Are you ready? According to Bain & Company, B2B sales executives have seen tremendous disruption in recent years – and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue.
Today buyers are often well into their buying process before they even initiate conversations with sellers. Companies have researched the competitive options, eliminated a few and have become informed about the products and services of the remaining alternatives.
If buyers change how they buy – salespeople need to change how they sell. As a foundational point, it is important to emphasize that it is not just the sales team that needs to adjust and adapt. In B2B markets success is achieved when everyone comes to the party. So if the sales team needs to change so do all the other players such as marketing and technical support.
How well are companies meeting the challenge? The folks at Bain surveyed 550 B2B sales executives. The overarching finding was – “few companies are completely prepared for the structural changes taking place.” Let’s look at some of the specific findings from the survey:
- Sixty percent of the executives said their companies do not consistently do a good job of aligning offers to target customer segments.
- Only 40% said their sales reps have a strong understanding of their company’s differentiation.
- Only 35% said their marketing and sales organizations have strong operational alignment.
- Almost one-third said the majority of their reps do not have the requisite skills.
- Three-quarters have made significant investments in technology—but less than a third have realized marked improvements in sales effectiveness from those investments.
In conclusion, Bain argues that companies must take a fundamentally new approach to sales – and quickly.
So what is to be done? We borrow some of the ideas of the Bain authors and added a few of our own to come up with a starter list. Let’s look at a set of questions that companies should ask and answer as a way to adjust to the age of disruption:
- Sales Training. Have we provided the sales training and sales coaching for our sales reps to make the shift from being product facilitators to trusted advisors?
- Marketing. Has Marketing and Sales collaborated to provide Sales the information needed to be better informed about the customer’s industry, company and market and the information needed to educate the customer at each phase of the buying process?
- Sales Management. Have we developed a new seriousness about the role of the sales manager and provided the needed training for them to be effective leaders and coaches?
- Buying Process. Do we know the steps in the customer’s buying process and the key players and the roles they will play?
- Target Marketing. Do we know what constitutes bad business and good business?
- Sales Process. Do we know the most effective and economic approaches for reaching the customer at each phase of the buying cycle?
The discussion about the need for change is one that occurs on a continuous basis. However from time to time the scale and speed at which the change is occurring tends to up the importance of getting it right – this is one of those times.
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