Year after year the selling environment gets more challenging and more competitive. Richardson’s Selling Challenges research tracks the latest trends and identifies opportunities for building stronger connections with buyers in the new selling reality.
Stop Tasking and Start Selling
Productivity is top-of-mind for sellers in 2017. Nearly half of all respondents in Richardson’s annual research survey reported “spending too much time on administrative or non-selling activities.”
It’s a common trap. Sellers begin to take on the work of others, or get wrapped up in reporting requirements, and soon, there’s precious little time left for prospecting or meeting with customers. This can also happen when sellers babysit their accounts because they feel that no one else can provide the level of service and support that they do.
What sellers really need to be doing is selling, and it’s the manager’s job to remove administrative tasks and other obstacles so that sellers can focus on their primary job. Managers need to be aware of what’s going on in their teams, who is doing what work, and how to streamline or eliminate non-selling activities.
Sales enablement tools can help sellers stay on top of their game. Yet, finding the right marketing assets to support the selling effort is the second highest-rated productivity challenge cited in the study. When such assets are embedded into the seller’s CRM or other data-rich platforms, they can be more easily identified and accessed. Choosing the right assets requires a deep understanding of the customer’s business, the value lens used to make decisions, and the organization’s business imperatives. Marketing assets exist to support selling efforts, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Prospect to the Right Clients
Prospecting was a significant challenge reported by respondents. With a short time frame and the pressure to deliver, sellers are becoming more strategic in their prospecting efforts. More than just getting in the door, they want to get in the right door.
Compared with 2016 responses, this year’s top challenges indicate a trend toward greater targeting and quality of leads. Sellers are homing in on ways to become more strategic in their prospecting efforts, while being less concerned with the “how” — which sales and marketing enablement tools to use — in identifying triggers for their accounts. The availability of data through lead generation and research tools has lifted some of this burden from sellers. The problem, however, is that without a plan for how best to use this data, sellers can easily get lost in the sheer volume available.
Learn to Sell as a Team
Team Selling today is no longer required just for blockbuster business-to-business sales pitches. Whether you are in consulting, investment banking, or technology, or are a financial advisor, home remodeler, or lawyer, pivotal meetings with clients and prospects now often involve more people — on both sides of the table. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, “…the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.”
Despite this trend, Richardson’s research revealed that only 26% of respondents had knowledge about how to team sell effectively. This is a key area of opportunity for sellers; those that can master team selling skills increase the likelihood of winning deals over their less savvy competition.
Buyers often “stay the course” when making purchasing decisions. They may be risk-averse or hesitant to try something new. To overcome the buyer’s inertia, sellers need to create a compelling case for change. This includes highlighting the loss or risk associated with not changing. When sellers address missed opportunity costs — the benefits unrealized — by staying put and outline a clear path forward, they make the decision to change easier for buyers.
Stop Negotiating on Price
When it comes to negotiating and closing deals, the top challenges are “gaining higher prices” and “competing against a low-cost provider.” In fact, “gaining higher prices” has been the top negotiating challenge for three years running.
The ability to win deals without lowering prices remains crucial for sales success. Sellers add value by helping buyers diagnose their unique situations and identify the best solutions so that buyers can make informed decisions that drive results. When sellers add value to the buying process, price may still be an issue, but it may not be the most important one.
For more survey results and insights, download the full report, “2017 Research: Understanding Selling Challenges,” from the Richardson website.
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