In complex B2B sales, why do buyers buy? Not because a salesperson could present all the required functions and features. That was already available online and didn’t create additional value. No, buyers buy because they learned along their journey how various solution approaches would help them to achieve their desired results and wins. Somebody provided a valuable perspective – sales professionals. Let’s have a deeper look at how sales professionals create value for B2B buyers.
Sales professionals understand the customer’s context and the stakeholders’ different concepts
Sales professionals design their solutions around their customers, not around their own portfolio of capabilities. Sales professionals try to approach their customers early along their customer’s journey. For this reason, understanding their specific environmental and situational context is essential homework; followed by analyzing the involved stakeholders, their roles, functions and potential viewpoints on how to approach this situation. Sales professionals take advantage of various social selling tools to make sure that their conversations with prospects and customers will be relevant and valuable to them. Only if these preparations are done can sales professionals know what they don’t know. And that’s the perfect way to create meaningful questions for the next conversation. Showing customers the bigger picture, the real business impact of the issue they are trying to master or different approaches that could lead to better outcomes – all that creates immediate value for customers. Meaningful questions that inspire the customers to look at their situation from a different perspective – that’s what makes a sales professional an expert, a respected, valuable resource for buyers.
Sales professionals develop a shared vision of future success – with the customers
The decision to change the current state for a better future state is the most crucial milestone along the customer’s journey. Such a decision to change the current state has one key prerequisite – a better future vision of success. Often, this future vision is not yet clearly articulated, apart from the desired business metrics. What needs to be developed is a holistic big picture that considers all key aspects, tangibles, and intangibles. The challenge for the sales professional is to develop, to sharpen and to align this vision across the entire group of involved stakeholders. Once this vision is defined, the way to get to this future state has to be described. Customers need to understand how to get to their future vision, ideally in a phased approach. They need to know what it means to their business and to them personally. Only then can they evaluate the related risks. Remember when IT providers first sold cloud services? Customers simply didn’t understand the proposals. Many salespeople tried to win the business by discounting, when the customers simply wanted to understand what this new technology would mean to them. The ultimate goal in the awareness phase of the customer’s journey is to establish a shared vision of success, because without the customer’s decision to change the current state for a better future state, no buying phase will ever happen. In terms of value creation for the customers, this is by far the most impactful phase along the customer’s journey.
Sales professionals navigate the customer’s decision dynamic
Decision dynamics: That’s how a specific group of buyers/stakeholders is going to make a decision this time. As we know from research, customers make every decision differently, every time. That does not mean that there are no formalized buying processes. It means that the combination of situations, goals, desired results and wins, the group of stakeholders and their roles and functions, and many other criteria are different every time. This is one of the reasons why renewals can be challenging. For sales professionals, it’s key to understand the stakeholders’ different roles within this group, for instance who is influencing whom and why, who has the most organizational power, who is the opinion leader, etc. Sales professionals’ situational awareness, their adaptive competencies and their ability to understand complex environments make the difference in those situations. Sales professionals with those capabilities earn the buyers’ respect and trust by orchestrating the group successfully through the buying phase – to enable them to make their best buying decision. In parallel, sales professionals who have followed the steps outlined here are confident that they have offered the best approach they ever could – to make their customers successful.
Sales professionals own the customer’s outcome and orchestrate the value dynamics
Sales professionals don’t walk away when a deal is closed. They know that their success comes only from their customers’ success. Sales professionals are accountable for the value they have sold to the customers. They make sure that the value gets delivered during the implementation and adoption phase. They make sure that the customers can achieve their desired results and wins. Ideally they try to create even more value as they discover more options along the way. Orchestrating the value dynamics is the key challenge after the deal has been closed. It’s the end of the sales process, but it’s the beginning for the customer, and it can be the beginning of another sales process if the value gets delivered and the customers are happy. Customer experience just continues along the customer’s journey. Sales professionals make sure that the value gets communicated across the entire stakeholder network and specifically to the executives who were involved in the very beginning.
Sales professionals know that “after the game is before the game.”
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