The sales cycle has completely changed over the past decade – and you may not have even realised.
What do I mean? Consider how you might buy a television. 10 years ago, if you wanted a new TV, most of us would walk into a Best Buy and ask the salesperson what the options were, and what were the pros and cons of each different make and model. Nowadays, if you were to make the same purchase, before you even go to the store you’ve read third-party reviews, examined specs online, found the store with the best sale, and you walk in knowing exactly what model and make you want. No longer are we relying on a salesperson; but rather we’re relying on our fellow consumers and reviewers, their use of the product and opinion of it.
For consumer and B2B sales teams, this change in buying behaviour has brought about an identity crisis. Customers no longer require a sales rep to hold their hand through the entire sales cycle. Marketers, meanwhile, are taking on a larger piece of the sales funnel as they not only grab the interest of prospective customers but point them towards informational content that will help form their opinions on a product. As a result, marketers are holding onto a prospect much, much longer into the sales cycle. Selling from a simple contact card doesn’t cut it in the consumer and B2B markets today. So how do sales teams prepare themselves for success in this new environment? For starters, get used to thinking like a marketer.
Marketers focus on contextuality and personalisation – so you should too
Ten years ago, the success of a sales rep was largely determined by the quality of the relationship they created. Back then prospects were nothing more than dated contact cards in a rolodex. To remain competitive today, sales reps need to take a more sophisticated approach. That means having contextual conversations with customers emphasizing personalization throughout. Thankfully, technology is making this easier than ever.
Marketing automations systems and CRMs provide companies with the data and granularity required to have these meaningful interactions. We can now categorize prospects by the content they’ve downloaded, where they’ve spent time, location, you name it. A great sales rep uses this data to tailor their conversations and optimize their approach for greater impact.
For example, selling to me is hard. I’m a marketer and pushing a product to marketers is a tall task. The only thing that works for me is personalization. If I receive a generic email blast, I’m likely to delete it without ever looking. On the other hand, if someone shares a piece of content telling me why my competitors are out performing me in a certain area, I’m far more receptive. It’s the truly useful and personal information that resonates with today’s customers.
It’s about quality, not quantity
I remember when CRM systems first came about. Everyone, marketing departments and sales teams, was going crazy over lead count. How many leads did you get? Can we double that next quarter? With a CRM, we could finally track this data en masse, yet we were all totally focused on the quantity, the sheer volume of conversation with prospects – or worse just tracking form fills, not bothering to engage prospects in discussion!
When I talk to my sales teams, I describe the sales cycle as looking for a few needles in a haystack. Favoring the number of prospects over quality is a lot like piling more hay atop those few needles. Instead, focus on finding those quality conversations – the meaningful interactions between sales teams and customers.
Sales reps should hone in on those high quality discussion, focus on the content those prospects are consuming and apply those lessons to other leads. Chances are you can shorten the sales cycle by proactively supplying engaged prospects with content that moves them forward through the pipeline, not backwards.
Do your research
Market research is a fundamental duty of marketing departments and it’s something I find sales teams take for granted. With the amount of data available to sales reps, there is no excuse for not researching your target prospects. Do yourself a favour and ditch the classic spray and pray sales approach and adopt a more thoughtful and targeted strategy.
Consider this: if you are selling to Fortune 500s, there are only 500 prospective customers. And in those 500 companies there are only so many decision makers. Every customer interaction counts – you really can’t afford to jeopardize any of those relationships.
As a sales rep, thinking like a marketer is a matter of becoming more data-driven, focusing on the information available to you and asking yourself, “how can our product provide value to this customer?” I imagine in the next 10 years customer buying behaviour will continue to evolve well beyond what we know today. Future proof your sales technique by thinking like a marketer, or get stuck selling in the past. The choice is yours.