If you read the Harvard Business Review, you'll know "solution selling" (popular as a sales strategy from the 1990s) isn't as effective as it used to be.
In the Business-to-Business (B2B) buying environment, things have changed so much over the last few years; older sales and marketing methods have "gone over the cliff" when it comes to being able to generate lead flow, identify profitable opportunities and shorten the buying cycle.
So, if your sellers are sitting at their desks with heads in their hands, they may be experiencing "Sales Despair".
- They are demoralised
- They wonder why nothing works
- Or, they're reading Facebook
- Or, they're trading bitcoin
...anything to get their minds off how they can't win business from new customers ( - and generating growth).
Time for new staff?
Not yet, it might be something you can do, instead. Hiring a salesperson can cost upwards of $30,000 in recruitment fees and lost productivity.
Have you had a critical look at your company's sales process? If not, then you might be partly to blame for causing your salespeople to be angry, depressed and frustrated.
What are they spending their time on?
- A defocused set of meetings with friends hoping for a referral to a new client?
- Meetings with existing clients, with a faint hope of getting a deal thrown at them because of your existing services?
- Meeting with prospects that aren't interested in your solution and never will be.
If you haven't got the right process and good data to look at, then you don't know what action to take to address it. Hiring another salesperson will put them in exactly the same environment.
I see this often with both small and medium-sized tech companies.
As a business owner or sales manager, you should look over your whole sales strategy (processes and systems) and get it working properly! it might be easier than you think.
Data, not intuition
Sellers today need to rethink their whole approach. Direct (junk) mail, unsolicited email and cold-calling have lost most of their effect, and sellers (and business owners) that rely of them can fall into the trap of despair.
The sales and marketing world has responded by adapting to the changing behaviour of buyers with a different approach that aligns dealing with the customer in the way that they like to buy - we call this "inbound".
We match that with data collection and analytics at every point, that helps us make decisions based on evidence, rather than assumptions.
When both sales and marketing get with the inbound way of doing things, we raise effectiveness. In the field, we see that companies aligning their sales and marketing practices with the inbound methods improve their conversion rates from leads to customer to 38%. [Decoder: we make it quicker and improve the odds of making a sale].
Sellers get better signals from marketers that a prospect is experiencing the right pain point and has some interest in buying a solution.
That's how sellers can escape the "pit of despair": they aren't wasting their time on contact that haven't indicated that they want to buy - they spend it with genuine leads that are in the market for a solution.
I deal with inbound marketing for B2B in another article, let's focus on B2B sales first.
Buyers hate engaging with sales people that only want to talk about their "speeds and feeds": product specs, features, "benefits" and low pricing.
That class of "data" is what they want to be able to find somewhere on your website.
As far as buyers are concerned, the role of the seller is to provide a personalised "consultation" on their problem.
So, as a seller, you need to retrain, and realise that you need to reorganise yourself to:
- Make sure that you have a good process, that covers all the steps you need to follow for success.
- Identify your "ideal buyer" - the companies where you will provide your best value
- Follow a series of steps that you can improve over time - in a logical sequence, that helps you prepare for different sales challenges
- Collect and manage sales and marketing data that helps you to prioritise the qualified prospects and understand their current mindset, and how you help them move to a buying phase
- Ask targeted questions and listen to the available "signals", looking for the signs of the specific problems that you solve, or the intent to purchase a solution like yours
- Start helping from first contact - showing an investment of your time in prospects in a way that helps them to trust you
This is the inbound approach to selling - it can improve your sales effort, but it does not operate in a vacuum.
Inbound marketing is the process that helps attract and qualify the right leads for sellers; to gather that information that helps you improve your sales success.
Finding ways to use inbound techniques can help you prioritise your time to concentrate your efforts on more likely prospects.
Prioritise your activity with data rather than your emotions.
An easier to use CRM might help you. If you're not sure what to look for, download this free checklist to see how modern systems support better sales activity.