I, and so many others, write constantly about how buying is changing and how sellers (sales and marketing) must change to respond to these changes.
We read about how email is failing, phone calls, social, and virtually every other engagement platform. We have continuing debates about “Is cold calling dead?” “Is outbound dead?”
We look for new channels or methods of engagement. Is it trade shows (so old school but effective)? Is in webcasts? Do we leverage thought leaders and influencers? Do we personalize or not?
We are, collectively, jumping on the AI bandwagon as the miracle cure for all that’s broken in selling engagement. Yet we seem to be using AI to do more of the same, at greater volumes and velocity. And, at least the early signs, don’t show any improvement, but we can do orders of magnitude more of what doesn’t work.
I, and others, cite data about customers. They still need to solve problems, they still need to change, they still need to buy and implement new solutions—they just don’t want us involved in the process! Several years ago, Gartner started publishing data on customer preferring “Rep-free” buying experiences. I may have my numbers wrong, but I think the initial numbers were somewhere in the 40% range. That is customers preferring no person being involved in helping hem buy. The most current research shows over 80% and it would not be unexpected to see this go into the 90’s.
At the same time, we see similar data on “buyer regret.” Those that do buy, perhaps without sellers, are having higher levels of regret. They are wondering, “Did they do the right thing?”
My friends, Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna, provide fascinating data in The Jolt Effect about the skyrocketing data around “No Decision Made.”
And we keep coming back to the same thing. Customers are and need to buy! Customers struggle with buying and need help! Customers are confused and want to build greater confidence that they are doing the right thing!
Too often, we see buyers buying not because of what we have done, but in spite of what we have done. They have to do something, they have to move forward, they make the best of a tough situation and buy in spite of the experience they have in working with sellers. Yet we revel in the “win,” high fiving each other, looking forward to our commission checks.
We, also, have data that despite preferring rep free buying experiences, they are relatively channel agnostic. They just want to get the job done! If they can get it done digitally, they will do it. If they can get it done working with sales people, they will do it. They really don’t care, they just need to get the job done and move forward.
So how is it that selling is so difficult? Why are we continuing to struggle to sell when the need to buy is actually increasing? Why are fewer and fewer sellers hitting their goals? Why are win rates plummeting?
Our own people are discouraged and they leave, hoping the grass is greener, inevitably finding it isn’t. Or managers are impatient with the lack of results and rather than diagnosing the problem, they bring someone different in to repeat the same cycle again. How do we build and execute a winning strategy, when managers and sellers only stay around for 11 months?
As you start thinking about the problem, pretty soon you realize, “We’re the problem! We are driving buyers away! And we are making it worse!”
Yet we persist! Selling is broken and we are the one’s that have broken it.
On that uplifting note, is there hope? Or do we pack our bags and become “welcomers” at Walmart, or order takers at In-and-Out?
Of course there is hope, and the future is bright for sellers, but only if we make a radical shift in how we sell.
I’m fortunate to see a small number of high performing organizations setting themselves apart. They don’t follow the fashion, but they stick to the fundamentals. They leverage technology and tools to help them but they recognize the secret to selling is helping our customers. They recognize success comes from first helping customers succeed and, as a result, we succeed. They recognize that customers struggle, but help show them the way, helping them make sense of what they face, navigate their process effectively and efficiently, and be confident in the decisions they make.
They, also, recognize their people are critical to their ability to engage customers. They create workplaces where their people feel valued and are heard. Where they feel challenged and can grow. Where they are supported by a strong culture and value system, and the leaders “walk the talk.” They build and grow deep experience, expertise, and reputations that drive performance.
Buying and selling is never easy, but because of the way they engage their customers, they make buying easier, which in turn makes selling easier.
This is not a mystery. We see the same behaviors in those organizations that are consistent high performers. Yet too many just ignore this–and these high performers revel in that ignorance because it further differentiates them and sets them apart. (Imagine the insanity of this–their competitors through their ineptness are helping them build their value and differentiation.)
Recently, I was talking to the CEO of one of these consistent high performing organizations. We were talking about this issue, and how they were making buying and selling easier. “Alex, you probably will be pissed off with me. I’m showing the secret of what makes you and your team so successful, why you are growing faster than your competition, how you are seizing share from them. How your profitability outstrips theirs…..If they start adopting even some of the things you do, it will make it tougher for you and your team.”
He thought about it for a while, laughed, then said to me, “Dave nothing could be better! If they start doing it consistently. If they start leveraging their versions of what we have done to achieve our success, it will make things for our customers and markets so much better! And it will force us to innovate, change and raise our game to an even higher level. And I am very confident in our team and our ability to do that.”
His vision gives me hope. I hope others reflect on this and we stop the insanity. There are huge opportunities and we can do more and achieve more, yet we are so committed to the opposite that we underperform.
We can and must to better–for our customers, our organizations, and our people.
Action: Think of one thing you must stop doing, just because you have always done it that way. Then take that time to figure out one thing you can do to engage your customers differently, in a way that is meaningful to them. Stick with it for 90 days. You will, inevitably have to tune it, but you will see huge results. Then look at the next thing and do that.
If you need help, talk to us about business focused selling. Learn how to skyrocket win rates, customer loyalty/growth, while simultaneously reducing sales cycles by as much as 30%.