Earlier I wrote an article about how the buyer does not need the b2b sales person anymore. And, this statement or information is true. Yet, there are some systematic issues which are creating confusion within the sales organization.
Okay, first, the amount of product knowledge training is still out of control. During the Great Recession, companies figured they could constraint expenses by using more product knowledge training – which could be handled by internal staff rather than outside sales advisers. The data has been showing organizations have been spending upwards of 85% of their “sales training” budgets on product knowledge.
Second, it is true product knowledge does help the sales person to be more creative in recognizing sales opportunities when they are dropped in their laps. And, a side effect is the higher confidence factor when a b2b sales person understanding their products and product lines well.
Third, the majority of product knowledge training is a total waste of time and resources!
Now that my friends is a bold statement yet I feel it is true. Why? Because the buyer does not need us to learn about our products and services anymore. This information and our competitors information is easily found on the internet.
Before the 21st century arrived, the b2b sales person was the most valuable asset to a buyer or decision maker since we held all the information about our products and services. So, we had the upper hand regarding Product Knowledge and everybody knew it.
During the 20th Century our job was focused upon educating the buyer about our products and the correct combinations to create the best solution for the buyer’s organization. And, thus the need for complete product knowledge was obvious.
And, only the forward thinking sales organizations were actively teaching their b2b sales people new and improved methods of selling and better investigative techniques to uncover real issues their customers had at the moment. Uncovering real problems and issues opened the doors to larger accounts and major changes – with major purchases.
The old traditional minded b2b sales organizations continued moving along doing the same things they have done for the previous 20 to 50 years, leading to an even larger commodity sales environment since the only thing these sales organizations could differentiate from their competition was price. And the price wars and lower margins became the norm for these organizations.
These practices lead to the consolidation of industries and even greater commodity selling until one company basically controlled an industry. Then some form of stability set in – even if it was a false sense of safety. Enter the global competition and more price wars they could win due to lower costs and favorable currency exchanges.
How to Stop the B2B Sales Death Spiral
There are three things you must begin to do starting today if you want to become relevant with your b2b buyers and decision makers.
- Stop trying to educate the buyer
You need to stop doing what the buyer has already done before you showed up. They know what you and your competition offer and in some cases have both your pricing and current customer ratings about you and your competition. If you persist in talking about you, your company and your product, you will surely lose the opportunity to get the prospects business. Acknowledge the fact, they have researched you and your products before you got there. The only form of education you are allowed is if they have misunderstood what they have found on the internet or there are compatibility concerns on your part with their ideas of a solution.
- Start learning how to diagnose the customer’s situation
You MUST learn the questioning model of selling and use it properly. By engaging the prospect (buyer or decision maker) and listening to their complete answers, you will understand their situation as well as they do. Then, as proof of your expertise you can guide them – using questions for engagement and participation – to show them options that have worked for other customers! During this time – which can be up to 70 to 80% of the total time with the prospects – you will build a trust based relationship using your new skills and existing expertise.
- Learn to sell account relationships
Okay, finally you get to the actually selling part of the process. Here you engage in coordinate of activities and interactions with functional groups or teams, negotiate terms and conditions for contractual and legal issues, and deliver upon the fine art of persuasion and influence. By the way, in this new world of selling – there is no closing – only the gaining of agreements to proceed with the delivery of the solution.
Enjoy this new world of b2b selling. It is exciting and actually quite fun if you learn how to use the new competencies necessary for b2b sales success.
If you are a b2b Sales Executive, please take the time to re-read this information. Then, do a complete review of your b2b selling process – including the training and development practices being impended. 85% of your development dollars should be aimed at helping your sales team use the questioning model of selling and losing the old presentation model (unless you are committed to the commodity market environment).
Your b2b sales teams need to be “business people who sell.” Then you will dominate your markets and have the best accounts in the industry.