Taking a MHI Sales Best Practices Study as a reference, it was learnt from world-class organizations that 61 percent of their customers had a formalized buying process. In addition to having formalized buying processes, we find today’s buyers better prepared with predefined specifications, better informed as a result of detailed research, and preoccupied with preferences.
Consequently, we sales professionals are coming late to the game. Whereas we are at the start of our sales process and want to understand our overall selling situation, the customer is already at a later stage of his or her buying process. Therefore, we are expected to review the specifications and are allowed some “process-related” questions, but otherwise get limited-to detailed offerings and standardized pricing templates. So our clients expect a quick answer and thus our selling time becomes a commodity—a commodity because no differentiation and value added are allowed. We are reduced to writing highly formalized proposals and filling in spreadsheets, lumped in with tender requests and e-auctions.
Putting Value Back in Selling Time
We cannot reverse the trend toward better-informed buyers and formalized buying processes. What we can do is get into the buying process earlier and work closer and stay more connected with our customers. This all starts with knowing our best customers by applying our “Ideal Customer” profile for existing and new clients. Criteria for our ideal customer must include their willingness to collaborate early in the buying process and an interest in personal relationships. Then, applying the 20/80 rule, we engage collaboratively and early in the customer journey with those typical 20 percent of customers by deploying consistent lead-nurturing programs owned by us, the sales professional. All the other 80 percent will be served through highly customer-related Web content, personalized email campaigns, Web conferences, exhibitions, and a broad media presence with special attention to social media. For addressing all customers, we engage more people from within our organization at multiple touchpoints and functions.
To conclude, it’s our choice to collaborate with the “right customers,” thereby putting real value back in our selling time and thus significantly improving our chances of success.