The people you are selling to now are different than the ones you were selling to 5 or 10 years ago. That’s just a fact. And no, I’m not talking about churn or customer retention (although I probably will soon), I’m talking about the evolution of the customer and the buying process.
New customers mean new relationships and a new sales terrain to navigate. Selling to the uninitiated requires an entirely different set of tools and skills than selling to long-standing customers. This post endeavors to turn your attention to some of those tools and skills and help you to forecast and prepare for some of the changes natural to any healthy sales program.
The Tide of Change: Ride It Or Be Crushed By It
With changes in technology, easy access to information and an increasing number of people involved in the B2B decision-making process, the habits and needs of your potential buyers are changing in turn. According to Salesforce, 69% of sales executives believe the buyer process is changing faster than organizations are responding to it.
I recently addressed this issue of keeping pace in a guest post for HubSpot’s sales blog. In it, I covered some of the sales automation tools organizations are using for more effective pipeline management, higher closing rates and greater sales opportunities with new and future buyers.
Here’s a simple fact: Customers are changing. But what does that even mean? If you are going to prepare your sales team for the future and make smart choices about what technology to invest in, you need to know exactly who your targeting.
Here are a few ways your buyers are changing:
Buyers As Independent & Hungry Researchers
Today, 77% of B2B buyers say they do not talk with a salesperson until after they’ve conducted their own independent research. This doesn’t mean that your reps should simply wait patiently by the phone while their leads finish reading through your information – and that provided by your competitors. Reps need next-gen sales decisioning tools that track what content their leads are consuming and suggests additional content to start – and sustain – the conversation.
Once a prospect feels knowledgeable enough to start engaging with sales reps, his or her need for research won’t suddenly go away. This is perhaps the most fundamental – and easiest to implement – component of successfully selling to the uninitiated. Ultimately, the sale will go to the rep who is able to provide prospects with the most relevant content the fastest.
Buyers As Multi-channel Communicators
Today, when a new buyer is doing research and communicating with reps, he or she is doing it across more mediums than ever before. Contact information is no longer limited to phone and email; it includes Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Vimeo and Polyvore. (I realize it sounds like I’m just making names up at this point.) By using enriched CRM and sales automation tools reps can keep track of their interactions across all of these different channels.
Emails or voicemail messages from an unknown sender are deleted by 92% of buyers. Reps need to contact customers on their own terms, and management needs to provide tools for tracking those communications wherever they are made.
Selling to the Uninitiated: The Need for Speed
We’ve all been conditioned to appreciate and increasingly expect an instantaneous response – and customers are no different. Once they decide they want something, they don’t want to jump through hoops to get it. That’s why 50% of deals are won by the salesperson who makes the first contact. Being able to move your prospects through the sales process quickly is hugely important.
Normally, one of the biggest delays in the sales process is the proposal creation step. Sales managers targeting future customers need tools like CPQ solutions to remove potential bottlenecks from the process – quickly getting the customer a quote and streamlining the negotiations process. Sales teams using CPQ solutions have 28% shorter sales cycles than those who do not. In a world demanding instant gratification, that can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
How do you and your sales reps see your sales organization in five years? If you picture it being relatively unchanged, you may not end up making it. The key to targeting new customers and selling to the uninitiated is to be agile and dexterous. Choose tools that will enable your team to quickly respond to their changing needs and habits.