from you to improve their business and outcomes, and not just what your company would like to say.

Many Points of Value

Did you know that the average deal now has 5.4 decision makers?

It is disheartening to think about, but you now have 5.4 potential “No’s” in every deal.

In years past, the mantra was “Selling to VITO “(Very Important Top Office), but this no longer holds true, as your customers have flattened and democratized the decision making process.

With more decision makers comes more dysfunction, as you try to get a larger and more diverse group to reach consensus.

And as the number of decision makers gets higher, group dynamics come into play; making it less likely you’ll get a decision and win the deal. CEB reports that buyer risk perceptions increase with the size of the group, as individuals feel a distinct risk of losing credibility (40%+), or even losing their job (10%+).

To be successful in this environment you need to ”teach” and “tailor” to each stakeholder differently, as each decision maker comes to the table with a unique “Point of Value”: a different perspective on the challenges they need help uncovering and solving, and the benefits / value drivers they deem most important and need help achieving.

Buying Experience is THE Differentiator

Did you know that 53% indicate customer experience in the sales process is more important than brand, product, service and price in creating meaningful differentiation and customer loyalty?

As one of the tweets from the conference indicated: “Today brand, product, service and price are table stakes.” The companies who excel are those who can sell better than the rest, creating a unique buying experience that provides real value.

Unfortunately, buyers indicate that:
  • 10% of sales reps are still pitching products right out of the gate, or pseudo-solution selling, asking a few questions before diving into a one-size-fits-all product pitch (Forrester).
  •  58% disengage because sales reps are not able to help them solve business challenges and articulate the value of proposed solutions (Qvidian).
Perhaps the time and budget dedicated to product related content and training would be better spent on developing the value messaging, tools, training and coaching needed to truly evolve the buying experience?

Laura McLellan, a Gartner analyst, indicates that in two years, 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of the buying experience, up from 36% two years ago.

With the buying experience so vital to sales success, it is clear that the time is right to help evolve sales reps from product-pitchers to Challengers.

The Bottom-Line 

As the success of the CEB Summit indicates, there are many believers. However, many researchers indicate that despite the belief, there are too few practitioners.

There remains a “Value Gap” between buyers who would like help in understanding challenges that should be addressed / value that can be derived, and traditional sales reps / marketing content that remains rooted in less than effective, old traditions.

A poll at the summit revealed that the biggest challenge to successfully implement challenger was “the difficulty in developing insights”. Indeed, sales and marketing must be armed with the right “fuel”, provocative insights + value messaging / quantification, to power the Challenger conversation.

So I open this to the group:
  • What research / metrics did you find most interesting from the CEB Summit?
  • What do you think are the biggest barriers in moving from believers to practitioners – to truly implementing the new ABCs of selling – Always be Challenging?

Join the discussion at: Value Marketing and Selling LinkedIn Discussion Group



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