Traditional sales techniques are void. Current consumer, digital and accessibility trends have transformed most business buyers into intelligent, assertive and well-researched decision makers. Indeed, as noted in my previous blog, many buyers today perform their own online research before engaging in solution discovery with vendor organisations, changing the overall dynamics and efforts required across the buyer-seller engagement process.
While in the past most purchase decisions would involve one individual and his direct reporting line; today such decision making process involves a variety of stakeholders, across operation, marketing, finance, legal, procurement or HR functions.
A recent CEB survey showed that an average group of 5 to 6 decision makers from different parts of an organisation would be involved in making purchase decisions, and with very distinct priorities, goals, perspectives, needs and unique views on ways a solution could help them. This means that such diverse mind-sets have a higher risk of conflict and disagreement when progressing an initiative towards a positive decision outcome.
This suggests that market-making and customer-facing experts must learn to anticipate potential disconnect amongst such diverse groups of individuals. They need to find ways to promote a shared vision, healthy debates and consensus. And leverage great communication tactics such as targeted campaigns, messages, and enablement tools designed to better and more closely connect such members with the type of solution they’re all truly seeking to achieve success.
There are a few techniques that can help drive the best outcomes for all parties. Here are four of those techniques I truly believe make a difference.
CEB describes this stakeholder as the mobiliser or the person that can influence other members of a group and motivate them through the provision of relevant commercial insights. This person understands how your offer benefits him personally. He also can persuade the rest of the group to come to a decision. He will take a lot of personal risk towards your offer and will need to understand clearly the business and personal benefits, as well as the tangible and intangible rewards delivered by your organisation, your solution and those individuals supporting the engagement within your team.
“53% of customer loyalty results from the value and insight a customer receives during their decision marking experience”. This is another CEB fact. Points of view and commercial insights include information that customers will find interesting, challenging or thought provoking. These will also include information that compels them to do something differently or change some aspects of their operation’s working practices. Such insights combine market information (industry trends, market data, experiences, observations) with the needs and themes the customer wants to address (profitable business growth, operational efficiencies, increased customer retention) to deliver unique conclusions that force such customers to act in a different way. The key about such insightful content is that it needs to be relevant, focused and challenging to encourage earlier two-way relationships with those key stakeholders involved in the purchase of a solution.
This is a critical step to help your customer-facing experts understand how they can help align and transform their personal interaction style with your customers’ decision-making style. This entails that your top talents’ skill sets will need adjusting against those activities they are more likely to excel at. This step requires some level of internal communication, education and enablement, and to share with your customer-facing team how today’s customers buy your offerings and how your team can adapt its behaviours to maximise success. This also highlights that you will need to identify focused capabilities that augment your team’s interactions with such stakeholders and ways to measure the results they are able to deliver.
Front line customer-facing experts need to be trained on new customer engagement techniques to ensure lasting chances of success.
Research shows that high performers in complex customer engagement environments succeed because they know how to “teach” their customers something they did not know or help them “solve” a situation they did not know how to solve. To achieve such outcome they must create a strong level of desire to take control over the customer buying process, while at the same time leverage constructive tensions to demonstrate the real consequences and risks of something not happening so that to drive expected actions and results.
The best market-making and customer-facing teams are already converting sales-enablement materials into insight-led content and advocate-driven enablement tools, while training their top performers. They also are making such materials freely available at the earliest stages of an engagement process to a multiple of stakeholders, this to help drive effective gradual consensus. They also consume extensive time and effort to enable their team to understand the new customer engagement world.