Over the past few years, the SEC has advocated the use of commercial teaching and how important it is for reps to teach customers about previously unknown business needs in order to lead them to your unique value offering. But this year, as the sales environment becomes increasingly complex, it’s time for your reps to take commercial teaching to another level… by teaching your customers how to buy.
Why? As it turns out, your customers no longer know how to buy. Well, not exactly, but an emerging trend from recent conversations with members certainly suggests it. To clarify, we’re hearing that customers are unsure of how to buy suppliers’ increasingly complex and disruptive solutions— i.e., they lack a formalized buying process for solutions of such scope.
So, it’s not that your customers don’t know how to buy things anymore; it’s just that they don’t know how to buy your thing.
The real point of concern here is customers’ immediate reaction to deals of this scope: involve more stakeholders in the decision. Today’s solutions are generally cross departmental in scope and will require significant change on the part of customer organizations. As a result, organizations are involving more stakeholders in the deal in an effort to mitigate the complexity and risks involved in the change.
From a suppliers’ standpoint, an increase in the number of stakeholders involved in a deal is not good news. At best, it translates into a lengthened buying cycle, and more likely than not, a missed sale. How? In its simplest form, more people involved in the deal means more opinions, more objections to overcome, etc… essentially more ways for the deal to go south.
Most companies selling complex solutions haven’t fully adapted to customers’ buying processes (or lack thereof…) and are not closing business as a result.
But a few organizations are figuring out how to consistently close sales by leading customers through the deal—essentially teaching the customer how to buy their solution.
How are they doing this? By learning from trends in previous sales and identifying the stakeholders that typically need to be involved in the deal, possible points of risk, concern, and objection in the sale, and conventional timelines for gaining consensus on the deal. Using this information, reps are able to lead the group through the process and successfully teach the customer how to buy their solution.
Do you think this strategy is realistic? Do customers really not know how to buy anymore? And if so, are your reps the ones who can teach them how? Let us know in the comments below.
SEC Members, we’ll be covering this topic in our 2011 research study – stay updated on our latest observations and hypotheses, or schedule a call with us to discuss how you’re dealing with customers’ changing buying processes.