A recent research by McKinsey identified that B2B buyers would on average use six different ways to interact with potential vendors to obtain the information they need to make their purchasing decision. Alarmingly, two thirds of buyers come away frustrated with the inconsistency of the experience. ¹
To me, the most critical component of a sales role is to understand what the buyer values. Then highlight that value through the solution on offer and use that to build on the relationship.
By understanding what they value you then understand what’s important to them and what’s driving the need to buy. This is a good way to appreciate the world within which they work and to spend a moment to walk in their shoes. The things I tend to consider are:
AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR
On a high level, business buyers are typically driven by two basic emotions – fear and aspiration. On a professional level they may fear that they will lose business or won’t be as successful as their competitors and aspire to achieve increased profits or improved efficiencies. For personal reasons, buyers are driven by the fear of loss of professional credibility and by aspirations to succeed and to be recognised within their organisations.
Naturally, business partnerships will be formed with the above in mind – most of them unknowingly. For successful sales conversations, it is essential to mirror these emotions and provide the best solutions to drive your prospective client’s professional and personal success. The objective of the partnership is to be beneficial and should not be a burden – quite the opposite. Empathy and looking at “what’s in it for the customer” will go a long way. A good starting point is to question how your clients measure success and what is their overall business strategy. Your clients are not buying your solution’s benefits – they are buying the results. Describe how your products and services will have a quantifiable impact on your customer’s success and the company’s success as well as the impact on the customers’ customers, processes, and people.
IT’S A SOCIAL WORLD
Social networks and digital technologies are allowing for rapid progress in the area of collaboration. With the rapidly increasing number of users, the area of influence and interactions is not only widening, but also naturally increasing. With this impact in mind, internal and external collaborative networks directly impact the purchasing decisions. As a result of this shift, business buyers are becoming more consumer-like and sales executives are expected to have extensive knowledge about the business as well as the buyer’s individual profiles prior to the initial conversations. This makes the conversations much more personal, as both sides would have already reviewed the other person’s and company’s online profile prior to meeting face to face.
The decision making is also widely influenced by the brand’s online reputation and buyers often consider public opinion expressed online. They would also reach out to the online community for recommendations and feedback on their purchasing plans prior to making a decision. The increasing impact of social media is becoming a key factor in forming an opinion that is not based on what the brands themselves are presenting, but more so the voice of the wider public interacting with those brands.
Walking in the client’s shoes has a powerful impact on sales conversations as this enables a better understanding of key drivers and objectives and how to best match them. We are all people, so remembering the human side of sales will make those shoes walk much further.
¹Do you really understand how your business customers buy?, McKinsey & Company