We all know that the business world changed permanently as a result of the recession that began in 2008. We’re all familiar with the enhanced power of purchasing, emboldened strategic procurement practices, and very deliberate attempts to squeeze most, if not all, of the profit from suppliers who compete fiercely and are often desperate. We have come to accept that there is generally far more supply than demand in the industries into which we sell. And, that the ever-mounting noise and hype in every market leaves buyers frustrated, confused, and often distrustful of anyone trying to sell anything to them. As all of these forces converge, we sellers find ourselves in an increasingly difficult position.
My Beyond the Sales Process co-author Steve Andersen and I, based on a significant number of sales effectiveness improvement projects with companies—from start-ups through the Global 100—as well as a series of revealing interviews, have learned a great deal during the past seven years. By talking with and capturing the best practices of the world’s most successful salespeople and account managers, and interviewing their customers, we’ve drawn some sobering conclusions:
- Over the last decade buying has changed dramatically, but selling hasn’t kept up;
- Very little has been written or is taught about the period of time when the customer is not buying (Your customer spends only between one and two percent of their time—based on a 2,000 hour work year—actively buying from you.);
- Too many salespeople and account managers expect their sales tools, processes, and techniques to miraculously win business for them, when the real problem is that they only show up when the customer announces an intention to buy; and
- Customers don’t care about tips, tricks, or sales forms, and they don’t want to be processed, coerced, controlled, or otherwise pushed around.
What should you be doing differently?
Steve and I have asked hundreds of customers what they care about, and they consistently tell us that they value authentic relationships based on transparency, competence, credibility, and trust—and that they’ll pay more for these qualities, even in today’s highly competitive selling environment.
We’ve gone inside some of the world’s premier companies to determine just how the “best of the best” are achieving success, and it’s clear that top sales performers and account managers on the front line of customer engagement are upping their game to include a focus before, during, and after each of their sales. Simply winning the deal isn’t enough. Their success provides a compelling case for the effectiveness of stronger alignment, collaboration, innovation, and mutual value creation in this new era of customer engagement. Beyond the Sales Process documents some of their accomplishments through nine revealing case studies that feature details of their relationships with their customers.
Today’s top performers have learned how to shape their customers’ perception of them and their offerings by not being out of sight or out of mind for too long. They know that when they pay careful attention to the “other” 98 percent of their customer’s time (when the customer isn’t actively buying from them), they can strongly position themselves to impact that highly leverageable 2 percent (when they are engaged with their customer in an active opportunity).
Customers today want more effective engagement with their most important suppliers. Beyond the Sales Process serves up 12 proven strategies and tools for competing and excelling in this demanding and pressurized selling environment, along with instructive examples of how to do it.
If now is the right time for you to have a change of mindset, a change of attitude, and a change of heart regarding how sellers and buyers engage and do business together, you need to dispense with what no longer works and deliberately strive to meet the new requirements of our customer driven world.