Ten Keys To Adapting To Changing Channels, Behavior, and Engagement Models In The Coming Year
The science of selling is constantly evolving. Over the last several decades, selling has become more capital intensive, data driven, and teamwork oriented. Several secular forces have been changing the nature of selling incrementally over time.
● Selling teams are now “4D” – digital, data-driven, displaced, and dynamic;
● Buyers have become more online, demanding, private, and impatient;
● The lines between sales, marketing and service roles have blurred as the revenue cycle has become less linear.
These dynamics are changing the formula for selling success on an individual level. Every year, customer expectations for speed, responsiveness, trust, and personalization change. “70% of salespeople believe that their sales model will be significantly different in the coming year,” reports Michael Smith, Managing Director of Blue Ridge Partners. Front line sellers and their managers need to keep pace with and adapt to these changes in order to remain engaged with customers and achieve their targets and quotas. Rather than rely on what has worked in the past, they must always be mindful of the sliding scale of behaviors, priorities, and actions that will constitute a winning formula in the coming year.
The faculty at the Revenue Enablement Institute had a “call to papers” from practitioners, executives, academics and experts to help quantify the state of these changes for front line sellers as we enter 2022. The goal is to help front line sellers to calibrate their execution plans, time allocation and skill development priorities for the coming year.
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The faculty identified a sliding scale of ten dynamics each seller should assess in light of the customers they target and style they use to achieve quota in their unique market. These can serve as a useful litmus test and benchmark for making any adjustments to what has worked in the past and ensuring greater success in the future.
1. Using Technology As A Force Multiplier To Augment, Automate or Migrate Selling Interactions. Every organization has invested in technologies that can improve the performance of revenue teams in terms of generating more consistent revenue attainment, improving the customer experience and selling more value. In all, the average enterprise now has invested in over 20 selling tools. Smaller cloud based businesses use over 30 on average to support selling. The biggest opportunity for these technologies to improve selling performance is by enhancing the value of a sales interaction according to Jarod Greene, the Vice President Product and Customer Marketing at Highspot. “More and more organizations have deployed sales enablement and training tools that can augment and enhance seller interactions by helping them better sell value, tell better stories, execute the selling motion, and focus time on the most profitable opportunities. Sellers that use these tools see a 5X increase in buyer engagement,” according to Greene.
2. Master the Art and Science of Building Trust in Digital Channels. Trust has emerged as the primary currency in sales. Reps need to monitor it, build it and protect it. “Building trust should be your number one value as a seller not just because it is the right thing to do; but because it’s good business, says Neil Hoyne, Author of the upcoming book Converted. Building trust with customers and prospects is particularly difficult to do in the absence of face to face interaction. As more selling conversations are happening in remote or virtual channels, our experts advise sellers to do everything they can to master the language and emotion of selling and trust building to be effective. “Sellers need to master both the verbal and non-verbal signals of trust building in virtual channels,” according to Howard Brown, an expert in the science and psychology of relationship building on the Revenue Enablement Institute faculty. After almost a decade of analyzing billions of sales conversations, Howard and his team have identified 20 empirical generalizations about the words, actions, and responses that build trust in selling situations. “The rapid growth of virtual selling is creating a need for AI and analytics that inform the EQ of selling to help sales reps better understand customer sentiment, response, and relationships in the absence of face-to-face conversations,” reports Professor Iyengar of the Wharton School of Business.
3. Increase your speed to meet customers’ need for faster answers and the increased cadence of virtual selling. The cadence of customer communications has accelerated as conversations have moved from face to face to digital channels. “Customers want fast and complete answers,” says Steve Hallowell, VP of Strategic Services at Highspot. “That’s why you need to prepare your sellers with content, context, training, and coaching on what to know, say, show, and do for any customer interaction.” There is less time to rest and regroup between calls. Sales velocity has become so fast revenue teams and the executives that direct them require real time customer intelligence and selling guidance. To be effective in this high velocity world, sellers have to find ways to take the latency out of the selling cadence by streamlining their personal processes for preparing, customizing and following up
4. Raise the bar on personalization and contextualized content. Sales managers rank the demand for more relevant and personalized content as the number one factor impacting sales productivity. In response 80% of organizations are investing more in content and the systems that support its delivery in context, including guided selling, next-best-action, playbooks, recommendation engines, real time scripting, and automated chatbots. Highspot’s Greene advises revenue leaders to create systems that make it as easy as possible for sellers to find the right selling content, playbook or answer for a given selling situation and then personalize their approach. Doing this fast and consistently is a good way to improve overall conversion rates and differentiate the buyer experience.
5. Shrink the customer bulls’ eye to allocate the most effort to the biggest opportunities. “Most sellers chase too many low-quality clients and opportunities where they stand little chance of winning because of their inherent optimism, work ethic, and desire to run down every fly ball,” according to Cam Tipping, who has led over 100 customer targeting workshops with sales teams over the last decade. “This behavior leads to bad outcomes – like bad service, high cost to sell, lower margins, and unsatisfied clients. It’s a basic 80/20 problem. Tipping encourages reps to use analytics or tools like deciling to constantly keep an eye on the 50% of your customers and targets that represent 10% of opportunity wherever possible to “shrink the bullseye” and “cut the long tail of customers. Peter Ford, the Vice President of Global Sales at iconectiv, encourages his team to use analytics to “cut the tail” by becoming more scientific about prioritizing customers based on readiness and potential and enabling different levels of customer treatment to manage cost to sell in smaller “tail” accounts.
6. Be mindful of demographic difference in buyer behavior and expectations. Today, half of the working population was born after 1977 and about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, according to Forbes. This is significant because these millennial buyers were raised on Google search and digital channels and expect to do all or most of their buying 100% online. They have different attitudes and behaviors about privacy, trust, relationships and engagement. 83% of millennial B2B buyers expect e-commerce to keep them more informed about product choices than ever before. Most (55%) of millennial B2B customers today would prefer to buy a complex solution without engaging a sales rep at all according to Gartner. And when they do ask questions, they want fast and complete answers which they have grown to expect from Siri, Alexa, Cortana or a robot. This makes it important for sellers to think about how the buyer will ask the question, what channel they will likely use, how quickly and completely they need to respond, and whether they expect an answer in a text, phone call, chatbot, or a voice activated device.”
7. Remember modern selling is a team sport that spans the entire revenue cycle. Selling has become a team sport where business development reps work with experts, account managers, and customer success managers to develop and expand customer relationships and maximize customer lifetime value. “Most (51%) reps told use that getting the right team members on a call to address expected customer questions was the most important part of preparing for virtual sales calls,” reports Corey Torrence, Managing Director of Blue Ridge Partners. Taking advantage of collaboration tools that enhance communication across sales, marketing and service teams can dramatically improve your ability to sell as a team, according to Haley Katsman, VP of Revenue Strategy at Highspot. “It’s important to make sure you are collaborating with industry experts, product specialists, and account owners from across the company to meet customer needs for complete answers and ensure leads, opportunities, and revenue don’t fall through the cracks in the customer cycle,” says Katsman.
8. Up your content game – significantly. Customer expectations for the quality, value, and context of content expectations are rising fast. Demonstrating knowledge and expertise has emerged as a primary selling currency and a key differentiator according to buyers. “We like to say knowledge is the new currency because you have to be an expert to go in and have credibility at any level with your customer,” says Sam Errigo, the Chief Operating Officer of Konica Minolta. Errigo emphasizes the importance of leveraging thought leadership, validation and education content from experts around the company as a key to winning in today’s marketplace. “Having access and the ability to pull in well versed resources that can help solve problems quickly will be the key to success. So we are developing better systems and processes to support global collaboration and access to better serve our customers.”
9. Rely more on analytics to do your job. Front line sellers are relying on analytics to help do their job. “You need to balance the EQ and the IQ of selling to succeed in today’s marketplace. “Successful reps today need to be part Mr. Spock and part Captain Kirk,” says Howard Brown. “You need to increasingly look at the data and signals about your customers and prospects to better prioritize who to call, better anticipate customer needs before calls, and assess verbal and non-verbal signals and cues during and after calls.” For example, to help their revenue team zero in on the right actions to add value at the right time, the sales operations and enablement teams at Zuora have enabled data-driven selling with a robust set of customer engagement data from recorded conversations, Customer Success, CRM and Account-Based Marketing tools. “We use this information to direct account managers, marketing and sales engineers about next best actions and to execute Account-Based Marketing,” says Robbie Traube, the Chief Revenue Officer at Zuora. “This helps our front line sellers to think globally, act locally, and respond to the market in real time.”
10. Make the most of the moments that matter. Less than 20% of the customer journey involves human interaction according to recent research by Gartner. This is reshaping how B2B sellers engage with customers and prospects and making it critical for reps to make the most of the moments that matter during the buying cycle. “That means building buyer empathy, sharing more compelling content, asking smarter questions,” says Howard Brown. “It also means having conversations that build trust, communicating the financial value of your solutions, and revealing the nuanced differences between their competitors.”