In September 2018, Gartner published a research and insights into the dramatic changes in the buying cycle, in which professional sellers have very little room to influence their potential customer's decision. When the purchase process involves multiple providers, professional buyers spend with each sales representative no more than 5% - 6% of the total time required to finalize the buying process.
Sales leaders often attribute this challenge of insufficient customer access to a seller's failure to deliver enough value as part of a typical sales interaction.
However, examining ways to address this access challenge Gartner's research shows very surprising findings.
The root of the problem is far less in reps struggle to sell, and much more in customers’ struggles to buy.
The Buying Journey is hard
77% of buyers in B2B relationships find that their recent purchase has been complex and difficult. The reason for this assessment is not only on the side of a drastic increase in the number of options, solutions, technologies, services and providers, but also in the fact that the buying of complex B2B solutions involves 6 - 10 decision makers, where each of them has their own information, or pieces of information, which must be deconflicted with the rest of the group.
B2B buying is no longer a linear process, but a "loop" during which the group responsible for the purchase revisits at least once each activity in the process.
The State of Sales
At the same time, sales organization development remains at the top of the list in terms of investment. In its third report, The State of Sales 2018, LinkedIn notes that US companies spend $ 15 billion a year on sales representative training.
Some other statistics show that despite this, approximately 50% of professional salespeople do not achieve their targets. Sales managers think that the lack of communication/sales skills of professional salespeople is the cause.
Numerous sales gurus, as they call themselves, say "send your sales reps to me, I'll fix them" or even suggest some "brain intervention".
Can sales skills training then be a "super glue" that will "stick" salespeople's skills, the amount of investment in their training, in as little time as our customers are available to us, and generate profits?
What I do know about human behavior is that it is driven by the attitudes we have about a situation/person, and our attitudes are driven by perception and experience we gain in different situations and interacting with different people.
If we respond to our customers, whose purchasing process is already complex, with an equally complex sales process customers are very unlikely to want to participate.
If we offer our customers cooperation with sales reps who lack the skills to deliver useful and valuable information that facilitates their purchase in the short term, buyers will almost certainly not want to develop a further relationship.
I find that there is no sales rep whose "super skills" will compensate for a poor sales process, nor a super-efficient process to compensate for a lack of skills.
sales dialogue ≠ sales process
Sales dialogue is just a part of the sales process, and it is therefore unrealistic to expect it to "seal" not that great sales results.
Sales super glue is multi-component, and if I had to use one term to describe it, it would definitely be term alignment. Why alignment? It's very simple. In my experience so far, the best results have been achieved with those organizations that were willing to transform their process, align it with the potential customer purchasing process, and finally align the sales reps approach/skills needed to ensure that the two processes do not interfere with each other, but run in parallel.
Sales managers, before you next time ask a consultant to "give my bunch a shake" or "just a small refresh", I advise you to think first about what you are willing to invest in improvement, other than money and what you are ready to change, except sales reps. Then seek the help of someone who can help you with all this. Sales is the biz, but not a showbiz.
In the next post I will write more about alignment tools and techniques….
Sales organizations development consultant