Sales challenges facing salespeople have been greatly increased due to remote selling, the hard to reach buyer plus the impact of social media on the sales process. Today more than ever, the balance of power is in the hands of the buyers. Access to endless amounts of data, information and channel alternatives has reduced the impact a salesperson can make, and it is changing how salespeople go about selling.
The sales challenges to keep up with shifting buyer preferences which are now heavily influenced by digital data means that salespeople need to engage with customers on their preferred channels. And they need to come prepared to have meaningful conversations, share insights and put concern for the customer above their own self interests.
The Sales Challenges in Prospecting.
Sales prospecting in the modern sales environment is not an easy task. It involves quite a bit of effort kick start a sales conversation with a prospect and to get them listen to what the salesperson has to offer. The hard reality is sales prospecting must be a planned, organized activity as random prospecting is mainly a waste of time.
75% of purchases now start with an online search by the buyer.
Prospects can compare your product or service to everything like it and buy from the competition without you even knowing they exist.
Nearly two thirds of B2B buyers state that prior to completing any purchase they researched at least two but as many as seven B2B sites plus between 50 and 90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before they interact with a salesperson.
Salespeople need to master how to combine social selling, digital channels, and traditional sales prospecting methods to lessen the reliance on inbound leads. We know that buyers value content that helps to educate and fill in some of the blanks for them. As more and more selling will be conducted via the digital channels, salespeople need to up-skill on the use of sales tools and content (articles, whitepapers, research etc) to engage a prospect. The goal is that they gradually build a network of contacts via their social interactions. Buyers are drawn to thought leaders and surveys show they prefer interaction with salespeople whom they consider to be a trusted adviser.
The Status Quo Challenges
The reason for sales challenges in moving a buyer out of their status quo position is that for them to implement a new solution always presents more short-term challenges than the vision of a future state. If we agree that some form of change causes buying, then buying requires the customer to undertake a “change management project”. However, the customer’s preference for the status quo is more complex than avoiding short-term hurdles. Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Chicago have learned that a phenomenon called “sudden-death aversion” explains why the status quo is so immovable.
This pattern of sudden-death thoughts has the effect of customers to sense that they are “tempting fate” and taking a risk that does not need to be taken. Unfortunately, this thinking leaves customers anchored to the status quo. It also leaves sales professionals with a roadblock to overcome.
Salespeople need to get to grips that without no identified customer pain, then no opportunity. In the sales process, they must have a clear understanding of the specific pains their product and services are supposed to eliminate for that unique customer. Sharing credible and evidence-based proof is needed to remove previous emotions (experiences) and get the buyer out of the status quo to demonstrate how to solve the core PAIN of any customer.
Sales Challenges in The Buyers Journey
The modern buyer’s journey is far from linear. Salespeople must accept that winning a sale is no longer characterized by some logical progression on a CRM system. They must acknowledge that success comes from a dynamic approach to selling. Many salespeople already see the effects of a changing buyer’s journey. The question is, can they be proactive in the drive to change with buyer habits. It is not enough to observe that buying has become more complicated, salespeople must make the moves necessary to lead the customer and help them navigate the journey.
Salespeople must face these sales challenges by their ability to build credibility and trust. Sales skills and sales training which are focused on educating and informing the key decision makers in their target accounts by offering genuine thought leadership and insights that serve to shape the customers perspectives and influence their thinking. To position themselves as a valuable resource, to help the customer navigate the buying journey and to persuade them to engage with them sooner rather than later.
Having “Why” Conversations Challenges
Customers are often in less of a hurry to buy than you are to sell due to aversion to change (internal roadblocks etc.). There is compelling research showing that if potential customers do not become connected to a product or service, they will not care enough to buy it. Every buyer will assign value to a sales proposition and then mark it as good or irrelevant. It is how we all distinguishes between what matters and what is irrelevant. When it comes to customer conversations, the status quo bias plus the competitors in the market will be one of the salespersons biggest sales challenges. To defeat it, every salesperson is going to need “Why Conversations” that confronts the forces that make people resistant to change. Why would a customer listen or care to what a salesperson has to say?
It begins with a salesperson being able to raise curiosity in email or sales call. Planning for what story or topic will resonate with the buyer in a sales conversation plus how they will you set the scene (reason for the approach). Salespeople will need to master how to explain on how they solve problems, the impact on the customer of doing nothing plus the effectiveness of their solutions. They also need to come prepared to quickly address any perceptions.
Sales Challenges of Roadblocks and Objections
At any given time, buyers are looking at multiple things that they could invest in. Salespeople must overcome the many implications that a potential customer must consider before purchasing any offering. Implications include concerns about impact, change, risk, reputation etc. The many tangible and intangible factors that are associated with the actual adoption of a new offering.
We know that buying has many moving parts, including individual needs, rules for assembly, collaboration and communication, politics, corporate regulations, and internal or external historic relationships.
Salespeople must learn to facilitate buying, they must enter earlier as a servant leader to a customer and be willing at first to be a change agent. They must think of this as a way of helping the customer create and own a compelling need to change. To have the sales skills to help the customer create a vision of a new future and how they might get there. Every salesperson who wants to succeed in this challenging sales environment must master how to share stories, provide evidence that reinforces them as the “safe option” for a customer to unlock their roadblock.
There are many, many more sales challenges in the modern sales process, a process that is now determined by the buyer or customer. Whether through sales enablement, sales transformation or sales training, salespeople need to adjust rapidly to win over more customers for their business. Time waits for no salesperson.