What I hear from sales managers is that selling methodologies are no longer effective for their sales force - and they wonder why.
BtoB decision cycles are basically the same as consumer decision cycles in that they follow logical steps with milestones that the customer uses to move from one step to the next.* Both also use touchpoints – traditional and new, such as social media – to gain the information they need to make decisions.
But there is one major difference: BtoB decisions will normally be made by groups of people that have different task responsibilities, and these individuals must interact via touchpoints, not only with the world around them but with each other as well. And that needs to be defined.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of being trained in, and then getting to execute, various sales methodologies. All focused on “discovering the customer’s pain and then delivering a solution to that pain”. They were fantastic because they taught me to translate what I had to sell into something that the customer could use tangibly. And for complex products (such as the major software I was involved with at the time) that was not just helpful but absolutely necessary.
However, even assuming the best product in the world, along with the best salesforce in the world, in many cases the sale never closes – it isn’t lost per se; it simply “goes away”, pffft! Nobody gets the tender, neither you nor your competitors. How odd… didn’t we have a real and identified pain there? What happened to that?
In recent years, through working with clients on the BtoB customer perspective, we’ve made a major discovery: it’s not the “sale” that fails; it’s the customer’s own buying cycle that implodes. In almost all cases it boils down to the problem that, internally, they didn’t identify all the key task owners early enough in the cycle and get THEIR buy-in and commitment at each stage of the process. Then, your salesperson hears the ruse, “The budget just isn’t there anymore.” Pffft!
The classic is trying to sell something directly to the CEO, then having the entire opportunity crash and burn because not all the constituents were brought on board during the decision cycle.
In many cases, your own organization will be an expert in all aspects of that buying cycle but when we focus on “selling” something to the customer, we may neglect to address how we could also be helping them with their own buying cycle, assisting them – especially early on (see diagram) – with lining up all the aspects they’ll need in place before they can come to any decision.
Let’s face it: if we’re involved that early via their touchpoints of the customer choice (and that may NOT involve the human touchpoint called “the sales rep” just yet), then we’ll have much better chances to be on the consideration list when they DO start looking at vendors and suppliers.
*(Did I just leave you in the dust there? Check out Chapter 5 in the book .)