Now is the time for the skill set, mindset, and tool set of ValueSelling
In addition to the economic inflation we’re all facing, there’s inflation of information, too.
There’s too much information coming from too many sources and too little time to sort through it all – so how can we reach buyers in this post-pandemic, virtual-first world? We need to adopt selling solutions that underscore simplicity.
More than ever, the selling solution for today’s complicated world is value-based selling because it is a common-sense approach. But common sense isn’t always common practice. And that’s the problem. At a time when there are tremendous demands on buyers, how you sell is as important as what you sell (or even more important).
Of course, the pandemic ushered in some physical changes. Two-and-a-half years ago, many salespeople thought they couldn’t sell if they were not in the room face-to-face with their buyers. Even as some folks are back in the office, teams are scattered across the country (or globe) in remote workplaces. Now, people are asking, “Why can’t I do this on Zoom?” rather than, “Why can’t I do this in person?”
Not only has the physical location of the sales presentation changed, so, too, have the expectations of buying behavior. Research from Gartner found that, while buyers report they prefer a rep-free experience, they also have low confidence in the digital-only information they find. A whopping 76% of those surveyed said they did nothing different as a result of engaging with a supplier only through their digital assets. Without a high level of confidence, B2B buyers are less likely to make high-quality, low-regret purchases. In addition, research from Forrester found that, in B2B transactions, buyers opt for what they perceive as the lowest-risk option rather than what might truly be the best option.
With these sizable challenges to overcome, sales reps need to position themselves to offer value. Part of that includes explaining why the buyer would benefit from meeting with the seller, rather than making a sales pitch about why the sales rep wants to meet with the buyer. In fact, we’re not a fan of the word “pitch” at all when it comes to selling because it assumes the buyer is passive – and that’s not the case. Selling isn’t telling, it is engaging.
Not all of the changes are coming from external pressures. Some are coming from inside the buyer’s organization as well. Younger buyers are accustomed to e-commerce and, as a result, are used to quick turnaround times. Those dynamics are shifting the expectations of B2B transactions, says Rick Bradberry, principal analyst at Forrester. “These buyers are pushing their peers and the sellers with whom they work to create more transparent and personalized buying experiences. This results in trust-building as a focus, instead of traditional relationship-building,” he says.
Today’s sellers must be able to communicate online and in person, build trust, deliver quickly, and communicate clearly when there are supply chain issues or other delays.
IT’S THE ECONOMY
When there is economic turmoil, companies tend to become more risk averse. When that happens, more people get involved in decision making.
It is a barrier to sales success. Sales reps have to ask, ‘Am I talking to the right people?’ and today it is more people than ever. On average, between seven and nine people are on a buying committee. That means the sales rep has to make more connections, and more people need to come to an agreement on a purchase.
Buying is a consensus decision right now, and the salesperson is essentially the ambassador who speaks the language of the host country and interprets the languages between all those stakeholders to make sure everyone understands the language of the buyer. People describe things differently based on where they sit in the organization – even if they are talking about the same thing – so that kind of translation is essential.
It stands to reason: The more people involved in a process, the more complex it becomes. The Forrester 2021 B2B Buying Study Reveals Seismic Shifts That Amplify Long-Term Trends in Buying Behavior report shows that the average number of buying interactions (both digital and in person) from 2019 to 2021 grew from 17 to 27. While each of those touchpoints may be shorter (a quick phone call or email versus an in-person demo or presentation), there are more of them. More opportunities to receive information can mean more information to sort through – and possibly more confusion. The report also found that about 80% of B2B purchases involve these more-fragmented buying scenarios.
Because of those factors, it is essential that a sales rep has the conversation skills to communicate with an operations person, a tech lead, and all the different roles on the buying committee. Yes, the content of those calls will change based on roles, but the way in which the call is approached and managed relies on the same value-based framework.
CREATING A FRAMEWORK
To explain the ValueSelling Framework®, we use an analogy from the late Jim Ninivaggi, an analyst for SiriusDecisions and an expert in B2B selling. Your sales process is like the yard markers on an American football field. They’re clearly defined milestones, mapped to your sales process, that define progress toward your goal.
While the playbook that tells you how to advance your opportunity to the end zone is your methodology; it’s the engagement framework that gives you the common language and tools that drive predictable results.
Blocking, tackling, and throwing are the skills that are required to consistently leverage the methodology and work with the sales process. When all three of those are aligned, value selling works. When these three elements are aligned, it’s easier for teams to guide buyers through the process, predict results, and replicate success.
The right framework helps salespeople transform their focus from pushing products to selling the full value of their solutions. The ValueSelling Associates mantra is, “Keep your product knowledge in your pocket.” That way, you have it when you need it to answer questions, but you don’t start with the demo. You start by understanding the buyer and the buyer’s needs.
The five interconnected and foundational components of the ValueSelling Framework are:
1. The Value Buying Process enables salespeople to efficiently facilitate how modern buyers want to buy and ensure nothing is overlooked.
2. The Qualified Prospect Formula® allows salespeople to efficiently review the crucial components of a deal and stop wasting time on unqualified opportunities.
3. The ValuePrompter is a tool that makes it easier to prepare and execute sales calls, manage the details of opportunities, accurately forecast, and close more deals.
4. The O-P-C (open, probe, and confirm) Questioning Process is the catalyst that activates the entire ValueSelling process. Because selling isn’t telling; it is engaging.
5. The Opportunity Assessment Tool enables sellers to quickly and thoroughly review all vital components of an opportunity to identify if anything was missed in the sales process that could prevent the deal from closing.
This framework facilitates the buying process and helps sales reps approach the challenges of ever-evolving buying behavior and build buyer confidence, there’s no starting point or end point. The world we live in is too dynamic, and sales is not a linear process. The framework is supported by tools that easily integrate with popular sales technology, but it doesn’t rely on tech alone. Technology only adds value if it impacts the outcomes.
Of course, any sales methodology is ineffective if it isn’t used. If they don’t do what you teach them to do, then it doesn’t matter. Everyone in your organization needs to have the same understanding of why a value-based approach to selling will enable future success. Yes, value selling takes more time, but the payoff is worth it.
Sales reps that wing it today are going to get blown away by sales reps that are prepared. They have to be prepared to have business conversations about business outcomes with business executives.
Sales reps need to have courage to be able to say in that first sales call, “I’m not sure if we are the right fit.” That’s the courage that builds trust.
It all boils down to one overarching question: With all of the demands on our time, the sales rep is an interruption. You need to ask yourself, how do you become a value-added interruption?
This article was originally published as part of Selling Power’s special edition on Value-based Selling.