A Changing Tide
Sales professionals are increasingly encountering an extremely well-informed buying community that is more often than not looking towards unbiased 3rd party sources or peer groups to validate vendor claims rather than to the vendors themselves. This significant shift in engagement behaviour has far reaching implications on sales strategy as prospects no longer need to identify or expose themselves in advance of a purchasing decision.
Historically, prospects looking to evaluate business applications were forced to engage with ERP/CRM sales professionals in order to secure access to a product demonstration and a price or implementation estimate. This simple requirement ensured sales professionals had relatively easy and early access to prospects at the BEGINNING of their buying process. Now, with few exceptions, prospects have full access to trial software and published subscription pricing that enables them to by-pass sales professionals until the END of their buying process. More importantly, prospects are increasingly embracing these trial experiences, preferring self-education on their own timeline to pre-configured vendor solutions.
This presents a daunting challenge for sales professionals whose primary “value-add’ is limited to coordinating software demonstrations and working up proposals. Moving forward, sales professionals will have to develop meaningful content that the buying community is unlikely to uncover on their own, or run the risk of becoming redundant.
Additionally they will have to develop strategies for interrupting the prospect buying cycle and disrupting the stereotypical beliefs about sales professionals that most prospects bring to their evaluation process.
Sales professionals have to develop disruptive ideas or challenging content that compels prospects to suspend their pre-determined “self-serve” selection process and engage in a thoughtful and meaningful dialogue with the sales professional. These insights must contain the potential to SIGNIFICANTLY increase the initiative’s business benefits, or SIGNIFICANTLY decrease project risk. Disruptive insights force prospects to question their cherished beliefs or biases, then change course. Effective consultative selling always results in change; to scope, approach, engagement process, priorities or disclosure. If our sales activities do not result in change we are simply servicing the buying cycle, and will likely lose the deal.
Breaking the Buyer/Seller Dynamic
Proactively developing, refining and positioning disruptive insights fundamentally changes the buyer/seller dynamic. Facilitating a conversation that fundamentally shifts a prospect’s perspective inevitably elevates the sales professional from provider to peer; and creates an unconscious positive bias and increased trust……..which is what prospects are ultimately looking for in a preferred partner relationship.