Why “How” Beats “What” in an Era of Sales Disillusion


Share on LinkedIn

Let’s face it. Sales is hard. According to research from Gong.io, over the past seven years, average VP of Sales tenure has shrunk from 26 months to 19 months. What’s more, Salesforce Research states that 57% of sales reps expect to miss their quotas this year.

Research by Gong.ioResearch by Gong.io

Why is this?

Technological innovation is changing everything at lightning speeds — and for sales teams the reality is severe: The moment companies meet the standard, customers again raise the bar. Great products or low prices alone won’t woo them. Today’s customers demand superior experiences, as well as a commitment to their success, in exchange for their business and loyalty.

Every product category is exploding in competition. Customers have hundreds of choices for any product they want to buy. And all of them are more or less the same.

In this age of customer power and vendor sameness, the traditional approach to selling simply doesn’t work. Deals are increasingly complex, and customers have access to more information earlier in the sale. As a result, customers are buying in new ways, delaying initial contact with suppliers and requiring greater consensus to move forward.

Today’s customers don’t need sales reps in the same way as in the past. Buyers do independent research and set their own purchase criteria, all before the first seller interaction.

The Sales Experience is what matters

According to Gartner, 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience — more so than by the brand, product, service and price combined. A customer’s interaction with a vendor’s sales organization largely dictates this experience.

So, make no mistake. We’re living in an experience economy which is why no matter what you’re selling or who you’re selling it to, the experience your customer has with you or your organization is your product! It’s not what you sell it’s how you sell it and what your organization is doing, saying and writing during a sales process is what really differentiate you.

Data from Salesforce’s 2018 State of the Connected Customer report agrees, stating that 80% of customers feel the buying experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

That’s why, as a seller, your goal should be to create a high-value and frictionless experience during the sales cycle that surpass the business value they get from your products and solutions.

The Stories you tell is what drives home the business

According to Forrester, 60% of buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information and 62% say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. That means that when they do decide to interact with a salesperson, they expect you to deliver value beyond the information they can find online.

In this environment, the art of storytelling has gotten a lot of attention and for good reason. It seems that every businessperson wants to be a storyteller who can convey a compelling narrative for the company brand. Storytelling in sales is nothing new. Great salespeople have known, often instinctively, that stories, not facts, have the most powerful impact on how people feel, and stories can therefore pave the way to closed deals.

Dating as far back as the Stone Age, the art of storytelling is a highly effective form of communication. People are simply hard-wired to hear stories. In fact, the London School of Business found that people retain 65 to 70 percent of information shared via a story versus only 5 to 10 percent of information conveyed through statistics.

Successful storytelling is thus one of the most critical selling skills since it can help increase your sales.

Cathy Salit, CEO of Performance of a Lifetime, outlines the structure of a great sales story:

Act I: A compelling opening. The sales rep portrays the world as it is in its current state, featuring the client as hero who faces great challenges.

Act II: A clear build. The world as it could be, changed by the brand. The sales rep provides singly important facts and rising action that describes how working with the brand conquers obstacles, reduces pain, and increases success.

Act III: A powerful close. This is the ask. It can be a clear call to action — a signed contract, down payment, or the scheduling of a future meeting. As the closing note, the sales rep reiterates the world “as it could be” in partnership with the company brand, featuring the client as an “ever-more powerful hero.”

This is your challenge for 2019

Researchers have showed that there are 10 emotional motivators that have a significant impact on customer’s perception of value. Motivators like standing out from the crowd, feeling a sense of belonging, feeling secure, being successful in life, and becoming the person they want to be. What’s even more interesting is that these motivators often reflected deep, unspoken emotional needs. In other words, buyers are heavily influenced by emotions, yet they rarely vocalize them.

Knowing that 72% of B2B Buyers would change supplier if the experience was better with an other supplier [Walker Study], you have a golden opportunity to rise above your competition. You simply have to get back to human nature basics and stop using your company and/or products as the primary differentiator.

Research By SalesforceResearch by Salesforce

Winning deals is more than about providing statistics, use cases and ROI analysis. It’s about differentiating your company by providing the best buying experience and equipping your sales organization with insights that resonates with the Buyer and leads to your strengths. Stories that provokes, engages and inspires. Offers that are easy to understand. And frictionless onboarding processes.

And finally, teaching your sales teams that closing techniques are dead and that….

Listening is probably the most important trait that they should develop.

Good luck with your sales in 2019!

Sven-Olof Husmark
Sven-Olof is the founder of Experify, a business consultant firm, Senior Advisor at Egain Group a pioneer in intelligent AI driven energy optimization of buildings and former CMO at Qmatic Group, a world leader in creating better customer journeys.Sven-Olof is a senior executive with demonstrated success in growing companies globally by initiating effective sales, marketing and customer service strategies.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here