Most sales are closed before the meeting even starts. Today, on average, when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they only spend 17% of their time talking to potential suppliers. What does this mean for sellers? Sales preparation is more important than ever.
Customers already have a clear view of your services and benefits — and your competitor’s services — because of online research they’ve already done. Customers don’t want to spend time discussing “what keeps them up at night.” They are well down the path of solving their biggest problems before you ever come into contact with them.
In this new era of selling, buyers are self-servers. Sellers have no choice but to change their sales tactics radically. As a salesperson, you need to meet customers where they are — which is much deeper into the decision cycle.
Read on to learn about three important elements of sales preparation.
Targeted Research and Analysis
The more you know about your customers, the better prepared you’ll be when crafting your sales process and presentation. Fortunately, today’s sales teams have more information and technology at their disposal than ever before.
Modern sales and marketing organizations are capable of understanding a potential buyer’s intent based on their online activities. Understanding and applying intent data can focus your efforts and resources by pinpointing the most likely buyers at the right moment in their purchasing journey.
According to a report by TrustRadius, only 40% of companies are working with an intent data provider. By understanding how intent data works and how it applies to your sales cycle, you can see where potential buyers are in their journey, what services and products your prospects are viewing — and whether those are yours or a competitor’s.
Intent data is only one way to research your target customer. Whatever your approach, make sure your sales team understands the available data and can access it.
Answer these questions to be better prepared:
Where Are Potential and Current Customers Spending Most of Their Time?
What social channels are they creating or consuming content? LinkedIn? YouTube? Are they engaging in industry forums and communities? If you know where they are, you can understand what content they’re consuming and whether they’re getting close to a purchasing decision.
Make a note of the tone of their social media engagement. Some companies encourage formal business communication from every employee — at all times, on all platforms. If you don’t see any personal updates or casual banter in your prospects’ online presence, it’s a good sign that your tone as you approach them should be formal and professional.
Then look at their content. Are they positioning themselves as thought leaders? Or is most of their online presence of the customer assistance/problem resolution variety? This tells you quite a bit about the prospect’s goals and market position.
Look at your existing data for help answering this question. What buyer personas are you operating with? What can your website analytics or customer relationship management system tell you?
Who Is Making the Purchasing Decisions?
You don’t want to create a great sales presentation only to discover this isn’t the person you need to be talking to. For example, an account-based management approach can help you focus on the companies you most want to be doing business with, letting you next focus on finding key contacts instead of chasing leads.
Today’s selling landscape is more complex. In 2022, there are an average of seven stakeholders involved in any significant B2B buying decision. Don’t assume you’ve made the sale because you have buy-in from just one of these stakeholders. Instead, once you’ve secured that trust, ask your advocate what their internal buying process looks like, who needs to weigh in and how you can assist them in making the pitch internally.
You may be surprised at how forthcoming they are — either way, their response will be a check on how well you’ve made the sale.
What Challenges Are They Trying to Overcome?
Problems are some of your best opportunities for building relationships, especially when you can help prospective buyers solve those problems. The best salespeople are problem-solvers. Helping your prospect find a solution to a genuine work challenge is the best way to secure their trust.
The challenges facing buyers today are dynamic. Today’s challenges might be irrelevant in a few months or years. Real or anticipated marketplace shifts affect buyer behavior. So does going from expansion mode to contraction (or vice versa). The point is to be always thinking about what your customers are worried about and what they should be worried about.
Customers and prospects are coming to you later in the buying cycle, and they expect you to deliver value quickly. If you aren’t prepared with actionable and viable solutions, they’ll move on.
Sales calls have evolved in the past few years, with a changing mix of in-person, phone and video calls. But the need to prepare for those calls hasn’t changed.
Great sales teams rely on a pre-call plan. Here are three things that your pre-call plan should achieve:
Understand Your Outcome Objective
Do you want the call to result in a signed contract? A referral? Or simply to move the buyer closer to closing the deal? Whatever it is, understanding your end goal is essential. Each one of those goals requires a different type of sales meeting and a different approach.
Emphasize Your Position of Value
A position of value is the act of aligning with the customer outcome and presenting yourself in a compelling way that leads to a buyer investigating the company or product further. Buyers want to see the value in maintaining a relationship with you.
Price is one thing, but your ability to create value is something that buyers notice every time. Share how that value is differentiated and unattainable from another source. Buyers want authenticity, too, and they aren’t afraid to validate the information they’ve gathered with peers.
Earn the Commitment
Sales calls should end with a commitment to move forward in a positive way. Wherever you and the buyer end up in the decision cycle, what is the commitment for advancing? That commitment also applies to you and your sales team. How will you commit to show up to this call? How will you commit to delivering on your promises after the call?
Buyer behaviors have changed, and your pre-call plan needs to adapt. When you devote time to a pre-call plan, you declare your objectives, state the value you offer and are ready to follow through on commitments made in the sales call.
Readiness to Meet Resistance
The top producers and leaders in sales welcome resistance from potential buyers and partners. Resistance isn’t rejection; it’s a sign that someone is interested in your products or services.
To be ready for that resistance, you have to come with solutions and make the customer the hero of their story.
Every buyer has unique needs, but they often have common pain points and challenges. Identify a handful of these challenges and prepare a script that helps you address those challenges as they come up.
Don’t meet resistance with resistance. Meet the buyer with listening and understanding. When you emphasize open communication, you can develop a dialogue. When you do that, you can guide them toward a decision, assist with their concerns — and ask for the business.
The second component is trust. Nearly 80% of B2B buyers want to work with a sales professional who is also a trusted adviser. When your potential buyers are expressing resistance, they aren’t rejecting you — they are trying to ascertain your trustworthiness. They need your advice and counsel. In turn, make them the hero of the story.
Tell stories that help the customer see a brighter future. Show them how you’ll help them get to the other side — together. Statistics and lists are important, but people are much more likely to remember stories than other types of information.
In this new environment where buyers are more self-reliant and demand nothing but the best, sales preparation will be the difference between success and failure. Salespeople can prepare for impact by doing the research, crafting a pre-call plan and engaging with buyer resistance.