The Complexity Of Selling To 6.8 Stakeholders

Previously we took a close look at how buyer expectations have shifted due to the immense amount of information and options available. As a result today’s buyers struggle to analyse and process this information to make an informed decision, and the right decision. Therefore “buyers are now looking for intelligent sales engagements. They want less salespeople and more trusted advisors. They know about the product features and functions. They want someone to add value to them” (Arman Masoudi, Microsoft Australia - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar, Sydney).

Whilst it is harder for buyers to make a purchase decision in today’s connected landscape, in turn it is now harder for salespeople to sell. And this is not just because buyers are faced with too many options and too much information. LinkedIn (n.d.) recently released their key takeaways from a seminar presented by the Corporate Executive Board on The Challenger Customer, where two selling roadblocks were examined:

  • There are now on average, 6.8 stakeholders per B2B deal, and
  • Sales-led organizations are selling the one thing customers don’t want to buy; change

So today we are going take a detailed look at challenges salespeople face when selling to 6.8 stakeholders. 

6.8 STAKEHOLDERS PER B2B DEAL

In today’s B2B sales landscape, salespeople are no longer dealing with one executive (where there is an 80% likelihood the deal will close) (LinkedIn, n.d.). Today salespeople are now dealing with 6.8 stakeholders on average (Gabriel Tsavaris, CEB - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar). As a result, the likelihood a deal will close drops significantly to 30% (LinkedIn, n.d.). 

Selling is complex not only because salespeople are now dealing with multiple stakeholders, but because now they must also manage each stakeholder who has their own profile with distinct behavioural characteristics. LinkedIn (n.d.) established seven Stakeholder Profiles following a recent CEB presentation on The Challenger Customer, highlighting the characteristics that differentiate each profile:  

  • The Go-Getter - Looks for new ideas and ways to improve organizational practices. They’re great project leaders that are focused toward driving the project forward.
  • The Skeptic - Like the idea of new ideas and the change it can bring. However completing a careful analysis from every angle before moving forward is their top priority. Even if they are in agreement they are still skeptical and cautious about this change.
  • The Friend - Always ready to share updates of the discussions amongst stakeholders, with regards to any current roadblocks or decisions that have been made.
  • The Teacher - Keeps the end result in mind, and constantly emphasizes the benefits to the rest of the group.
  • The Guide - Demonstrates their wealth of knowledge to the group, expressing what they know and others don’t.
  • The Climber - “The person who’s all about individual advancement rather than organizational winning”
  • The Blocker - Like to stick with the status quo, they are the ones that don’t see the need for change.

Thus salespeople are now faced with a number of diverse perspectives as each stakeholder holds their “own motivations, concerns and priorities” when it comes to a purchase decision (Soderberg-Arpedio, 2016). As a result buying dysfunction occurs.

Salespeople can often reframe a buyer’s beliefs and get them onboard with the idea of change. However the real challenge lies in their ability to get the entire stakeholder group in alignment, and sharing a common vision and end goal. This can be particularly difficult when stakeholders are reluctant to make decisions or compromise, make decisions based on a single factor or on those that prevent losses rather than deliver gains (Adamson & Toman, 2014). This slows the entire sales cycle, and can sometimes bring it to a complete halt (Salesforce, 2015). In turn deals start to fall through as 37% of the way through the sales process, and 46% of stakeholder groups report that agreeing on a course of action as a group is highly difficult (Salesforce, 2015).  

The number one reason stakeholders are reluctant to make a purchase decision is because every sales-led organization is selling the one thing buyers don’t actually want to buy; change (LinkedIn, nd.). And when we don’t want something to change we resist it, and this resistance has added a whole other layer of complexity to selling. Stakeholders, employees and individuals alike are now skeptical about making purchase decisions, as investing in a new solution is risky, unknown, and ultimately disruptive (Bacharach, n.d.).

Sources:

Adamson, B. & Toman, N. (2014). Why You Should Teach Customers How to Buy. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/sales-why-you-should-teach-customers-how-to-buy/

Bacharach, S. (n.d.). 4 Reasons Your Employees Resist Chnage -- And How To Overcome Them. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/samuel-bacharach/four-reasons-your-employees-resist-change-and-how-to-overcome-them.html

LinkedIn. (n.d.). The Challenger Customer: The New Reality Of Sales. Retrieved from https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/sales-solutions/global/en_US/c/pdfs/The-Challenger-Customer-vF.pdf

Salesforce. (2015). The Challenger Customer - Are you targeting the right decision maker? [PDF] Retrieved from http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/359201/The-Challenger-Customer.pdf?t=1448282743431

Soderberg-Arpedio, J. (2016). Who's Buying? Identifying the Right Stakeholders in Your Deal. Retrieved from http://www.inflexion-point.com/blog/whos-buying-identifying-the-right-stakeholders-in-your-deal

 

Rise Of The Machine - Shifting Buyer Expectations

The B2B sales landscape has changed, forcing the role of a salesperson to adapt. Not only has the role of a salesperson evolved, the balance of power has shifted dramatically towards the modern buyer causing expectations to shift. However, in order to understand the impacts shifting buyer expectations are having on salespeople, first we need to briefly look over the evolution of selling techniques.

 

TRADITIONAL SELLING

For years salespeople have been walking into sales meetings prepared to tell customers their story. They would emphasize just how great their organisations products and services are, i.e. salespeople would deliver the traditional sales pitch. For a long time this was the most effective way to sell. Buyers had no other way of finding out the price and specifications of a product or service but from a salesperson. Salespeople could effectively use a one size fits all selling approach, learning one pitch that could be repeated to every buyer.

However technology started to advance, and with the introduction of the internet buyers gained access to product and service information online. This resulted in the evolution of the educated buyer. Salespeople started to find the traditional sales pitch was no longer showing results as the breadth of knowledge they required to know had increased, sparking the move to solution selling techniques.

 

THE MOVE TO SOLUTION SELLING

Buyer’s started to complete independent research following the introduction of the internet, and pre-determine the problems their organization was facing. However, buyers were often unable to determine the solution they needed to amend these problems. Therefore instead of selling a product or service based on price and features, salespeople started selling solutions (Gray, 2012). Salespeople would ask buyers questions that uncovered their core pain points, and match a product or service to the solution.

But as time has gone on buyers have gained access to even more information, becoming hyper-educated and more sophisticated. And as a result solution selling is no longer the solution for salespeople to effectively sell to today’s buyers. 74% of executives are turning to the internet to research and gather information before reaching out to a salesperson, simply because of the “ease and speed by which information can be located” (Forbes Insights, 2009). As a result by the time a buyer reaches out to a salesperson 60% of the decision-making process is complete, and they know just as much about products and services as the salesperson does (Corporate Executive Board, 2014).

Although buyers have become hyper-educated following the completion of thorough research, they are faced with a number of options and an overwhelming amount of information. Thus the challenge for buyers is analysing all this information to make an informed decision, and the right decision. And it is this challenge that has shifted a buyers expectations when engaging with a salesperson. So what do buyers expect from salespeople today?

EXPECTATIONS OF THE HYPER-EDUCATED BUYER

Today’s buyers are engaging with salespeople much further down the sales cycle, and expect to engage quickly with salespeople that have an in-depth knowledge base. Thus salespeople are no longer just salespeople, they have evolved into what has come to be known as sales engineers. In our recent Sales Disruption Seminar, Arman Masoudi of Microsoft Australia discussed how “buyers are now looking for intelligent sales]engagement. They want less salespeople and more trusted advisors. They know about product features and functions. They want someone to add value to them”.

Value is what selling to today's buyers is all about. In order to achieve a successful outcomes buyers need a compelling reason to buy. As Mark Dick - LinkedIn pointed out “salespeople need to come up with something that is of true value. What more do you have? What can you additionally and actually give a buyer?  Thus buyers expect salespeople to be experts in their industry to advise and help them make the right decision.

 

SUMMARY

In order to meet the needs and expectations of today’s hyper-educated buyers to deliver an outstanding, and engaging customer experience, salespeople need to walk into a sales meeting and have the ability to unlock the right information, effective information at the moment of need. However in today’s B2B sales landscape it is also harder for salespeople to sell. Salespeople are no longer dealing with a single stakeholder, but now an entire stakeholder buying group with on average, 6.8 stakeholders (Gabriel Tsavaris, CEB - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar).

Check out part two of this series where we take an in-depth look at the complexity of selling in today's B2B sales landscape, and why it's harder to sell to 6.8 stakeholders. 

Sources:

Corporate Executive Board. (2014). The Two Qualities Your Content Marketing Needs. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/the-two-qualities-your-content-marketing-needs/?business_line=marketing-communications

Forbes Insights. (2009). The Rise of the Digital C-Suite - How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information. [PDF] Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/digital_csuite/

Gray, T. (2012). Insight Selling Replaces Solution Sales. Retrieved from http://www.tom-gray.com/2012/07/25/insight-selling-replaces-solution-sales/

 

Big Data Is Useless For Salespeople. Make It Priceless With Qotient.

In our recent blog posts, we’ve looked closely at the importance of big data and analytics from a management perspective. We’ve seen that big data and analytics are more than just buzzwords, management can analyze every aspect of their sales force, improve decision-making and ensure their sales team is a cut above the rest (Harvard Business Review, 2014). But ultimately, big data gives management the ability to predict what has always been the unpredictable, a buyer’s purchase behaviour (Business News Daily, 2013).    

At Qotients recent Sales Disruption Seminar in Sydney, panelist Arman Masoudi - Senior Product Marketing Manager of Microsoft Dynamics highlighted how management is gaining value from big data and analytics, but what are we giving back to salespeople? What value are they gaining from big data and analytics?   

Having big data is all well and good, in fact it’s great, but only for management. Big data alone is effectively useless for salespeople, it is too complex and only increases the amount of time salespeople don’t spend out in the field. According to Brudner (2015) salespeople currently spend just 32% of their working hours completing customer meetings.

The value of big data for salespeople is found in ‘small data’, the intelligence and insights derived from the analysis of big data. In short salespeople need insights, they need actionable pieces of information. But, the ultimate value is how salespeople use these insights out in the field to drive a sales forward. Thus today’s top performing sales-led organizations are investing in data-driven sales platforms that “mask all that complexity, and keep it simple for the front lines so salespeople can do what they do best, sell” (Forbes).

Qotient

The Qotient platform provides management with the perspective they need to analyze every aspect of the sales force while providing salespeople with the intelligence and insights they need to guide their sales meetings. At Qotients recent Sales Disruption Seminar in Sydney, panelist John Munnelly, Executive Director of KPMG Hands-On Systems highlighted how data-driven sales platforms like Qotient are effectively arming salespeople with bite-sized learning as they go. The Qotient platform enables salespeople to gain an overview of the entire sales force via the Qotient dashboard, which is broken down into four key sections:

  • Conversations
  • Successful Conversations - Next Steps
  • Ineffective Conversations - Reasons
  • Leaderboards  

Conversations

This section of the Qotient dashboard provides salespeople with an overview of recent activity, which can be used to guide their future activities. Salespeople are able to see exactly which conversations and insights within the conversation library are being used out in the field and resonating with buyers. Ultimately salespeople can gain insight into the best sales practices at specific points in time, and quickly adjust their techniques to replicate those of the star performers. This also eliminates the time salespeople currently spend searching for the most effective sales collateral to inject into their customer conversations, which is approximately 30 hours per month (Yeager, 2015).   

Successful Conversations - Next Steps

There are two main reasons why sales deals often fall through:

  • Salespeople approach buyers at the wrong time, or (Talk Desk, 2014)
  •  Salespeople continue to sell once a buyer is already sold (Sobczak, 2016)

In turn, salespeople unsuccessfully move buyers through the stages in the sales cycle. Approaching at the wrong time because they were unable to determine the stage in the decision-making journey a buyer was in results in salespeople delivering insights and supporting collateral that are irrelevant, which provides no value to a buyer. On the other hand, salespeople often continue to sell even once a buyer is already sold. This can result in buyers starting to rethink their decision to purchase, as salespeople present new information. Therefore salespeople face a high chance of a lost deal as a buyer may decide to stall the deal, or worse back out all together (Sobczak, 2016). 

However with access to the Qotient dashboard salespeople can see exactly which stage in the sales cycle prospects are in before they engage, and following each sales conversation. This gives salespeople guidance on when to move buyers to the next stage in the decision-making journey. They also now have a more accurate way to determine when a buyer is sold on a value proposition, and ready for a deal to be closed. 

Ineffective Conversations - Reasons

Analysing conversation ineffectiveness is extremely important, if this isn’t a focus for sales managers poor performance will only continue. The Qotient dashboard provides salespeople insight into the reasons why their sales conversations were ineffective. Thus adjustments can be made quickly with regards to the sales collateral they present, and the way in which they present it during customer conversations.    

Leaderboards

The Qotient platform breaks the leaderboard section down in three key areas:

  • Star Sales Performers,
  • Most Successful Conversation, and
  • Most Successful Insight

Thus salespeople can see exactly where they rank against the rest of the sales team. Leaderboards like these serve as an incentive for salespeople to perform at the highest possible standard, driving a competitive team spirit and consistent performance improvement from month to month.

This also enables salespeople to implement selling techniques utilized by star performers into their own sales meetings.

Summary

Overall, sales-led organizations that enable their sales teams with the Qotient platform can ensure their salespeople walk into every customer meeting incredibly well armed, with the insights and intelligence they need to effectively drive a deal forward. 

 

Sources

Yeager, M. (2015). How to Build Sales Tools (Content and Collateral) That Actually Work. Retrieved from http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2015/27619/how-to-build-sales-tools-content-and-collateral-that-actually-work

Sobczak, A. (2016). The Rookie Sales Closing Mistake That Kills Done Deals. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/sales/when-to-stop-selling#sm.00000o4slv18duebkqt9nwsm2ahlv

Talk Desk. (2014). 5 Ways Big Data Will Transform Sales Forever. Retrieved from https://www.talkdesk.com/blog/5-ways-big-data-will-transform-sales-forever’

Big Data, Analytics and The Digital Sales Workspace - The Keys To Delivering The Ultimate Customer Experience

In our recent blog posts we’ve looked closely at what has become one of the hottest topics of conversation in today’s B2B sales landscape, Big Data and Analytics. Big data and analytics are more than just buzzwords. Firstly, they’re an important way to improve decision-making by removing the need for “gut instinct” predictions on the causes of success. Secondly big data and analytics gives organizations the ability to ensure their sales teams are one step ahead of all the rest by continuously refining their sales process. And lastly, big data and analytics ultimately enables sales teams to provide buyers with the ultimate customer experience (Harvard Business Review, 2014).

What is the ultimate customer experience?

In the past five to ten years we’ve seen the balance of power shift dramatically towards buyers (TEDx, 2012). 74% have turned to the internet to research and gather information before reaching out to a salesperson, simply because of the “ease and speed by which information can be located” (Forbes Insights, 2009). As a result, salespeople are now dealing with what is known as the hyper-educated buyer.

But, although buyers are becoming hyper-educated, in many ways they have become too educated, effectively they know just as much as the salesperson they engage with does. Panellist Arman Masoudi, Senior Product Marketing Manager of Microsoft Dynamics discussed at Qotients recent Sales Disruption Seminar in Sydney, that as a result of becoming so educated buyers are finding themselves with too much information, and too many options to analyse. And now, they actually struggle to make purchase decisions.

Therefore, the ultimate experience for a hyper-educated buyer is to engage with a not just a salesperson, but a trusted advisor. Buyers know everything about a salesperson’s organization, industry and product offerings, so naturally they believe a salesperson should reciprocate. The results of the 2013 IDC survey (as cited by Min, 2015) revealed that top three concepts buyers expect salespeople to demonstrate during their sales meetings is:

  1. The ability to help solve business objectives,  
  2. Provide technological expertise, and
  3. Show industry knowledge and experience

Basically today’s buyers expect salespeople to have a 360-degree view of their organization, and provide valuable solutions that not only meet their needs but enhance their organization long-term. According to Cernel (2016) 95% of B2B deals are influenced by the content a salesperson delivers. And if a salesperson is unable to use the sales collateral they are armed with effectively and provide the value a buyer desires, they will be dismissed very quickly (Panelist Gabriel Tsavaris, Executive Director of CEB, Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar, Sydney).  

It is often assumed that the customer experience does not start until a buyer reaches out and engages with a salesperson. However, a buyer’s engagement with a salesperson is only part of the customer experience, 35% of B2B pre-purchase activities are digital (McKinsey & Company, as cited by Forbes, 2013). So while a buyer may not reach out to a salesperson until 60% of the decision-making process is complete, their customer experience actually starts at a much earlier stage (Corporate Executive Board, 2014).

The results of a survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board revealed that today’s buyers are searching for, and identifying solutions well before they reach out to a salesperson. In fact, they are searching for solutions when they are just 37% of the way through the decision-making process (Harvard Business Review, 2015). This is where customers are likely to make their first point of contact with your organization via your marketing efforts, and effectively start their customer experience. While sales performance metrics give management the ability to ensure their salespeople are performing at the highest possible standard and delivering the most effective sales collateral, this data alone is not enough. Salespeople need that 360-degree view before walking into the sales meeting, they need insight into the activities that occur at the early stages of a buyer’s decision-making process. Therefore, salespeople “need access to the same level of insight as buyers” so they can have more effective interactions and deliver the ultimate customer experience (Business News Daily, 2013).

Thus today’s most innovative sales-led organizations are investing the Digital Sales Workspace, the suite of tools that integrates the following capabilities to ensure a transparent, and seamless nurture path for buyers utilizing the power of big data:

  • Marketing Automation
  • CRM Activation
  • Sales Enablement Platform

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation enables organizations to collect data in a far more scalable manner. Interactions, moments and events from the very early stages of the decision-making process can be identified that indicate exactly what buyers are looking for. Automation platforms then feed this data back to the CRM system, which management can then act upon. At Qotient’s recent Sales Disruption Seminar in Sydney, panellists John Munnelly, Executive Director of KPMG Hands-On Systems and Mark Dick, Director of LinkedIn Sales Solutions highlighted how the information gained from marketing automation and tracking buyer engagements is changing the way we address and approach the market. It gives salespeople the opportunity to dynamically control the timing of when they disrupt the decision-making process, and how they move it forward.  

CRM Activation

According to Brudner (2015) salespeople are currently spending up to 20% of their time updating CRM. The result of this is that salespeople are losing a significant amount of their active time to internal process. This time could be used far more effectively in front of customers, where salespeople are making sales and contributing to the organisation’s sales performance. However, keeping CRM systems up-to-date is critical in order for management to access and analyse the data necessary for making prudent decisions regarding organisational growth. Achieving maximum efficiency in CRM use and process is a key step in delivering an efficient, effective and performant customer experience, but how is this efficiency in process achieved?

The top organizations are activating their CRM by investing in a sales enablement platforms that streamline and accelerate workflows. These software platforms integrate with CRM systems to make it easy for salespeople to keep CRM up to date with the latest information whilst they are still in the meeting with the customer, as meeting outcomes are automatically fed back to the CRM system. Qotient is one such platform, designed to accelerate activations of your CRM platform through smart enablement of your sales team when out completing sales meetings with customers or when talking to them on the phone.

 

Sales Enablement

Big data is of no value to a salesperson, it is too complex. For salespeople, the value is found in the intelligence and insights, or the ‘small data’ that is derived from the analysis of big data. Analytics are what enable salespeople to gain a 360-degree view of a buyer, and predict what has always been unpredictable; a buyer's behaviour (Business News Daily, 2013). The key value of these small data insights is most apparent when salespeople use these insights to drive a sale forward. Using these highly valuable, effective pieces of information at the right time in customer engagements can make the difference between a closed-lost and closed-won sale. Enabling salespeople to use these insights where and when they need them is a critical component to increasing sales performance, and this is achieved through a sales enablement platform.  

Qotient is one such platform that enables salespeople to achieve this. The platform masks the complexity of big data, providing salespeople only with the insights they need to get the job done. Salespeople have the ability to deliver a customer experience that differentiates the organization in a positive way. Panellist John Munnelly, Executive Director of KPMG Hands-On Systems highlighted at Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar in Sydney how platforms like Qotient are arming salespeople with bite-sized learning as they go. The Qotient platform embeds intelligence and insights into pre-loaded sales conversations, providing salespeople with actionable pieces of information that can be used to guide their sales meetings.   

Summary

Overall, the Digital Sales Workspace enables sales-led organizations to capture, and present big data in a simplified way that reflects a buyer’s entire decision-making journey. By using the digital sales workspace sales people can repeatedly deliver the most effective customer experiences in their customer engagements, resulting in organisational sales performance growth. 

 

Sources 

Brudner, E. (2015). Salespeople Only Spent One-Third of Their Time Selling Last Year. [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/sales/salespeople-only-spent-one-third-of-their-time-selling-last-year#sm.00000o4slv18duebkqt9nwsm2ahlv

Business News Daily. (2013). Why Big Data is a Big Deal for Sales. Retrieved from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3897-big-data-changes-sales.html

Cernel, S. (2016). 4 Steps to Effective Marketing and Sales Communication. Retrieved from https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/07/effective-marketing-sales-communication.html

Corporate Executive Board. (2014). The Two Qualities Your Content Marketing Needs. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/the-two-qualities-your-content-marketing-needs/?business_line=marketing-communications

Forbes Insights. (2009). The Rise of the Digital C-Suite - How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information. [PDF] Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/digital_csuite/

Harvard Business Review. (2015). Making the Consensus Sale. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/03/making-the-consensus-sale

IDC (as cited by Min, J). (2015). How To use Data Analytics in Your Sales Process. Retrieved from https://ideal.com/how-to-use-data-analytics-in-your-sales-process/

McKinsey & Company (as cited by Forbes). (2013). Big Data, Analytics And The Future Of Marketing And Sales. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/mckinsey/2013/07/22/big-data-analytics-and-the-future-of-marketing-sales/#2bee48a8344d

TEDX. (2012). Scott Sambucci – The Shifted Sales Environment. [Video]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxHultBusinessSchoolSF-Scott;search%3Atag%3A%22tedxhultbusinessschoolsf%22