The Art & Science of Insight-Driven Modern-Day Selling To Influence Customers and Maximize Value

By Preeti Das, Global head- IT & Digital Services, Sutherland Global Services | Tuesday, 18 September 2018, 06:18 IST

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 Preeti Das, Global head- IT & Digital Services, Sutherland Global ServicesEverything is in real-time, these days. Everyone is tuned to receive prompt, proactive, and personalized services that pre-empt providers to stay up-to-date with their customer expectations. The ever-evolving B2B selling space, increasingly complex sales process, and changing buyer behaviors and expectations present new challenges for B2B sales teams. The market is also ripe with influencers from social and the tech who are constantly changing buyer behavior to look for smarter and convenient services that “listen” to their needs. To remain competitive and hit revenue goals, it is critical that the modern-day sales reps understand the dynamics in the shifting landscape, understand why these changes are happening, and how they can adapt to selling to the modern B2B buyer. According to Forrester research, 77% of today’s B2B buyers are more likely to buy if a seller shares highly customized data/insights or if they learn something new about their company through the sales process.

Conversations are changing, and so are the stakeholders

The biggest challenge faced by the sales force today is that ‘Conversations’ with their customers are changing. The erstwhile way of selling is passe’. The most relevant discussions are ones that focus on business outcomes. Sales teams must be trained and developed to link the customer needs and the company offerings. The need for aligning with the customers’ changing buying process is critical. It typically involves understanding the new customer organization and aligning with all relevant stakeholders. For instance, if sales have been typically selling HR solutions to the HR head or to the Chief People’s officer, the new world may entail collaborating with the CIO and CFO too. Hence, connecting the dots between customer requirements, company offerings, the new stakeholders.

The new digital world is forcing sellers to focus on business outcomes rather than just the functional outcomes. Example, a B2B sales in IT cannot focus on, let’s say, reduced ‘tickets’. The solution has to deliver business outcomes like higher speed to market, lower cost of operations, reduced handling time for customer support etc. The seller must have the ability to convince the buyer that the solution being offered has the best value proposition compared to the competition.

There is a learning curve on both sides

Obviously, in order to win, the solutions have to be crafted uniquely and may not have precedence. Customers typically love this approach but the flip side is that convincing the entire quorum is a challenge. Unique pricing and contractual models enable overcome this barrier through risk-sharing.

Collaboration by design

One cannot emphasize more on the need for collaboration. Brute force is out. Gone is the era of heroism; welcome collaboration. A culture of ‘Growth Mindset’ will drive the best results. Sales have to recognize the value

of inclusivity and work closely with relevant customer stakeholders and internal teams to bring new ideas, new insights as a team. Make it a habit of giving due credits to the support teams – technology, pricing, products, solutions, delivery, finance, HR, etc.

“The new digital world is forcing sellers to focus on business outcomes rather than just the functional outcomes”

Role of Leadership in sales enablement

Leadership plays a very significant role in driving the right behavior. Due to pressure for driving results, leadership ends up focussing on outcomes rather than on lead indicators thereby driving behaviours where ‘collaboration’ is neglected and strategic direction is missing. Market pressures being high, goals become tactical and hence keep getting revised; communication is largely directional, so ‘aggressive listening’ is missed leading to order taking behaviour.

 According to CSO Insights, reps are only spending 35.9% of their time selling. A large amount of time is spent in Internal reviews. There are four major reasons for heavy, internally focused organizational reviews– Leadership trust on Lack of Competency, Transparency, Process, Information. Initiatives that solve for these are through People, Process and technology transformations are key. Hands-on leadership that can empathize, enable,validate is the need of the hour. Making content available at the right time is also very important for speed and relevance to the customer. The good news is that with sales enablement on the rise, this is happening. According to CSO Insights, the amount of salespeople creating their own content has decreased substantially- to less than 20%. Reinventing Incentives-Enterprises have to find a way to reinvent the incentives across the board that aligns with the growth mindset. It is uncanny, but if one were to conduct research, one would find that the incentives lag the business goals/ expectations by many years.‘WIIFM,’ an acronym for ‘What is in it for Me’ is missed. Creating Stakeholder alignment requires clear goal-setting, accountability, empowerment and aligned incentives.

Using technology to advantage

All of the above can use technology extensively to drive transparency, speed, analysis, and Collaboration. Most large and small software providers offer platforms and tools for Business Productivity, Collaboration, Analytics, etc. The ability to crunch data to drive focus for faster and significantly higher results continuously is very key. Whether it is predicting the outcomes or predicting the timing of the outcomes. We need to remember that organizations, especially the ‘listed’ ones depend on the aggregated sales predictions to drive the analyst communication. By not being disciplined and transparent in this process leads to a loss of credibility. Predictability and Credibility is very key to sales performance.More and more Knowledge Management is key to the success of sales which is dependent on relevant and contextual information being made available on fingertips at the time it is required during the sales process e.g. pre-sales, sales discussions, negotiations, etc. Loads of Collaboration and Productivity tools are available today to drive productivity and collaboration. All in all, selling is a combination of science and art. And it changes with market needs – however, the current disruption is humongous! And hence the change cannot be incremental!

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