Recently, I had the honor of attending the 2018 Miller Heiman Group Global Sales Conference in Cancun. As an Independent Sales Consultant for Miller Heiman Group for many years, this is by far the most exciting time in the company’s history. I’d like to share a few highlights for my fellow sales, service and leadership readers.
Changes in Buyer Dynamics
The buying process continues to change. More people are involved in the buying process, and at the same time, buyers are relying less on salespeople. Buyer engagement is decreasing for standard types of purchases, and buyers are demanding more, and expectations are increasing.
Takeaway questions: How is your sales and service organization preparing for these changes?
Corporations Want The Consumer Treatment
Consumer purchase expectations are transferring to corporate purchase expectations. Think of the Amazon Prime buying experience. That level of expectation is showing up in the B2B purchasing environment. CSO Insights research shows there are four selling behaviors that today’s corporate buyers want:
- Deep Business Understanding: Research the company’s industry needs beforehand and don’t ask unnecessary questions.
- Excellent Communication Skills: Often a salesperson’s strength is talking not listening, a good listener is refreshing.
- Post-Sale Connection: It isn’t enough to just sell a company a product. There has to be a continued interest in its success.
- Insights And Expertise: Propose an additional alternative solution that brings value, even if not fully in the initial scope.
Here’s the thing, sellers can’t get to the fourth criteria until they earn the first three. A seller’s insights and expertise are not going to be valued unless that person demonstrates that he or she understands the buyer’s business, has excellent communication skills, and ensures that the post-sale experience will meet or exceed expectations. Only then will a seller’s insights and expertise have any perceived value.
Additionally, the research showed that insights and expertise could be demonstrated by:
- Giving ideas for taking the buying process forward
- Shaping a new vision for success
- Awareness of new solutions
Talent Acquisition And Retention Are Big Challenges
A few sobering statistics: “With the rise of technologies such as natural language processing, machine learning, and advanced predictive analytics, 85% of a sales rep’s activities have the potential to be automated.” Harvard Business Review, June 2016.
Customer Journey Is Increasingly Important To Sellers
Knowing where the customer journey starts is critical. Knowing where it ends is even more so. Does it start at the marketing outreach stage? Or at the seller contact stage? Or is it at the solution evaluation stage? Does it end at solution delivery? Interestingly, CSO Insights research shows that buyers view the after-purchase implementation or execution stage as a critical part of the customer journey.
Takeaway questions: Do you know how your customer defines their buying journey? Do you know how your customer views your value at each stage of the journey? What about post-sale expectations?
Service Is Becoming A Differentiator
Research shows that there some defining moments on the service journey for customers, which are either neutral, negative or positive. The perception of a company’s value to the customer is only as strong as the weakest defining moments they experience.
Takeaway questions: Is your service level a part of your customer’s buying journey? Is it a integral part of your overall sales enablement function?
Increasing Appetite For Analytics
Big data is here to stay. Organizations are spending significant budget dollars on new technology. However, senior leaders are drowning in data. Also, CEOs rarely have sales expertise, so it is up to sales leaders to curate the sales and service data to enable CEOs to make informed investment decisions.
Takeaway questions: Does your sales and service data align with your sales methodology and funnel management practices? How is the data being captured and communication to senior leadership?
For salespeople and sales leaders, there are some positive paths forward. CSO Insights research proposes these four factors to get ahead of the trends:
- Embed a common methodology
- Leverage technology as an overall part of effective sales enablement
- Increase selling time for sellers
- Implement effective coaching practices
I hope this assessment of the current state of selling has been useful. Diagnosing sales performance issues, prioritizing solutions and planning for implementation are challenging tasks. You can obtain additional research insights from CSO Insights, part of the Miller Heiman Group, at csoinsights.com. Please contact me directly to discuss your particular organization’s issues.