5 challenges to achieving sales excellence – it’s more important than ever yet harder to achieve

Sales excellence

Sales excellence

Success in major B2B accounts is based on a salesperson’s ability to get on the customer’s side of the table and do a great job in meeting customer expectations.

What makes things more challenging is that customer expectations are a moving target.  Looking at what customers expected five years ago versus today presents a dramatic contrast.

It is a fair statement that customer expectations have become more demanding.  It is equally true that the consequences of failing to meet them have become more significant.  Moving to a competitor is done for less reason and with greater ease than yester year.

Because of all this, the focus of sales calls and level of business conversations must be substantially different than in times past. 

Let’s review some of the more significant challenges:

  1. Be more knowledgeable about their company and industry. Salespeople must come to sales calls with a comprehensive understanding of the customer’s industry and company. Just knowing a little and asking traditional “discovery questions” is no longer the acceptable standard.
  2. Sell the problem first. This has always been true but in today’s risk-averse environment it has taken on a new importance.  Today a significant number of sales are lost not to the competition but to “no decision.”  Problems in major B2B sales are extremely complex – different customer players have differing perceptions of the problem, the consequences are difficult to assess, and many of the payoffs are intangible. Salespeople must first focus on understanding the complexity of the problem and conveying the urgency of solving it, before they ever enter into a discussion of the solution.
  3. Bring perspective and insight. Customers expect salespeople to do more than uncover their problems. They expect salespeople to bring an informed, fresh perspective to framing the problem. Salespeople must help them think about their problems more broadly – bringing imagination and creativity. It also means that customers expect salespeople to have a point of view about alternative innovative solutions. The higher up in the organization – the truer these propositions.
  4. Focus on the customer’s buying process, not your selling process. Given all of the information available to customers, by the time salespeople are engaged in the customer’s buying process, customers are often half way through it. Second, the buying process in major accounts is no longer linear – in fact, it often is redefined several times before a final decision is made. This means in 2014, the challenge is not about doing a better job learning and following your sales process; it will be about understanding how to adapt and redefine it in real-time. It is becoming increasingly important for salespeople to engage the customer where the customer is in the buying process. This requires bring flexibility and adaptability when implementing the sales process.
  5. Excel at team selling. Salespeople alone will not be able to provide the needed knowledge and insights to meet the customer’s emerging expectations. The lone salesperson is increasingly being replaced with the sales team. Team selling provides new challenges to salespeople. A sales team is more than having three people in the same room at the same time. Successful team selling requires salespeople to learn new skills, like: how to marshal and leverage scarce internal resources, how to manage sales teams, and how to plan and execute team sales calls.

To be a top performer today, a salesperson has to know more and know it at a higher level of competency then ever before.  There are no tricks or easy to learn tips for achieving sales excellence.  It is all about constantly working at getting better – having great sales coaching and superior support from your entire company.

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©2014 Sales Momentum LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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