It’s human nature to search for easier ways to get our work done. Selling will never be easy, but there’s a lot that we can do to simplify the work, enabling us to achieve more than we currently do.
Somehow, however, we tend to do the things that don’t make selling easier. We avoid the things that improve our effectiveness. We aren’t as efficient as we could be.
In the past years, responses to our prospecting outreaches have plummeted, as a result we have to up the volumes and work that we do to get the same number of prospects we got through prior efforts. Gartner is now telling us it takes over 60 “touches” to get a customer to respond to our outreaches. And if we want to grow, the amount of increased work we must do to engage customers sky rockets.
Or when we find a qualified opportunity, we invest all sorts of time in talking about our products to those customers–yet 60% of the time, they fail to make a decision or buy anything. So we have to make our numbers out of 40% of the opportunities in our pipelines–and we are competing with others for that. To make things worse, we don’t know which 40% are going to finally buy from someone, so we have to work on all these deals, knowing that 60% will fall by the wayside.
And sales cycles are getting longer and more complex. More people are involved in the buying process, meaning we have to talk to more people on each opportunity. And with the uncertainties in the economy, buyers are focused only on the things most critical to them.
I could go on, but you already see this. We have to do more and more, just to get the same results we had before. And each win is tougher. And matching what we did last year is no longer sufficient. We have to grow the business, we have to close more deals.
For many, technology has offered us the opportunity to simplify things, to make it easier for sellers to achieve our goals. At least that’s what the theory says, but now we have to spend more time trying to understand and leverage these growing technology stacks. And our own businesses are becoming more complex, so getting things done is tougher.
As a result, an already difficult job is getting much more difficult. And we see this in the results, fewer people, on a percentage basis, are achieving their goals. While we took jobs because of the potentially great OTE, fewer and few are achieving it.
Something’s broken. All the things that should be making selling easier aren’t working. In fact, somehow, every year it becomes more difficult. What do we do?
Perhaps we are looking at things incorrectly. Maybe instead of focusing on making selling easier, if we made it easier for buyers, we might get more work done. If buying could become easier, maybe our jobs would also become easier.
How do we do this?
We have to put ourselves in our customers shoes. What do they care about? Where do they struggle? What causes so many to get derailed in the buying process?
They are plagued by information overwhelm, they don’t know what information is most important to what they are trying to achieve? They are faced with uncertainty. They don’t buy every day, in fact buying is a diversion from their day to day jobs. They have to fit it in to their normal responsibilities. They don’t know how to buy how to manage their change initiatives. They wander, start, stop, shift priorities and directions. They are very inefficient and ineffective. They need help in managing their buying process. Finally, they are plagued with FOMU (fear of messing up). They have little confidence that what they are doing is the right thing–personally and for their companies.
Buyers may be making things more complicated than it should be–because they just don’t know. If we made their job easier, perhaps it makes our jobs easier.
How do we do this?
We talk about the issues the customers are concerned about, in the ways they think about them and that impact their ability to do their work. Unfortunately, only a small part of this has anything to do with our solutions—but if all we do is focus on our solutions—we aren’t making their jobs easier (which, in turn, makes our jobs tougher.
Selling will never be easy, but it could be easier. But only if we could help make buying easier.
John S says
There is another thing I think you are missing, if the theme is “Making Selling Easier”. Yes, looking at 60/40, we need to make buying easier. Absolutely yes.
But I see many companies who can’t get out of their own way. They inundate their sales people with mandatory meetings. They require too much off-target reporting. They micromanage. Too many mid-managers, looking to climb the ladder, have dotted line authority to request data and information from the sales people that has nothing to do with selling, but only to do with their own pet project. Their internal systems are too complex, either to get a quote out, to tailor a custom solution, to get financial approvals, whatever. LET US SELL. If we don’t sell, coach us, put us on a performance plan, or let us go. But for heaven’s sake, PLEASE, get out of the way of the sales function!!
David Brock says
John, great catch. I mentioned it briefly, but didn’t do a deep enough dive into the issue in this post. In much of our work, we are seeing huge declines in “time available for selling.” Part of it is meaningless overhead, reporting, micromanaging that robs time. Part of it is exactly what customers face, their businesses and work are getting much more complex.
Nonetheless, this is an increasing challenge too few are measuring and doing anything about.
There is another perspective that arises when you do this. A lot of sellers actually “hide” behind this. If you free up their time, they actually have to spend it with customers 😉 Go figure.
Not a comment on this article but I thought your book ”Sales Managers Survival Guide” was great. Incredibly detailed and definitely worth the price. Thank you for this book.
David Brock says
Jeff, you’ve made my day! Thank you!
Younes ben amara says
Excellent piece of content and great read.
I landed here from SmartBrief on Small Business (a newsletter that curate good stuff like your article).
When you said «now we have to spend more time trying to understand and leverage these growing technology stack» you were just describe a dilemma many of salesmen struggle with. And you are right I think a lot of lead generation tools are too complicated and time consuming.
David Brock says
Thanks Younes, I tend to agree–many of these tools don’t actually generate leads…..
Dave L says
Speaking here as strictly a buyer. Yes, definitely, consider the point of view of the buyer!
But it goes beyond the points mentioned in the article. There are two mistakes salespeople make that get them off my possible vendors list immediately: cold calls on the phone, and using the wrong email address.
I’m a small business owner. There are two of us in the office. I. Do. Not. Have. Time. To. Take Unsolicited. Sales. Calls. End of story. If I want your product or service, I’ll do the research and seek you out. Then we can set up an appointment to talk. We look at every piece of mail that comes to the office, and we look at every email that comes in. A phone call distracts from getting work done, and studies have shown that for each minute of distraction it can take 5 to 7 minutes to get back on track. Stop wasting my time — if I can’t do money-making work, I can’t afford you, anyway.
I’m also involved in many outside organizations, and I have a separate email address for each one. Are you sending a business solicitation to my home address? You’re off my list. Are you sending it to an address associated with an organization with which I’m still active but not in a leadership capacity? You’re obviously not paying attention to details so you’re off my list. Is it an address set up solely for hobby-related correspondence? You’re off my list.
Yes, think about your potential customers, and be sure to vet any mailing lists you buy that are years out of date. Once a relationship is established then do think about making the process easier!
David Brock says
Well said Dave!! Too many sales and marketing people do terrible jobs–driving prospects/customers away–seeking information from other resources. Over 70% of buyers prefer a “rep free” buying experience because their experience with sellers. Sellers have become so focused on meaningless volumes, harvesting any and every email they can and sending endless messages. So I’m in wild agreement about these outreaches that waste your time.
However, there’s a different thing to think about. You, like so many, prefer to reach to sellers, when you’ve discovered a need and are narrowing on solutions. Sales people revel in this, you do all the heavy lifting. But there’s an interesting challenge to business owners. What has incited you to search, research, and change? Often, we become prisoners of our own experiences, and don’t recognize the opportunity or need to change. (Some call this the familiarity problem). Really great sellers (however few) actually find ways to help incite customers to change, to consider doing something different.
I suspect, if someone called or emailed you, with something that caused you to think, “I’ve never considered this, it’s interesting…” while that call is an interruption, it might be a good use of your time.
The problem is, fewer than 1% of sellers do this well, and they get drowned out in the noise.
Thanks so much for the great “buyer” perspective!